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Did Christian Bale throw away his Oscars hopes by throwing that tantrum?

February 3, 2009 | 11:01 pm

Christian Bale just starred as the title character in the second biggest-earning movie ever made, "The Dark Knight," and next he plays the saintly FBI agent who hunts down John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) in director Michael Mann's "Public Enemies," which will be released this summer. That means Christian Bale may soon be considered seriously for an Academy Award. But is he destroying his Oscars hopes by bad-boy antics on the set of "Terminator Salvation" and elsewhere?

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Just a few months ago, Christian Bale was accused of assaultng his mother. Now he's caught on tape hurling a tirade of verbal abuse at "Terminator Salvation" director of photography Shane Hurlbut. You can hear the actual audio here, but beware of excessive profanity.

Is Christian Bale throwing away his Oscars hopes? Bad boys don't win Academy Awards. It's no coincidence that the Oscars' 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."

Also consider what's happened to 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.

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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. Crowe apologized, but it rang hollow and Denzel Washington claimed the prize for "Training Day."

Two years later, Russell 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 Russell Crowe with his next project, "Cinderella Man." This 2005 biopic helmed by Ron Howard looked like perfect Oscars 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. He got furious while 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 Russell Crowe, the whole incident had been caught on videotape by a security camera. This time Crowe wasn't taking a punch at a pesky paparazzo or fellow Hollywood bad boy. He took a potshot at an honest, hard-working, innocent Everyman, a regular Joe, just the kind of guy who 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.

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Photos: Universal, Lionsgate

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