Fun fact about Christian Bale: he’s not American. Despite the very deceiving accent he’s been using for the past 20 years or so, Bale is actually British. Another fun fact (well, fun if you’re him; less so for the rest of us): he’s super-rich. Rich to the tune of $80 million, assuming Wealthy Gorilla is accurate. So, how exactly did a boy from West Wales manage to get such a stonking amount of money? For one, acting ability. For two, the ability to gain and lose over 100lbs quicker than most of us can blink an eye. For three, that accent. Need more? Then get comfortable as we talk you through how Christian Bale became one of the most successful (and richest) actors in Hollywood.
The Early Days
Born in Wales to English parents, Bale spent his formative years in Surrey and Dorset, England. In 1982, he cut his teeth in the acting business when he landed a role in a commercial for the fabric softener, Lenor. A year later, he was acting up a storm as a child rock star in a Pac-Man cereal commercial. Having clearly developed a taste for the world of showbiz, Bale started auditioning for more serious parts. In 1986, he won his first big role as Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich of Russia in the TV film Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna. Leading roles in the likes of Heart of the Country and Mio in the Land of Faraway earned him wider recognition, but it was his critically acclaimed performance in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun that marked him out as one to watch. But sometimes, fame comes with a price. After winning the award for "Best Performance by a Juvenile Actor" from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, Bale found the attention of the press (not to mention the very different treatment he started receiving from his schoolmates) hard to handle. He even briefly considered giving up acting altogether… until a certain Mr. Kenneth Branagh managed to convince him to appear in his forthcoming movie, Henry V. The movie re-awakened Bale’s love for the game; from there, the only way was up.
Making It Big
After spending the 1990s taking supporting and leading roles in films like Little Women, Velvet Goldmine, and A Midsummer Night's Dream, Bale hit the big time in 2000 when he was cast as serial killer Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. Despite earning a pittance for the movie (in an interview with IMDB Celebrity News Service), he claimed to have earned less for his work than the makeup girl did), the movie did what it was meant to: it turned Bale into a contender. His transformation for the role (to achieve the Bateman look, Bale tanned excessively and exercised obsessively to obtain an ‘Olympian physique’) along with his standout performance earned him rave reviews, even if the movie itself received a more mixed reception.
More leading men roles followed over the next few years, culminating in The Machinist in 2004. To prepare for the role, Bale went on an extreme diet consisting of coffee and apples: by the time he started filming, he weighed a skeletal 121 lb. But the next year saw an even more dramatic transformation. After winning the career-defining role of Batman, he pumped up the calories to gain a massive 100lb in just 6 months, taking him to a very muscular 221 lb. The effort clearly paid off. Released to international acclaim in 2005, Batman Begins grossed $370 million on a budget of $135 million. Its sequel, The Dark Knight, did even better: after grossing a record-breaking $158.4 million at the US box office in its first weekend alone, it subsequently went on to gross $1 billion at the box office worldwide, becoming the fourth highest-grossing movie of that point in the process. 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises fared similarly, grossing over 1 billion and becoming the most commercially successful movie of Bale’s career.
The Batman Millions
As Celebrity Net Worth notes, the three Batman movies earned over $2.3 billion worldwide at the box office. Not all of that went into Bale’s back pocket, of course, but you can bet he was earning a lot more than the make up girl by that stage. Estimates put his earnings for the trilogy at $54 million, with $9 million coming from Batman Begins, $30 million coming from The Dark Knight ($20 mill of which was a performance bonus), and $15 million for The Dark Knight Rises Again. But he’s clearly not an actor that’s in it purely for the money: according to reports, Bale was offered $50 million to make a fourth Batman film (not to mention another $50 million for a cameo in a Justice League Movie) but politely declined both.
Since leaving the Batman franchise, Bale has continued to enjoy outstanding success with films such as The Fighter (2010), American Hustle (2013), The Big Short (2015), The Promise (2016), Hostiles (2017), Vice (2018), and Ford v Ferrari (2019). Up next is a role as the main villain in Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Thor: Love and Thunder (set for release in 2022), and a star turn in David O. Russell’s forthcoming (but still unnamed) feature alongside Margot Robbie and Michael B. Jordan. Over the course of his career, Bale has earned as much critical acclaim as he has commercial success. His awards cabinet now boasts just short of 80 gongs, including an Academy Award, a pair of Golden Globes, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, 6 Critics' Choice Movie Awards, and four British Academy Film Awards.
The reason for Christopher Bale’s wealth is obvious. He’s one of the finest actors of his generation. He may have had a few controversial moments (who can forget his recorded tirade at director of photography, Shane Hurlbut, during the filming of "Terminator Salvation"?) but his personal life has never taken the focus away from his movies. And when those movies are some the most financially successful movies ever made, that $80 million begins to make more than a little sense.
Written by Allen Lee
Read more posts by Allen Lee