Rowan Atkinson is the surprising source of Christian Bale‘s disciplined approach to acting. The Batman Begins actor is known for disappearing into his roles completely, often drastically changing his body shape and sometimes his temperament to fit the character. Bale learned all about this method style of acting at a young age from Atkinson, who’s perhaps better known stateside as Mr. Bean.
Before Atkinson began his run as the mostly silent, disaster causing buffoon that is Mr. Bean, he was cast as the lead in a play called The Nerd by Larry Shue. It was here that a young Bale first ran into the British funny man. Bale has often admitted in interviews that he had no formal training despite the fact that he’d been acting since he was a child. Instead of taking classes, he took inspiration from the older actors he was surrounded by, most notably Atkinson.
Christian Bale’s first acting teacher was Rowan Atkinson
“One of [my] first jobs ever was with Rowan Atkinson and I think I look at him as the template,” Bale told GQ in 2019. During their first interactions, young Bale noticed that Atkinson mostly kept to himself offstage. “He would come out, we’d say hello, but he didn’t really socialize. None of us knew him — it was before he did Mr. Bean.” Despite Atkinson’s apparent antisocial behavior, something about the older actor’s behavior entranced Bale.
Before even stepping out onto the stage, Bale would watch Atkinson “just become this character.” Bale continued, “And I would just watch him; I would see him becoming a character. I was mesmerized.” That’s when Bale realized that the character didn’t leave when Atkinson was off stage. In fact, it wasn’t until the production was finished that Atkinson finally dropped the character. “And it wasn’t until the whole thing was finished that he invited me to say hello and that I actually spoke to him for the first time,” Bale recalled. “It dawned on me that was my learning phase. I went, ‘Oh, that’s how it’s done then, is it? OK, great.'” Bale evidently took what he learned from Rowan Atkinson very seriously, since he’s employed a similar method of acting style throughout his career.
The actor’s dedication is fodder for gossip rags
Christian Bale’s intense dedication for his craft is often used against him in the tabloids. For instance, Life & Style reported in 2019 that Bale was feuding with Matt Damon on set of Ford v Ferrari. A supposed set insider alleged that Damon’s cavalier attitude and puckish antics drove the more serious Bale nuts. It all came to a head after Damon apparently messed up one of Bale’s shots, then, according to the so-called source, turned to Bale and said, “Don’t lose it with me. The cameras are still rolling!” Bale was “not amused” by Damon’s reference to his infamous 2009 tirade. Gossip Cop looked into these rumors and found that there was not a scrap of truth to be found. We reached out to the actors’ mutual rep, who assured us the story was totally fabricated. Both actors know to keep the drama onscreen and off set.