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Christian Bale Flips One Of Movies’ Oldest Rules On Its Head (& He’s Right)

Christian Bale’s background in acting and his iconic performances challenge one of filmmaking’s deeply rooted rules and prove it wrong.

Christian Bale is one of our age’s most accomplished actors, well-known for his performances in iconic roles such as Batman in The Dark Knight, Irving Rosenfeld in American Hustle, and even real-life characters including Dick Cheney in Vice. These movies have shown that Bale is not only a versatile performer, but his emotions are real and raw. However, what’s lesser known about Bale is his origins as a child actor, only 13 when he made his big screen debut as the lead role in Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun.

A familiar and longstanding rule in the movie business discourages filmmakers from working with child actors and animals to reduce the difficulty of production, and yet, Bale’s progression from a young actor with little experience to the man he is today exemplifies the possibility of seeing moving performances from actors of any age. Admittedly, for those who aren’t familiar with Bale’s work as a child actor, seeing him in the first moments of Empire of the Sun can be shocking. In a recent interview breaking down his iconic roles, Bale notes, “Animals and children are the best actors, you can’t compete with them. And the reason is because they don’t give a **** about the consequences – and in many ways that was how I felt.” Speaking to his own experience on set, Bale adds, “I had no idea how unique that experience was at the time” (Via GQ).

Why The “Don’t Work With Children And Animals” Rule Doesn’t Hold Up

Christian Bale isn’t the only example of a child actor that found success as an adult. Drew Barrymore made her fame playing Gertie in Spielberg’s other iconic film, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, while Michael B. Jordan, known for playing Adonis Creed and Kilmonger, was only 15 in the iconic TV series, The Wire. While filmmakers might be discouraged by the extra considerations that come with working with children, these performances make it clear that creators are missing the mark when they accept the rule as an absolute.

How Christian Bale’s Empire Of The Sun Role Proves He’s Right

In one iconic scene in Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun – even if his character did lose his entire family just to retrieve a toy plane – Bale delivers emotions that are raw and powerful as he cries out for his mother (No – it’s not a Bruce Wayne origin story). Later in the GQ interview, Bale noted that he didn’t feel as much pressure as one would expect at that age. Even without prior formal acting training, young Christian Bale was able to adapt to a story that was difficult and often quite intense, flipping this long-held rule over on its head.

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