Christian Bale Is Done With Batman

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Audiences have been seeing Christian Bale in movies for more than 20 years. As a teen actor, he starred in "Empire of the Sun," "Newsies" and "Swing Kids." Later he graduated to edgy-heartthrob in movies like "Velvet Goldmine" and "American Psycho." But then his life changed when Christopher Nolan picked him to play the Caped Crusader in the Batman reboot. Now he's one of the biggest superstars in the world -- but that's not going to last much longer. He's just finished work on "The Dark Knight Rises," which comes out next summer, and he says that will be it for him as the superhero. If that's true, it's been an impressive run.

HitFix tracked down an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer in which Bale talked about his "Dark Knight Rises" co-stars and his realization that his run in Batman will end after this final film in the trilogy -- which will also be Nolan's last film as director:

Christian announced that this could be his last time as the masked vigilante whose secret identity is Bruce Wayne, an American billionaire who as a child witnessed his parents' murder, leading him to a life of revenge on crime. "I wrapped a few days ago so that will be the last time I'm taking that cowl [Batman hood] off," he said. "I believe that the whole production wrapped yesterday, so it's all done. Everything's finished. It's me and Chris [Nolan] -- that will be the end of that Batman era."

When it comes to major studio tentpoles, we tend to take such statements with a grain of salt. He's saying he won't come back after "The Dark Knight Rises" -- which takes place eight years after "The Dark Knight" -- but these things can sometimes have a way of changing depending on money or other considerations.

But if Bale is indeed done as Batman, well, he did an excellent job. It seems funny to say since he is the star of these movies, but we actually think Bale hasn't been given enough credit for the success of "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight" (and, fingers crossed, "The Dark Knight Rises"). Sure, it was Nolan's dark, brooding vision for these reboots that made them stand out -- not to mention great supporting turns by Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Heath Ledger and others -- but that vision also required a strong actor at the center, and Bale provided that, making Bruce Wayne a glamorous but also conflicted hero. Granted, Bale's weird "Batman voice" was always a bit distracting, but we'll forgive that for a character who's far more interesting than most of his superhero peers.

Before "Batman Begins," Bale had never been the lead in a blockbuster, unless you count "Reign of Fire," which you probably shouldn't. After "Batman Begins," he started getting more high-profile lead roles in "The Prestige" (again with Nolan), "3:10 to Yuma," and "Terminator Salvation." (He's also really good in "Rescue Dawn.") Then this year he won the Best Supporting Oscar for "The Fighter." While Bale was always a respected actor, you have to wonder how many of these opportunities came along because of Batman, which made him a legitimate box office draw as well.

There are so many stories about heralded actors signing up for a big studio movie, only to crash and burn. (Or, in the case of Nicolas Cage, abandoning his craft along the way for more and more big studio movies.) Happily, that didn't happen to Bale. We're excited to see where he goes from here -- including two movies with Terrence Malick -- but whatever he does in the future, it won't be quite as commercially successful as these Batman movies have been. They would have probably always made a lot of money, but they wouldn't have been as good without Bale.

Bale talks about his co-stars in 'Dark Knight Rises' [Philippine Daily Inquirer]