Christian Bale has always been equally at home in blockbuster fare like Christopher Nolan‘s billions-grossing Batman trilogy and in barely-seen yet noble indie efforts such as Werner Herzog’s “Rescue Dawn.” Along the way, he has become one of the most admired actors of his generation. But this holiday season, the 40-year-old Englishman will fulfill his destiny as the chosen one to play Moses in Ridley Scott’s biblical epic “Exodus: Of Gods and Kings,” which opens Dec. 12. Watch the new trailer below.
Why is Bale the perfect pick for the Old Testament prophet who led the Israelites to the Promised Land? Here are 10 Commandants that prepared him to take on this challenge.
1.Thou shalt be the standout at an early age in a Steven Spielberg movie.
Spielberg’s then-wife Amy Irving suggested Bale, her co-star in a 1986 TV movie “The Mystery of Anna,” for the lead role in his 1987 “Empire of the Sun.” The young teen was so impressive as a well-off British schoolboy who becomes a POW at a Japanese WWII internment camp hat the National Board of Review created a special juvenile award to honor him. As New York Times critic Janet Maslin observed, Bale already possessed the screen presence to carry such a weighty film: “This fine young actor, who appears in virtually every frame of the film and ages convincingly from about 9 to 13 during the course of the story, is eminently able to handle an ambitious and demanding role.”
2. Thou shalt actually work with the actor best known for playing Moses.
Thanks to annual Easter and Passover TV showings of Cecil B. DeMille’s 1954 classic “The Ten Commandments,” the late Charlton Heston is the actor most associated with the role of Moses. But Bale should be less intimidated than most to step into Heston’s sandals. Bale once played Jim Hawkins opposite Heston’s Long John Silver in a 1990 TV-movie version of “Treasure Island.”
Not that he isn’t respectful of his predecessor. As Bale recently told Entertainment Weekly: “Charlton Heston does Charlton Heston better than anyone. But the biblical account of Moses is extraordinary, and there was lots of room for us to go to places that ‘The Ten Commandments’ never dreamed of going.”
3. Thou shalt deal with thy anger.
Happily married since 2000 and a father of two, Bale is not one to divulge any personal details about his life. As a result, he rarely appears in tabloid headlines. The lone exception was a now-infamous 2008 incident on the set of “Terminator Salvation” when he launched into a profanity-laced tirade after a cinematographer interrupted one of his scenes. An audio recording went viral in early 2009 and was the source of much humor on late-night talk shows. Bale later issued a public apology during an L.A. radio appearance, declaring that his outburst was “inexcusable.”
Moses also struggled with rage, smashing of the stone tablets bearing the 10 Commandments after witnessing his Hebrew flock worshiping a golden calf.
4. Thou shalt have previous biblical film experience.
Bale played Jesus of Nazareth in “Mary, Mother of Jesus,” a mostly forgotten 1999 Hallmark TV movie.
5. Thou shalt deign to take on a supporting role.
Moses willingly submits to God’s wishes and does as he is told as the Chosen One on Earth. And Bale learned that humility is often a virtue when it comes to winning Academy Awards. Similar to George Clooney in 2005’s “Syriana,” Bale won his first acting Oscar nomination, not as a leading man but for his showy secondary role as Dicky Ward, a washed-up crack-addict boxer in 2010’s “The Fighter.”
6. Thou shalt be adaptable to whatever fate holds for you.
Moses went from being the adopted son of an Egyptian royal family to wandering the desert for 40 years as the leader of the formerly enslaved Hebrews. Bale, meanwhile, is known for losing and gaining weight as a role requires, which includes packing on muscle if need be. While his monstrous yuppie in 2000’s “American Psycho” was vain about maintaining his sculpted body, his disturbed insomniac in 2004’s “The Machinist” required the six-foot actor to lose 63 pounds, reducing his weight to 121. Bale would then turn around and bulk up again for 2005’s “Batman Begins,” his first of three films as the masked avenger.
7. Thou shalt play a comic-book hero who is sometimes seen as a Christ figure.
Since Batman’s real identity is wealthy mogul Bruce Wayne – a mere mortal who possesses no supernatural powers — he is sometimes interpreted as a Christ-like savior as he sacrifices himself for sake of the citizens of Gotham City.
8. Thou shalt be involved in charity and show compassion in unexpected ways.
Bale is involved with such environmental groups as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund. He is also a board member, along with wife Sibi, of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. But the actor truly showed himself to be a man of compassion and caring when he visited victims of the shooting that took place at a midnight screening of 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado. He issued this statement after the spree that killed 12 and injured 70: “Words cannot express the horror that I feel. I cannot begin to truly understand the pain and grief of the victims and their loved ones, but my heart goes out to them.”
9. Thou shalt work multiple times with one of the more spiritually minded movie gods alive today: Terrence Malick.
Bale first worked with Malick, a romantic visionary known for his striking depictions of nature on the screen, in 2005’s “The New World.” It was based on the story of Pocahontas and John Smith during colonialization of America. His next two films following “Exodus: Gods and Kings” will also be directed by Malick. The plot of “Knight of Cups” remains under wraps, but is said to be about celebrities and excess. Less is known about a still-untitled project, supposedly a musical drama that was shot back-to-back with “Cups” and features the some of the same cast. (Though given Malick’s track record of slashing actors from his films, it remains to be seen whether Bale will end up in the final cut of either one.)
10. Thou shalt not take the name of “Newsies” in vain.
Back when he was still a teen, Bale starred in this misbegotten 1992 Disney musical about New York City newspaper delivery boys in the late 1900s who stage a strike. Directed by Kenny Ortega, the choreographer who would go on to do the “High School Musical” films, “Newsies” earned some scathing reviews and one of the lowest grosses ever for the studio. It has since acquired a robust cult following on video and DVD. It was adapted into a 2012 Broadway show, winning two Tony Awards and six other nominations. When asked about the flop status of “Newsies,” Bale chose to be diplomatic: “You say something bad about ‘Newsies’ and you have an awful lot of people to answer to.”