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Christian Bale is a testament to just how long and winding a road an actor’s career can be. Bale has come a long way from his start as a child actor in 1987’s Empire of the Sun and 1992’s Newsies. Nowadays, he loses himself in his movie roles so frequently, some fans don’t even know where he’s from. One thing most Bale fans do remember, however, is his unforgettable outburst on the set of Terminator Salvation.

Christian Bale wears a suit and smiles
Christian Bale | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

What made Christian Bale famous?

Even though he starred in films in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, Bale didn’t really become “famous” until sometime in the 2000s. Some fans might credit his game-changing performance in American Psycho for giving the actor a career boost. But it was more likely his role as Batman in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy that gained him the level of fame he would continue to build on in the years to come.

It was also in the midst of making Nolan’s Batman trilogy that Bale’s Terminator tirade came to light. While making Terminator Salvation for director McG (Charlie’s Angels), Bale went off on cinematographer Shane Hurlbut for walking into the middle of a scene. Leaked audio from the incident went viral, causing Bale to later publicly apologize for his behavior. That incident was perhaps the most memorable part of the movie.

The actor blamed John Connor for the rant

In the lead-up to Terminator Salvation‘s 2009 release, Bale sat down with GQ. And of course, the interviewer brought up the incident that occurred during the movie’s filming. For his part, Bale asserts the outburst resulted from his mindset being focused on his performance as John Connor.

“As far as playing [John Connor], I thought of it mainly in terms of his mom. He’s got this mad dog of a mom who everybody thinks is crazy but whose prophecies turn out to be true. I felt that a lot of her ferocity and recklessness had to be passed down. … [That incident] wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been playing that scene, for Christ’s sake, between John Connor and his wife, which is probably the most intense one in the movie. … I’d definitely say that that guy who was yelling was at least half John Connor, and the rest was Christian Bale.”

Indeed, Bale is known for going all-in with his performances, committing to accents and radically changing his own body to suit the character he is playing. Moreover, he has a complex relationship with working as an actor. Perhaps Bale could already tell Terminator Salvation wasn’t entirely working, resulting in a heightened tension.


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Christian Bale rarely signs on for sequels

In a variety of respects, it seems clear Bale didn’t exactly have the best time working on Terminator Salvation. In fact, the actor has — with rare exception — avoided both big-budget blockbusters and franchise movies. Aside from The Dark Knight Rises, he still hasn’t signed on for any sequels.

Other than Nolan’s Batman trilogy, the only sequels in which Bale has appeared are Terminator Salvation and 2000’s Shaft. Bale admitted the latter movie was also a frustrating experience for him. Those two movies made Bale’s decision to sign on to play the villain in Thor: Love and Thunder even more surprising. That film — which stars Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman — hits theaters on May 6, 2022.