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If Batman's truly gone bad, has Christian Bale doomed his Oscar hopes?

July 22, 2008 |  2:38 pm

Finally, after an admirable, but low-key career spanning two decades, Christian Bale is the biggest star in the world — at least as measured by having the title role in the most important movie right now: "The Dark Knight." Christian Bale has given Oscar-worthy performances in the past in prestige flicks like "Rescue Dawn" and enjoyed a notable cult following, but he's never been recognized by Oscar voters. No, he won't get nominated for a popcorn pic like "The Dark Knight," but Christian Bale is now such a superstar that he's perfectly positioned, soaring high in his bat cape over filmland, to be noticed by academy voters in the future.

That is, unless Christian Bale may have shot down his award hopes after he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his mum and sister, questioned by London police and released without being charged.


Has Christian Bale just thrown away his Oscar hopes?

Being a bad boy off screen can seriously hurt your shot at winning an Oscar for your on-screen work, however brilliant. Academy Awards are all about bestowing hugs, of course, and nobody wants to embrace a thug.

It's no coincidence that Oscar's two biggest losers — Peter O'Toole (eight defeats) and Richard Burton (seven) — have been Hollywood's biggest hell-raisers.

Or consider Marlon Brando. Early in his career, when he exulted in being a 'tude-heavy dude fond of throwing his fists around Hollywood, he left the Oscar ceremony in 1951 hugely embarrassed — the only cast member of "A Streetcar Named Desire" not to win despite widespread predictions otherwise. Things just got worse after that. Over the next two years Marlon Brando lost best-actor nominations for "Viva Zapata!" and "Julius Caesar."

Then in 1954, desperate to win, he finally wised up, knocked that chip off his shoulder, put on a fancy tuxedo and started acting all sweet and thoughtful at the Golden Globes where he won best actor first, then repeated the feat at the Oscars for "On the Waterfront."

Playing the good guy can be awards bait, but not if you are a bad boy in real life. Consider the backlash against Christian Bale's "3:10 to Yuma" co-star Russell Crowe. Just a few short years ago Crowe was the biggest superstar in the galaxy. When "Gladiator" swept the Academy Awards in 2000, it was all about him, not his movie as academy members welcomed the star of "L.A. Confidential" and "The Insider" into the inner circle of filmmaking like he was a real gladiator triumphantly entering the Hollywood coliseum.

The next year he again joined the Oscar race as the lead star of the eventual best picture winner, "A Beautiful Mind." He was still such a white-hot actor that he coasted through the early derby, easily snagging a best actor trophy from the Golden Globes, Critics' Choice, SAG and — egads — BAFTA. That Brit fest is where the gladiator really threw himself to the lions. He did so by "roughing up," according to the London Sun, a British TV producer for daring to edit down Crowe's rambling recitation of a poem during his acceptance speech. He also threw away his chance to nab an Oscar for "A Beautiful Mind." Instead, Denzel Washington claimed the prize for "Training Day."

Two years later, Crowe proved he was still a commanding screen star, although no longer the ruler of his domain. He landed the lead role in "Master and Commander," an epic, high seas blockbuster that cost $150 million to make. While it earned only $93 million at the U.S. box office, it was a hit with Oscar voters, reaping a whopping 10 nominations, including best picture, but — ominously — no acting bid for the movie's master and commander: Crowe. It ended up winning only two Academy Awards, both in tech categories.

More disaster followed for Crowe with his next project, "Cinderella Man." This 2005 biopic helmed by Ron Howard looked like perfect Oscar fare: a well-crafted, feel-good tearjerker starring Crowe as a down-on-his-luck boxing hero. Reviews and buzz were excellent when it opened but soon thereafter Crowe pulled his biggest blunder yet. Allegedly drunk and unhinged in the middle of the night, he got mad when he had trouble dialing his hotel phone in Manhattan, yanked it out of the wall, marched down to the lobby and hurled it at an innocent hotel clerk. The clerk struck back by filing criminal charges.

Unfortunately for Crowe, the whole incident had been caught on videotape by a security camera. This time he wasn't bullying another media pro he had a quarrel with. Or it wasn't like this hotel clerk was a pesky paparazzo (like the kind that Sean Penn went after). He was an honest, hard-working, innocent Everyman, a regular Joe, just the kind of guy who probably spends a chunk of his paycheck to see Russell Crowe movies. Produced for $88 million, "Cinderella Man" ended up earning only $61 million domestically.

While voters for the Screen Actors' Guild and Golden Globes thought his performance in "Cinderella Man" was good enough to merit a best actor bid, Crowe was snubbed by the Academy Awards. And for his acclaimed 2007 roles in "3:10 to Yuma" and "American Gangster" he had to make do with a pair of SAG ensemble nominations.

Christian Bale has never had a hooligan reputation like Russell Crowe. That may help him to be easily forgiven now, if this current mess plays out OK.

Christian Bale certainly deserves another chance to be reconsidered for his excellent screen work. While the actor has denied that such an assault took place in London Sunday just hours before the premiere of the highly anticipated sequel to "Batman Begins," the damage to Bale's reputation may be irreparable. Though Christian Bale earned critical acclaim for transforming himself physically for roles in edgy films like "American Psycho" and "The Machinist," he never broke into the mainstream until taking on the iconic role of Batman in 2005. Since then, Bale has appeared in a range of big budget movies with varying degrees of success.


Though the historical epic "The New World" and the Victorian adventure "The Prestige" failed to impress, his performances last year in a trio of very different roles showcased his abilities. Whether as the real life Vietnam hero in "Rescue Dawn," one of six different incarnations of Bob Dylan in "I'm Not There," or the innocent rancher caught in the crossfire in "3:10 to Yuma," Bale showed Hollywood he had the right stuff. He recently wrapped "Public Enemies" playing the do-gooder who hunts down John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) and is filming the long awaited sequel "Terminator Salvation" stepping into the shoes of John Connor, the only hope for man against machine. And he is said to be considering the role of Robin Hood in "Nottingham."

(Warner Bros.)

The comments to this entry are closed.


Christian Bale must apologize to the American public.

I think it's unfair to judge a person or a supposed happening based on media reports. Things often are not what they seem. I feel bad for Mr. Bale who, with his mother and sister present for the screening, was obviously trying to make them a part of his success. It went bad (apparently) but what right have we to judge? Further, if one is to believe media reports, Mr. Bale's wife was the victim of harsh insults by his mother. Protecting his wife from such cruelty does not make him an evil person. There is no place for such behavior by his mother if we are to believe the reports. I saw "Dark Knight" this a.m. and found it thoroughly entertaining. Perhaps the success of it will drown the personal woes being displayed and splashed in major news formats the world over.

A simple question: It appears to this reader that Mr. Crowe has made every effort (successfully) to turn his life around since his brush with the law a few years ago. Not only have I NOT read about any negative incidents whatsoever, what I have seen is a more pensive and peaceful man devoting a lot of daddy time to his two young sons, helping the indiginous population and children's organizations in Australia, and quietly making movies to great accolades both on and off set. If you believe the Academy has been "punishing" Mr. Crowe for his behavior in the past, (rather hyprocritically so given the awards heaped on Jack "golf club bashing" Nicholson and Sean "taking shots at helicopters" Penn), do you see any shift in the Academy's perception of Mr. Crowe given the passage of time and the obvious changes in his life?

Ok, no rancor or complaints against mis- or over-stated swipes at Crowe, just a simple question: as it is apparent in his actions the last several years that Mr. Crowe has obviously taken personal stock and devoted his life to family, community work in his native Australia, making movies and rebuilding the sports team he co-owns, when, in your opinion, will the Academy stop "punishing" him (hyprocritically IMO given the exploits of many a golden boy including windshield bashing Jack Nicholson and helicopter shooting Sean Penn) and redeem themselves by actually honoring the merit of this actor's work? IMO, overlooking Crowe's masterful work in classics like Master & Commander and Cinderella Man reflected worse on the Academy than on Mr. Crowe. Do you detect any shift in the Academy's perception of him given the passage of time and the obvious shift in his behavior?

If yelling at a dysfunctional family member was a real crime, most of the human population would be in jail. Apparently Bale's mother was shouting insulting comments about his wife, and it has also been reported that his sister was asking for a huge sum of money. Bale has proven himself to be one of the most talented actors around, with or without an oscar or box-office smash. He has also shown himself to be a supporter of environmental issues, considerate towards animals (he took in a number of stray cats and dogs) and a loving father. Tabloids and reporters are involved in a media frenzy about nothing. Leave the guy alone. The charges have been dropped but he is still suffering at the hands of trial by media.

"obviously they're fans of Crowe's who may refuse to see the point if too-strongly stated, even tho factual. Yes, Crowe was slow to take full responsibility -- and seemed rather cavalier at first."

Factual? Nonsense. The initial police reports on the incident said that Crowe was remorseful, that he said that he did not intend to hurt Estrada, but just wanted to get through to his wife.

I may be a "crazed Crowe fan," but at least I can recognize the difference between truth and falsehood, which is more than can be said for you.

Your columns are riddled with incorrect statements. Either it is deliberate or you just don't give a damn.

In either case, further exchange with you on the subject is futile.

"so many people here seem to be offended -- obviously they're fans of Crowe's ....My, my, I try to do a nice thing..."
Like telling the truth ?
Just maybe all those people are fans of the truth. SO hard to find these days , especially in entertainment "journalism".
Your shrugging off your responsibilities unless "rabid fans" are involved is discouraging.

yes, i toned it down a bit because so many people here seem to be offended -- obviously they're fans of Crowe's who may refuse to see the point if too-strongly stated, even tho correct. Yes, Crowe was slow to take full responsibility -- and seemed rather cavalier at first. My, my, I just tried to do a nice thing for you crazed Crowe fans and you come out swinging harder -- just like your hero. Fancy that.

"That's because they are NOT incorrect."

That's interesting, because you changed your original column after certain of your incorrect statements were pointed out to you.

In your original column, you stated that Crowe shrugged off the Mercer incident. (Don't deny it, Tommy boy, We have copies.) That doesn't appear in the current version.

Oh, one more falsehood in your story. You stated that Crowe had trouble dialing the phone at the Mercer. (Implying no doubt that he was too "drunk and unhinged" to dial. Nice innuendo. You should work with Karl Rove.) Crowe was trying to get through to his wife, but the Mercer was unable to get him an international line because they were having phone problems.

Nice try, anyway.

It's obvious you dont like Crowe. Don't remember one piece by you that was ever positive. always negative.

That's because they are NOT incorrect.

"the facts that you apparently don't want to hear"
Tom,Tom,Tom ! You don't even report the FACTS . Just the usual spin-garbage of half-overheard Chinese whispers. Go back to the original reports - if you dare.
You haven't even acknowledged that your versions of the BAFTA and phone episodes are wildly incorrect.

Christian Bale a Hollywood Bad Boy? his temper ruining his chances of Oscar noms in the future? LOL! this is precious. you should be a comedy writer.

those of us who have followed Bale's career all his life knows that the image you painted of the man in your article is the farthest from the real thing.

he's no saint, but heavens know he's not a hot head.

Obviously award voters have something against Russell Crowe, don't they? That's what I'm reporting on -- how bad-boy antics can be played out at showbiz awards and Crowe's the msot dramatic example of that. Why do you assume I have something personal against him. I don't have a strong opinion about him one way or another -- just reporting the facts that you apparently don't want to hear.

Tom, I thought you're reporting about Christian Bale.
D'you have anything personal against Crowe. Leave him alone for God's sake.
...And al least make sure to write the truth in your reports, after all it's unethical to report things you don't know or has not double checked...

Very poor article.

No mention of Roman Polanski who was charged with raping a 13 year old girl and then years later won the Oscar for Best Director. This article was awful.

Bale speaks with an American accent in interviews about TDK as so not to confuse the majority of morons in America who are under the impression that he IS American. The guy is Welsh. He's a master of accents. He's not doing it because he's arrogant or fame has gone to his head. He doesn't want anything from his private life to detract from the roles he plays onscreen. A lot of actors could take note of this - his private life is generally private. Unfortunately, his crazyass mother and sister are not making that possible for him and I feel bad for the guy. All these people calling for his head for getting angry and shouting at his mother should take a look in the mirror - cuz I am willing to bet that there is NO ONE who can say they've never been angry and shouted at someone. Just because the Brits have a strange legal system...allowing someone to be arrested for shouting...let's not all get up in arms about whether he is a bad guy or not.

As for this ridiculous incident, let's not go throwing out his Oscar nom just yet. I doubt he'd be nominated either way - the guy is one of the most talented actors in this generation and he's NEVER been nominated before. What's to say that the Academy is going to start pulling their heads out of their asses now? Please. If they didn't nominate him for "Rescue Dawn" or his many other fantastic roles, they're certainly not going to start now. Let's not kid ourselves - the Oscars are a joke and half the time the people being nominated don't deserve it.

Just throwing out my two cents.

Poor Tommy! He can't write an accurate column to save his life.

Crowe was not "allegedly drunk" the night of the Mercer incident. The police reported that he was sober and cooperative.

Crowe did not yank anything out of the wall. He took the headset downstairs with him to talk with Mr. Estrada.

Crowe did not shrug off the incident. Police at the scene reported that he regretted the incident and said that he did not intend to hit Mr. Estrada.

Really Tommy, you must get over the fact that Crowe decided to marry someone else. It is affecting your ability to think clearly.

please, Bale's performance in not even close to being Oscar worthy in the first place. It's not really his fault, but the Batman character is the least interesting in the film, one note is saying too much

Jumping the gun a bit, are you? Relax, and stop putting weird ideas into people's heads. This is why the media gets such a bad rap.

If they can give a child molester, Roman Polanski, an Oscar than Bale has nothing to worry about.

Tom, you're STILL obsessed with Crowe's behaviour ? At least have the guts to print the facts about the BAFTA incident.
And why is it you never mention Halle Berry (guilty of a hit and run, no less), Keifer Sutherland (DUI) or Robert Downey Jr. (hard drugs) in your list of bad boys ?

want to clear this up before you all blow it out of preportion.
Christian Bale has yet to be charged with any crime, he has been accused of VERBALY not PHYSICALY assaulting his mother and sister. He voluntarily reported to a London police station and assisted police with questioning, after which he left on his own without being charged.
Just wanted to make that clear before everyone assumes the worst and blows this thing out of preportion. story included a statement from Bale’s attorney and a denial of the allegations from the actor:

“Christian Bale attended a London police station today, on a voluntary basis, in order to assist with an allegation that had been made against him to the police by his mother and sister,” the star’s lawyers said in the statement. “Mr. Bale who denies the allegation, co-operated throughout, gave his account in full of the events in question, and has left the station without any charge being made against him by the police. At this time, there will be no further comment by Mr. Bale.”

Kris Tapley:
And personally, I feel like headlines such as “Did Batman beat up his mother and sister? , while accurate on the face (in so far as the question), and certainly controversial,are somewhat disrespectful.

What a load of rubbish! And what is your vendetta against Russell Crowe all about? The title of the article named Christian Bale as the topic and yet you spewed 90% of your bile onto Crowe. Go grab your teddy bear and take a nap, you dreadful child. The rest of us will deal with the grown-up men very nicely without you.

Christian Bale is an amazing actor and a good family man! He has never had a record of violence in his career before and unlike most of our brilliant American hollywood stars he has stayed out of the party/drunk/drug users of Hollywood. Charges of assault mean one feels threatened or intimidated. Battery is the charge for physical abuse there were no bruises on his mother or sister therefore they were unscathed. This is a cheap stunt to tear down and bring negative attention to a decent man and actor.




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