Celebrity Money Gurus: Christian Bale is best-paid UK actor

Sarah Coles
Christian Bale waxwork at Madame Tussauds
Christian Bale waxwork at Madame Tussauds

If you were asked to name celebrated British actors, how many would you get through before you mentioned Christian Bale?

Yet the star of the Batman Dark Knight trilogy was recently named by Forbes Magazine as the eighth highest-paid actor of 2013 - the highest-paid Brit, and the third highest non-American star after Australian Chris Hemsworth at number five and Irish Liam Neeson at number six.

So what is he doing right?

Bale started young. His first paying gig was in an advert at the age of 8, by the age of 10 he was on stage in the West End with Rowan Atkinson, and by 13 he was given the starring role in Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun. Unlike a huge number of child actors, he didn't remain frozen in time, and grew up on film, taking age-appropriate roles, until at the age of 25 he played Patrick Bateman in American Psycho - and couldn't have distanced himself further from the child star he started out as. At the age of 40 he is an established and mature actor with the kind of filmography that most actors take until their 60s to establish.

Bale has built his reputation by mixing highly acclaimed independent films with huge blockbusters. He has won numerous awards as a result of it, most notably for The Fighter and American Hustle. And with awards comes more offers and bigger pay cheques.

He lives his roles. Bale has famously transformed his appearance for numerous films, dramatically losing weight for The Machinist, gaining muscle for Batman and pilling on the pounds for American Hustle (and shaving his head for a more realistic comb-over). He so inhabits his roles that when he was doing press for Batman he did it in an American accent. It means Bale is in the frame for all sorts of roles, rather than typecasting him as a superhero or a psycho, which means he's offered more films and can build a secure income.

This is control by Hollywood standards, because Bale has a reputation for having a hot temper. However, some 27 years after starring in his first feature film, Bale hasn't spectacularly fallen out with anyone powerful, walked off any sets, or fallen prey to any of the trappings of the lifestyle that can be so toxic to child actors. In many ways, his enormous financial success can be attributed to the fact that Bale has consistently held it together.

However, if you had to narrow his success down to one thing it would be clout. Much of his major payday in 2013 was the back end of the Dark Knight Rises, released in July 2012, which earned more than $1 billion worldwide. By the time Christian Bale was negotiating his pay for this Batman film, the fact that he brought credibility to the franchise, he inhabited the role, and he could be relied on to deliver, meant he was invaluable to the film-makers - who paid him accordingly.

Christian Bale on Gaining Weight for American Hustle
Christian Bale on Gaining Weight for American Hustle

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