Method acting is a brutal art. Not all actors are capable of attempting it and of those that do, not all are guaranteed Oscar-worthy performances.
However, when an actor truly immerses themselves into a character’s backstory, beliefs and motives, the on-screen results are far more realistic to moviegoers while they’re gorging on popcorn.
Notable method actors include Daniel Day-Lewis, Heath Ledger and Marlon Brando, but one man who consistently commits himself to the cause is Christian Bale. The British actor has starred in several blockbusters and, following a few movie roles in his younger years, burst onto the Hollywood scene with his portrayal of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.
But, other than giving us possibly the best interpretation of Batman in The Dark Knight trilogy, Bale is a man who undergoes insane weight fluctuations in preparation for various roles. His commitment to drastic weight loss was first apparent in 2004’s The Machinist, which saw him drop from the 81kg physique he sported in American Psycho, to the 55kg required for his role as the psychologically-troubled Trevor Reznik.
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Former NRL player turned fitness coach and owner of Flow Athletic, Ben Lucas, tells DMARGE that these severe weight fluctuations “is not healthy, nor is it a healthy way to live mentally.”
Once filming was finished, Bale had Batman Begins to prepare for, and so needed to put on some 45kg of weight in just six months, most of which needed to be muscle.
“Bale has gone from fit and muscly, to dangerously underweight, to overweight. These drastic changes can harm your metabolism but also a lot of the major organs we need to survive”, Lucas relates.
“It is also bad for your mental health, especially when a healthy person drastically loses or gains weight, which is not good for himself, his family or the others around him.”
Bale then needed to drop another 25kg for his role in 2006’s Rescue Dawn, before putting it all back on once more for his reprisal as Batman in The Dark Knight.
Following another drastic weight loss for The Fighter, Bale was then asked to become practically obese for his leading role in 2013’s American Hustle. His final appearance as Batman came just before this too, so once again he had to say bye-bye to his washboard abs.
One of his most recent roles, a portrayal of former US Vice President Dick Cheney saw him reach one of his highest weights to date at 102kg.
Safe to say, Bale is a man who puts his body through serious trauma, all in the name of entertainment. Impressive, yes, but not recommendable.
The iconic actor has previously admitted to The Sunday Times (via Cinema Blend), that he is hanging up his weight gain and weight loss methods.
“I can’t keep doing it. I really can’t. My mortality is staring me in the face.”
We, and Ben, wouldn’t recommend you attempt such drastic transformations, but if you want to bulk up, put on some lean muscle, or lose weight, how easily can this be achieved in a short space of time?
Ben says it “depends on your metabolism in terms of how easy/difficult it is and your willpower.”
“Some people can put on weight easily, others can’t and vice versa. It would take strong dedication to achieve these looks over a period of a year, especially if you have already messed with your metabolism with other transformations.”
If you know your body type and you’re willing to commit to achieving your goals, you need to factor in not only the time in the gym but also in the kitchen. And in Bale’s case, Ben says “nutrition would come into play a lot more.”
“Especially for losing the amount of weight he lost for The Machinist and gaining that weight for American Hustle and Vice.“
“Fitness and weight training would be more important for roles like Batman where he is ripped, however, nutrition would still have the majority importance at 80%/20%.”
Registered dietician Jo Travers has said the same. Speaking to inews.co.uk magazine, she was reported saying, “What Christian is doing for these roles is a form of yo-yo dieting, which is unhealthy.”
“The trouble is after you lose weight and then gain it back agian, there is a certain amount of muscle breakdown, so the body tends to gain the fat without gaining the muscle back.”
“When you eat a lot of carbs in one go, it spikes blood sugar level, and then the body responds by releasing loads of insulin to bring the blood sugar level back down. But instead of taking the sugar out of the blood and putting into the cells where it can be converted into a useable form of energy, it stores it in fat cells around the middle.”
“Once you have created a fat cell, you can’t really get rid of it, it can either just get emptied or filled – and more easily. By doing this yo-yo dieting, he will have made lots of fat cells that will remain in his body, making it much harder to maintain a healthy physique.”
Naturally, Bale will have the time to commit to six months of weight gain/loss, along with a team of experts to help him achieve his transformations. Unfortunately, the Average Joe doesn’t get such a luxury, so how can we expect to see results in a short amount of time?
Ben says it is important to “commit to eating a good diet: high protein, healthy veggies and fruits, healthy carbs like sweet potato.”
“Eat the right portions for your body type and your goal and use a calorie tracking app to closely monitor your calorie intake.”
“Weight train 4 days a week, and do some cardio if you are trying to lose weight too, such as walking running, cycling, HIIT training.”
“Sleep! Sleep is so important for getting results, as is getting rid of alcohol and sugary drinks, as consuming these won’t help you achieve your goals in 2-3 months.”
“Get up every hour or two at work and walk around or stretch for a few minutes.”
Don’t expect Bale-like transformations overnight (not that you would want to), but Ben’s advice should help you achieve your fitness goals in a quicker timeframe than expected.