Christian Bale's most extreme body transformations from 'Batman Begins' to 'Vice'

Chris Edwards
From buff, to heavy, to gaunt – Bale’s body has been through it all (Lionsgate/eOne/Paramount)

Anyone not particularly au fait with Christian Bale’s body of work could be forgiven for thinking the actor is wearing a thoroughly convincing fat suit in his latest film Vice, in which he plays the corpulent former Vice President Dick Cheney. 

Of course, everyone else knows that actual bodily transformations are Bale’s speciality. Throughout his career, the highly committed method actor has drastically altered the shape and size of his body to prepare for various character roles, often obtaining a completely new physique in just a matter of months. 

Here, we take a look at some of his most extreme transformations over the years and how he achieved them.

American Psycho (2000)

Christian Bale in the workout scene from American Psycho (Lionsgate)

To play Brett Easton Ellis’ materialistic psychopath, Patrick Bateman, Bale needed the physique of a freshly chiselled Greek Adonis slathered in lube. To achieve this, he worked with a personal trainer for three hours a day, six days a week. 

As displayed in one of the film’s early scenes, in which Bateman carries out an obsessive morning crunch routine, Bale was left with some near unrealistic-looking abs, gong-like pecks and arms that’d definitely make you feel safe if it weren’t for the fact he was playing a deranged serial killer.

The Machinist (2005)

Bale lost 62 pounds for The Machinist, leaving his weight at just 8.5 stone (Paramount)

Bale reportedly lost 62 pounds (4 stone) to play this muscle-drained insomniac. In stark contrast to the undoubtedly joyous task of gaining weight, he dangerously restricted his diet to just one apple, water, and coffee a day. He ended up weighing just 8.5 stone, which had a major emotional impact on the actor.

“When you’re so skinny that you can hardly walk up a flight of stairs… you’re, like, this being of pure thought. It’s like you’ve abandoned your body,” he told The Guardian. He added that the process left him in a Zen-like state and that his regular emotions only returned once he started eating again.

The physical impact on his body was far more horrifying. In a Reddit Ask Me Anything, his co-star Michael Ironside revealed that Bale’s rear end actually dropped out of the sockets of his hips. Where most people would frantically be trying pull their cheeks back together, the actor was apparently quite calm and simply responded: “Cool”.

Batman Begins (2005)

Bale actually put on too much weight for the role of Batman and had to shed 20 pounds (Warner Bros.)

Yes, that’s the correct date. Bale, who is quite clearly some sort of shape-shifting super human, went from playing a meatless insomniac in The Machinist to a beefy Batman in just six months. Taking on a high-protein diet and a workout regime involving heavy-core, plyometrics and resistance training, he managed to pack on an impressive 7 stone. In fact, he actually put on too much weight and had to shed 20 pounds before he could squeeze into the cowl. 

In an interview with the BBC, Bale revealed that director Christopher Nolan expressed concern over his lack of muscle off the back of The Machinist. “It was frankly pathetic, I was down to 121 pounds and I couldn’t do a single push up,” he said. “But I managed to get into appropriate shape by the time we started filming.”

Rescue Dawn (2007)

Bale lost 63 pounds to play a real-life prisoner of war in Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn (Credit: MGM)

His bodyweight up and down like a yo-yo at this point, Bale lost 63 pounds to play a real-life prisoner of war, ironically named Dieter. He actually finished shooting Rescue Dawn in 2005, filming the later scenes where the character was skinniest first, giving him time to thicken up for Batman.

He really put himself through it in this one, though, swimming in snake-infested rivers, covering himself in leeches and eating real-life maggots. Suddenly, Leonardo DiCaprio’s raw bison liver in The Revenant looks like luxury.

The Fighter (2010)

Bale won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in The Fighter (Credit: Paramount)

For his Oscar-winning turn as Mark Walhberg’s drug-addicted half-brother in The Fighter, Bale once again had to shed the pounds to achieve a feeble frame. This time, he attributed his excessive weight loss to just lots and lots of running. 

“I was just running like crazy,” he told Latino Review. He jokingly added, “Oh I do a lot of coke whenever I lose weight,” before clarifying, “I’m not sure if it’s so funny for this movie to say that.”

American Hustle (2013)

Bale once again piled on the pounds play con man Irving Rosenfeld in American Hustle (Credit: Columbia Pictures)

Aside from slimming down for The Fighter, Bale refrained from any drastic transformations between 2005 and 2013, completing The Dark Knight trilogy and also starring in a Terminator film that we’re pretty certain has now been erased from time. After that, however, he then gained himself a rather impressive gut for the critically acclaimed American Hustle, which he achieved through the ancient art of Eating Everything In Sight. 

“I ate lots of doughnuts, a whole lot of cheeseburgers and whatever I could get my hands on. I literally ate anything that came my way,” he told People Magazine. However, in attempting to perfect the character’s physique, he herniated a disc and lost three inches in height. Still, at least he got another Oscar nomination for his efforts.

He told us he nearly lost out on playing Moses in Ridley Scott’s Exodus after turning up for auditions with his American Hustle love handles still in place.

Vice (2019)

Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in Vice (Credit: Annapurna Pictures)

Bale’s latest transformation is arguably his most impressive yet. To become completely unrecognisable as the ruthless Vice President Dick Cheney, he didn’t just pile on 40 pounds, he also shaved his head and bleached his eyebrows, as so to make himself a blank canvas. The end product looked uncannily like an overweight Chevy Chase and therefore the spitting image of Cheney. 

However, Bale needn’t had gone to such lengths to change his appearance. It was only after he’d gained the weight that he realised the look could have been achieved with make-up and prosthetics. But becoming one with the character is far more his style – and not to mention more enjoyable. Asked by Yahoo how he prepared his body for the role, he said: “You eat a lot of pies. You eat whatever’s handy. That’s what you do.”

Remarkably, Bale was able to lose all of the weight he gained in just a few months after wrapping Vice.  Asked by ExtraTV how he lost it so quickly, he said: “Go to bed hungry, be miserable and just eat your children’s leftovers”.

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