"Christian Bale, "Batman," was a sad person when I worked with him," says Harrison Cheung, who has written a biography of Bale. His father, David, forced him to work, as an actor, from age thirteen, even though Christian didn"t want to do it. The damage, done and final, ruled and ruined his life.
Cheung lived the dream of every fan. He wrote a letter to Stephen Spielberg about "Empire of the Sun," which starred Bale. Spielberg asked Cheung to write Bale, as Bale had taken the weak box office, of "Empire of Sun," to heart.
Bale responded to Cheung. They exchanged letters. When Bale moved to Los Angeles, he invited Cheung to visit, all expenses paid.
Bale came to rely on Cheung, as publicist, script reader and confidant. Cheung helped fashion the film career of Christian Bale. He lived with the Bales, managing their household, too.
This was the early 1990s. The Internet wobbled along on unsure legs. Cheung designed the first website for any actor.
The Bale website grew. Cheung used clever ways to attract visitors. Eventually, the site had 250,000 visitors a month. Fifty visitors stayed on the site for an hour and twenty-five thousand checked the site twice a day.
The Internet was a huge advantage for Christian Bale. Cheung organised Bale-heads to e-mail bulk buyers at video chains, such as Blockbuster. A flood of e-mails asked the buyers to have enough copies of the new Bale movie ready for high-demand renting. The Blockbuster "Newsletter" once asked, "Christian Bale: who is he, why do his movies fall among the top ten most rented."
Barbara Broccoli controls the James Bond characters. In 2000, she wanted Bale as Bond. Bale said he wouldn"t portray another serial killer, nor would he portray a cartoon character.
In 2003, Bale chased hard after the coveted role of "Batman." He had a unique advantage; he was the biggest star on the Internet and had been for ten years. Director Christopher Nolan picked a solid actor with a built-in audience to portray "Batman."
If Cheung colours events, he"s loyal to Bale. The root of the famous Bale temper, intense and wild when unleashed, is exploitation by his father. As a teenager, Christian Bale supported his father financially, paying a hefty mortgage for their home.
Bale suffered much childhood disappointment, which plagues his adult life. "He filmed, "Empire of the Sun" at thirteen years old," says Cheung. Maybe, if "Empire" had not bombed, Christian might have turned out different. Â
"Christian Bale: the inside story of the darkest Batman," is as fair and balanced as possible for a biography. Cheung discusses Bale directly. Readers may draw their own conclusions from the facts.
In this interview, Harrison Cheung talks about moving from a fan of Christian Bale to helping build the Hollywood career of Bale to penultimate stardom. Candidly, Cheung warns of the life-long damage child stars often suffer. He talks, factually, of the deep costs of the role reversals parents often force child stars to assume.
GS: You live in Austin, Texas.
HC: Yes. After I left the entertainment industry, I looked for something more stable. The problem, working with actors, is the piecemeal nature of the job. There"s a task here, another task there; it pays well enough, but there"s little steady work.
An unstable cash flow is distracting. You spend half your time looking for work. There was also the matter of not being able to afford property in Los Angeles.
GS: Or afford the property taxes.
HC: Yes, I was lucky to land a job with IBM, which offered to transfer me. It was laying-off workers in LA. Human Resources, at IBM, said I could stay with the company, if I moved to either Austin, Texas, or Raleigh, North Carolina.
GS: You picked the right one.
HC: It was funny. I moved here was sight unseen. I looked up Raleigh, on the web; it boasted, "America"s G-rated city." Austin"s motto is, "Keep Austin weird." I figured I would come to Austin, as I was a Canadian.
GS: You"re from Hamilton, Ontario, the Hammer.
HC: Yes, but Scotland is my birthplace. I"m a British and Canadian citizen.
GS: Do you have the urge to wear a kilt?
HC: I do. I wish they had a pattern for me. I have to make my own tartan.
GS: How did you find your way to Hamilton?
HC: My father taught at McMaster University, which is in Hamilton. My dad is in marine biology; he earned a doctorate at the University of Glasgow, in Scotland. We moved wherever there was research money.
We moved to Miami. Up and down the east coast. Eventually, we moved to Canada and Hamilton.
GS: Are your parents still in Hamilton.
HC: No, they live in Toronto, now. They like Toronto, a great deal. There"s good public transit, giant Chinese communities and always much to do. Whenever they come down to visit me, in Austin, they think the clock turned back fifty years.
It"s hard to find Chinese food, in Austin, genuine Chinese food. It"s hard to find Chinese supermarkets. I have to drive an hour to find a Chinese newspaper for my parents.
GS: How did you like living in Hamilton, compared to Los Angeles?
HC: I always tell people you miss the last city where you lived, once you move.
GS: Is that Mover"s Remorse.
HC: I think so. When I lived Los Angeles, I missed Hamilton, my family and friends, knowing what"s going on, knowing how to move around the city and so forth. Obviously, Hamilton is much smaller than is Los Angeles, roughly five per cent the size of LA.
I went to high school and university in Hamilton. I knew the city. I felt comfortable. Several Canadian comedians hit big in the US come from Hamilton, such as Eugene Levy, Jim Carrey, Dave Thomas, Martin Short and movie producer, Ivan Reitman.
There was peacefulness, in Hamilton. I lived in West Hamilton, right around McMaster University. I enjoyed it. I think, also, growing up, in Hamilton, you get second-city rivalry with Toronto, which is fun.
GS: It was obviously good for you to move to Los Angeles.
HC: As it turned out, yes.
GS How did you come to work for Christian Bale?
HC It"s a funny backstory. My family is Chinese Canadian. In 1987, we lived in Burlington, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto. Around Christmas that year, I went to see a movie, "Empire of the Sun," at the Burlington Mall.
The movie is about a British schoolchild trapped in a Japanese concentration camp. "Empire of the Sun" enthralled me. The stories my parents told me, about growing up during World War 2, suddenly came to life.
There was a scene of a boy, a child, begging for food and fighting over a potato. The rice was full of weevils. Every story, my parents told me, I immediately saw in "Empire of the Sun."
GS This movie was one of only two bombs for Spielberg.
HC Yes, unfortunately, the movie was a huge bomb for Stephen Spielberg. In fact, "Empire of the Sun" is one of two bombs for him. The other is "1942," starring John Belushi.
"Empire of the Sun" touched me, deeply. I decided to write Spielberg a fan letter. Six months later, to my delight, I got a response from Spielberg"s secretary, as well as a signed movie poster.
His secretary wrote, "Thank you for writing Stephen. " Empire of the Sun" is precious to Stephen. If you wouldn"t mind, could you write the star of "Empire of the Sun," Christian Bale. He"s always been sad the movie wasn"t more successful."
She gave me an address for Christian, in London. I wrote him a fan letter. I said, "You were wonderful in the "Empire of the Sun"; what are you doing next?"
GS That"s a good, simple touch.
HC About six months later, Bale wrote back. That delighted me. He gave me his address. I wrote him, thanking him for writing me.
Six months later, he wrote back. I wrote him another letter. He wrote back, mentioning he was filming "The Prince of Jutland." We developed an odd correspondence, writing back and forth.
One day, I picked up the phone. It was David Bale, father of Christian, calling. He said, "I understand you"ve been writing to my son." Terrified, I thought I had done something wrong.
David Bale said, "I"ve been reading your letters. You have many good marketing ideas for my son. We"re planning to move to Los Angeles. When we move to LA, we would love to meet you."
We kept in touch. About a year later, they made their move to LA. One day his dad called to say, "We"re sending you an airline ticket; come on down."
GS That must have felt great.
HC Yes. David Bale wanted to pick my brain about marketing Christian. The senior Bale was good at networking. He wanted to talk with anyone that could further the career of his son, Christian.
When the Bale family moved to LA, they had no specific plans. They didn"t know anyone. Christian had done a starring role in a Stephen Spielberg movie, but that was when he was 13-years-old
Christian was 16-years-old when he moved to LA. His acting trail had gone cold. His father was scrambling to re-establish contacts and a cash flow.
It was an incredible thrill, invited to LA by the Bales. I flew to LA and stayed in a luxurious hotel, with someone else paying the bill. It was unbelievable what a fan letter caused.
GS Sounds as a movie fantasy.
GS You moved into the home of Christian Bale.
HC I wanted to earn my keep. They had paid for an airline ticket and put me up in a hotel. I had worked on a business proposal that showed how the Internet could be his publicist.
At the time, I was working for one of the largest software companies in Canada, GEAC. The company was famous for doing library computer set ups. Thanks to that job, I had a good background in online marketing.
I put my ideas in a solid business plan. I brought the plan to LA. I showed it to them. They loved my strategy.
They especially liked how my plan was low cost. Remember, anything on the Internet is a click or two away. Click a button to send an e-mail. We kept in touch for another year.
During that year Christian was travelling. He shot a film in Victoria, British Columbia; the latest adaptation of "Little Women." Then he came to the Toronto Film Festival and stayed with me.
I was starting to handle all of his press by then, strictly by e-mail and phone. Everyone in Hollywood said, "Is 416 an area code?" They were asking Christian, "Who is Harrison Cheung?" They were saying, "Your publicist has a funny accent. We don"t get his zip code."
He would have to explain, "Harrison is Canadian. He lives in Toronto."
It astonished him. "People in LA," he said, "laugh when they hear my publicist is Canadian. It would be helpful if you came to Los Angeles. Could you move down here?"
It took me almost a year to sell my condominium and wrap up everything. I had to apply for a visa. I had to get myself down to California.
GS You did a huge favour for Bale.
HC At the time, I felt we were family. As a movie buff, you can get no better offer. It was funny, too.
The anti-Canadian group in Hollywood, mostly in the media, was a challenge. I had to learn how to neutralise my non-existent accent and be careful of regionalism. If I said the word, "Pop," it was a giveaway: they expected to hear soda.
GS Neutralising the accent is funny, if you"re Canadian. The American television networks love our non-accented voice. Peter Jennings got the job at ABC-TV because he had no accent.
HC I found in Hollywood most people in film love Canada, where production costs are lower. Usually, the US dollar is worth more in Canada. They also love Canadian actors, in general, as better trained. In Canada, actors go to school, the University of Windsor, say, to study acting and drama.
The clichÃ© is, "Canadian actors have a Shakespearian background and comedy background." Those are areas of acting expertise Americans envy.
Mostly, American actors do glee club. Someone says, "You"re good. You should move to LA." They drop out of high school to take advantage of an opportunity as did, say, Uma Thurman. Sadly, most glee-club hopefuls fizzle out before they memorise their LA phone number.
GS In fairness, some Canadian actors drop out of school for a first role. Keanu Reeves and Jim Carry come to mind.
HC I think formal training is why American directors also love British actors. British and Canadian actors as well as Australian actors have a stronger educational base in drama. Some American actors receive formal training in a university, say, Henry Winkler, who has an MA in theatre from Yale, but not many.
GS Can you get a little bit more specific about, if you wish, about what you did for Christian Bale. It worked so well.
HC I wore a few hats. I was his publicist. I was his marketer. I was his personal assistant. When I lived in the house, I took care of household affairs.
It"s funny, when he landed "Batman." Every one called me, "Alfred." They said, "You"re like the real-life Alfred to "Batman."
As his publicist, I did cold calling to try to get him press coverage. As you can imagine, when you"re pitching, you have to have unique angle. The angle that worked best, for me, was, "Come meet Christian Bale, he is the biggest star of the Internet."
At the time, the middle 1990s, many entertainment journalists would scratch their head. "Who is this guy? Why is he the biggest star of the Internet?
I overwhelmed them with metrics: fifty thousand visitors stay on the site for an hour or more, twenty-five thousand checked the site twice a day and so forth. If they gave me the opportunity, I could click one button and get ten thousand fans to write letters to an editor, saying, "We want to see a feature on Christian Bale."
GS Would these be e-mail or snail mail?
HC E-mails went instantaneously sent to editors. "Entertainment Weekly" (EW) was the first magazine to crown Bale as the biggest star of the Internet. In a small article about the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF), which ran in EW, there was a small box about him. I made sure the fans responded to the article.
Afterward, I called all the EW reporters that had been in Toronto, at TIFF. Suddenly a feature article appeared that said, "Here"s the biggest star of the Internet. You may not know his name, but his fans are legion."
GS Is the Internet is the last great media for a publicist.
HC Yes, the Internet challenge is pitching someone new, such as Bale, and trying to explain why he"s newsworthy. This is the challenge with any medium, but more so, in the middle 1990s, on the Internet. Not everyone, at the time, was as attuned to the web as we are today.
I also read the scripts agents sent for Christian to consider. I would read the scripts and make notes. Then Bale and I would talk about the scripts.
Another job I did was keep much in touch with a couple of friends who are big readers. I would ask them, "What"s hot?" "What"s coming out?" If caught early enough, we might be able to take a shot at buying the script for Bale. If we bought a script, it was for Bale to star. We had no money to pitch for a book to produce as a film.
I remember early on, doing a huge lobbying campaign for a book called, "Snow Falling on Cedars." We pitched for "The Love Letter," too. It wasn"t until "Captains Corelli"s Mandolin" that we landed a part for Christian.
It was fun to read books or scripts and recommend. My take and suggestions always fascinated Bale. I had my marketing bent.
I also had my fan-boy bent. For example, Christian did a dragon movie called, "Reign of Fire"; it was his first million dollar pay cheque. As a big sci-fi fan, I told Christian, "A dragon movie has never been a box office hit."
He took my comment seriously. He went to the director. He said, "Instead of dragons, can we make them pterodactyls or something. My friend said dragons won"t be a hit?"
The director wouldn"t listen. He went ahead with dragons. Sure enough, the movie bombed.
GS Roughly, what was the size of the web fan base you developed for Bale?
HC At its peak, roughly 250,000 unique fans a month, on the website.
GS To get them to act quickly, as you said, did you provide them with the content of the e-mail to send a producer, say, or only the idea.
HC I guess I can confess, now, after so much time has passed. I provided a template for the fans to use. It was easy enough to send an e-mail link, asking fans to click the link. Often I sent an e-mail form saying, "Here, fill out this form and send it to the editor of "Entertainment Weekly" or "Premier Magazine."" I wanted to make sure the letters got the reporters and editors as quickly as possible.
GS That"s sharp.
HC No one was doing it at the time. It was the first web site for an actor, ever. In the early 1990s, I develop a presence for Bale on CompuServe and AOL. In 1994, we had a website without its own name on asgo.net/~cable, in Toronto; this was typical for the time. In 1995,
Looking, in hindsight, it was an incredible marketing engine. Bale became a star; the Internet played a huge part in him becoming a star. In 1997, christianbale.org went on line. These sites were incredible for the time.
GS I guess visitors registered, with the site, so you could e-mail them to send an e-mail for Bale.
HC Yes. We had an e-mail subscription for a fan newsletter. At the time, there was still CompuServe and AOL. I had to make sure fans knew how to subscribe on each service, so they would stay up-to-date with anything Christian was doing.
What was important and no one else had done this before, I also chased the secondary market. The secondary market is the video market. When a movie comes out, if it"s a theatrical release, everyone watches to see if it will open number one this weekend.
Okay, the movie didn"t open number one, but then everyone is watching the secondary market, the video market, first VHS, then DVD. I had much better luck marshalling fans to say, "Christian has a video. It"s coming out on 1 September. Everyone, order the video from your local Blockbuster, today. Bug your local Blockbuster to carry multiple copies. Rent it!"
Blockbuster had a newsletter, in those days. Once, there was an article in its newsletter asking, "Christian Bale: how come his movies are consistently in the top 10% of rentals?" I wonder.
GS When you"re talking about a secondary market, it"s also called the "back-end."
HC Yes. Some people lump in video broadcasts. Of course, now days, there is video on-demand, streaming and so forth.
GS How old is Christian?
HC Christian Charles Philip Bale is 39-years-old, born on 30 January 1974, in Pembrokeshire, Wales.
GS I thought his middle name was Morgan.
HC Morgan was his stage middle name for a while. His father thought it more appealing than was Charles Philip. I believe he"s reverted to Charles Philip.
GS You did such a good job making him into a star. I thought he was around forever. He has a long career left.
HC He looks older than his real age because he spent too much time in the tanning booth. For "American Psycho," someone complained about his British, peaches and cream, complexion. After hearing that comment, he burnt himself on a tanning bed.
I warned him, "You can"t do without lasting effects." He said, "I need to burn away the British complexion." I said, "You"re going to look older before your time, especially as you"re Caucasian. You"re going to be saggy and leathery, fast." That"s why he looks a little older than his real age.
GS Is Christian Bale formally educated.
HC He dropped out of high school, as did Uma Thurman and Keanu Reeves, for example. An actor must be available for work when she or he is young and in demand. Most film roles won"t wait.
Christian was thirsty for an education. In the early part of his Hollywood career, he would have an entire year without work. I suggested, "Why don"t you go back to England. Go to school. Complete a degree." He always talked about doing an English degree.
The first time his father overheard me giving this advice, he waited until Christian left the room before grabbing me by the shirt collar. He said, "What are you doing? If Christian goes back to England then we lose the house."
I said, "He"s not finding work. Look at Jodi Foster and other child actors who managed the transformation through education." What"s wrong with going back to University?
The senior Bale had tied Christian, financially, to a mortgage. I mention it in the book. It was roughly $3,300.00 a month, in the middle 1990s. His dad buys a house and gives his son the mortgage bill. "Son, you better get working," he said.
David Bale was abusive. One day he told me, as I mention in the book, that, in England, he had an arrest record. He was what Americans call a con man. I had never seen anyone as manipulative. Christian reaped the wastes of the life his father wanted for himself.
GS It"s ironic David passed away about the time Christian hit as an actor.
GS His father married Gloria Steinem.
HC David Bale was a South African citizen. When he moved Christian to Los Angeles, in 1991, it was on a visitor visa, not a work visa. Yes, for years, the Bales were illegal residents of the USA.
It was the dream of his father that Christian become a star. Then the immigration issues would vanish, he thought. A few years later, the middle 1990s, US immigration discovered the visitor visa of David Bale had long expired, whereas Christian had a series of work visas.
GS The rising popularity of Christian Bale surely contributed to the attention.
HC Yes, David Bale tried various medical reasons to avoid deportation. He claimed heart and lung problems and, therefore, he couldn"t fly. He filed evaluations from several doctors, one or two of them not medical doctors, but PhDs.
He used all that he had to block deportation. I often drove him to see his lawyer. The lawyer would tell him, "We have people with spinal bifida. They"re not staying in the US on a medical excuse. Because you have heart and lung problems is not an excuse to stay in the country. You"re getting deported."
GS Yet, he charmed his way to a visa.
HC Yes, David Bale was active in the Democratic Party, in LA. He was at a Democratic Party fund-raiser, where he met Gloria Steinem. Her kindness was his way to a visa.
David Bale told Steinem of his plight. She was sympathetic. She offered to marry him, which would block the deportation.
GS The marriage of convenience is counter-intuitive to popular thinking about Gloria Steinem.
HC Yes and for that reason, I worried about putting story in the book. David Bale had passed away. Readers might construe the marriage story as speculative, at best, or libellous, most likely.
As luck had it, a couple of years ago, Gloria Steinem was on CNN promoting a documentary about her life. An interviewer asked her about the marriage to David Bale, how she preached against marriage, saying a woman needs a man as fish needs a bicycle. Forthrightly, Steinem said, "He needed a Green Card."
If Steinem was comfortable talking about the marriage, I had no issues including the story in my book. So, I did.
GS Did you have a Green Card, when you worked for Bale.
HC Yes. I was lucky in sense being a Canadian and British citizen. Canadian citizens, in those days, could get a work visa easily because of NAFTA, the free trade agreement. NFTA put the Green Card on a fast track, of a sort.
I didn"t get my green card because of Christian Bale. I got my Green Card because I was working for high-tech companies. I worked for IBM, for example.
GS Born outside North America is an advantage.
HC I also have a degree in a work-related area, which helps. Yet, it"s interesting, actors and Green Cards. If you"re an actor from the UK, say, it"s difficult to get a working visa in the USA
There are a great many American actors out of work: why import an actor. Usually, a foreign actor lands a role and receives a temporary Green Card during filming. If she or he becomes a star, Kate Winslet, say, a permanent Green Card is possible through the exceptional talent exemption.
That"s how celebrities get Green Cards.
GS I understand Bale burnt all his bridges to his mother, Jenny.
HC Yes, but I'm not sure why. As I detail in the book, his father, David, brainwashed him into believing his mother was no good. It ruined how Christian identifies with his mother.
Christian ignored his family for at least the past five years. The UK press noticed, that for the London premiere, of "The Dark Knight," he spent only three hours in England. The speculation was he wanted to avoid his family.
Horrified with his mother, for airing personal accusations in public, Bale wanted nothing to do with his family. His mother called the police after Christian allegedly assaulted her and his sister, Sharon. I believe his mother would desperately like Christian to contact the family.
Jenny Bale is wonderful, but naÃ¯ve. I don't think she realised the effect of going public with family disputes. She, of course, wanted to get her side the incidence aired.
GS Why did Christian spend only three hours in London for the premier?
HC Seemingly, he knew his mother would ambush him with a camera crew, in London. She said as much; adding, if she missed him in London, she"d follow him to Paris, the next press event for "The Dark Knight."
In London, Christian did the red carpet and headed for Paris, without sitting for the movie. The UK press got wind of his quick departure. The Paris Paparazzi was ready for him when he landed.
He couldn"t win that one, but he managed to escape, scathed I am sure.
GS How did you part ways, with Bale?
HC By early 2003, Bale and I had drifted apart, in many ways. One of the last straws, for me, involved the "Tonight Show." This incident crystallised how much Bale hated publicity.
GS What"s the story?
HC Rumours about Bale starring as "Batman" segued to almost solid fact, by early 2003. The "Tonight Show," to get a jump on its competition, booked Bale early. The idea, I guess, was the show bookers had an idea when the announcement, of Bale and "Batman," might come. They booked him two or three months before the expected announcement.
The "Tonight Show" is the high spot of publicity events for any entertainer or politician, too, I guess. The show is a launching pad for actors, comedians, singers and presidential candidates and has been for sixty years. Not to accept a "Tonight Show" booking is to destroy a career as it starts.
Two or three days before his appearance, the "Tonight Show" flew Bale, first class, to Los Angeles and put him up six-star hotel. There"s always a pre-interview for television talk shows. Bale didn"t care for how his "Tonight Show" pre-interview went.
At the last minute, Bale cancelled his first appearance with Jay Leno. I suspect he thought it would make the pre-interviewer look bad. What he did was get himself effectively banned from the "Tonight Show" and, perhaps, by implication, all other television talk shows.
GS Now that you mention it, I don"t believe I"ve seen Bale on any television talk show, at least in the past ten years.
HC A "Tonight Show" appearance is the acme for publicists as well as entertainers. I worked hard, for ten years, to help land Bale plum acting roles as well as a booking for the "Tonight Show." Once he abruptly cancelled, I knew the show would ban him, forever, and me with him.
The "Tonight Show" gambled, booking Bale well in advance. If it worked, as it might have, the show and Bale would have benefited. As it stands, the "Tonight Show" wasted some money, which they wouldn"t chance a second time.
GS Did he cancel at the last minute out of spite for the media?
HC That"s a good question and difficult to answer. In retrospect, it"s likely he cancelled, abruptly, out of spite. It"s equally likely he cancelled because of nerves: the "Tonight Show" is among the most important appearances for an entertainer to make.
GS Did you and he go downhill from that point.
HC I think so; I wanted to work with other clients, such as Ryan Gosling and Jake Gyllenhaal. Bale was okay with me working for other clients, but he wanted me to sign a non-disclosure agreement. I had no problem with signing, but I wanted the money Bale owed me, first; I worked pro bono for a decade, led to believe my pay would come when he made it.
GS Has portraying "Batman" precluded Christian Bale from portraying "James Bond."
HC In 2000, we had a meeting with Barbara Broccoli, who controls the "Bond" characters. She said, "Christian, you would be perfect as James Bond." He said, "I"ve already played a serial killer." He also said he wasn"t going to play a cartoon character.
GS Isn"t "Batman" a cartoon character.
HC Exactly, but it"s an American cartoon, not a British cartoon. I suspect Bale had this distinction in mind. Also, I"m not sure Broccoli would pay $60 million, which, roughly, is what Bale earned three "Batman" movies.
GS Were you involved in getting "Batman" for Bale.
HC Yes and it was all fan power. Christian built a career on "American Psycho" and a fan-favourite, a "Matrix" rip-off, "Equallibrium." Using these two movies, we could and did show Christian as an action hero.
Bale transformed his body into a buff, American build. He had scrawny shoulders and the British complexion. No one took him seriously for an American part, especially an action hero, before he buffed up.
We showed he was now a great choice for an American action hero. We showed he looked good in a suite, too. We showed he could play any lead role.
GS You mention, in the book, he has difficulty with the American accent.
HC It was mostly trying to select an American accent and portraying it. When he did "Batman," many "Batman" fans weren"t happy with his choice of accent. It was low-level grumbling. One reviewer said, "Bale sounds like he has throat cancer." His choice of accent was annoying to some.
The first time Christian did an American accent on film, was in "American Psycho." The move filmed in Toronto, directed by a Canadian, Mary Harron; her sister, Kelley Harron, co-starred with Bale, on and off screen. The accent Bale picked for "American Psycho" worked, well.
GS Will Bale return to "Batman."
HC No, I"m confident he won"t return. He"s done his three-picture deal and as long as Christopher Nolan isn"t returning, Bale isn"t, either. Zack Snyder, who directed "Man of Steel," will direct the next "Batman" movie.
GS Where do you think Bale goes from here?
HC I think he"s happy doing independent films. He won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for "The Fighter." I can see someone like Christian wanting to win his second Oscar in the Best Actor category.
Bale can pick his roles. He needs the influence of a marketing department attached to a film studio behind him, if he wants a Best Actor Oscar. It"s naive to believe people win Oscars without marketing.
I can see Bale shifting to directing. He"s such a bossy personality. I"m surprised he hasn"t tried directing by now.
His two public outbursts, a rant on the set of "Terminator Salvation" and ostensibly assaulting his mother and sister, may confirm he"s well suited for a position, such as director, with much control. I don"t know if Bale has the vision or the patience to see an entire movie project through, from beginning to end. In time, I guess, we"ll see.
Maybe he can slow down. Maybe he can accept fewer roles. Maybe he can retire. He has enough money. He smartly tied himself to Christopher Nolan, Thus, choice roles may come his way.
GS The transcript of his rant on the set of "Terminator Salvation" is in the appendix of your book.
GS: I read "Christian Bale: the inside story of the darkest "Batman." I didn"t expect the integrity and dignity you wrap into the story. It"s an exceptional biography.
HC: Thank you.
GS: You bypassed every opportunity to hit Bale, metaphorically, with a baseball bat. You didn"t take any obvious shots at him. Others may not have been as restrained.
HC: Thank you, again.
GS Who is Christian Bale.
HC Christian Bale, as I knew him, was a sad person, on many levels. There was much childhood disappointment. His father forced him to work in film, which he didn"t want to do. He made "Empire of the Sun" at thirteen years old, a move that bombed, big time.
The forced labour, of a sort, ruled and ruined his life, I think. Maybe, if "Empire" had enjoyed a strong box office, Christian may have turned out different. Still, his father, David, got to him early and, maybe, the damage done and irreversible.
GS: Bale"s a clichÃ©, in a way.
HC: Yes, he didn"t have much of a childhood. His parents had a messy, drawn out divorce, which ended in much bitterness. There was no closure.
His father put down his wife, Jenny, all the time. He dragged Christian all over the place, as they tried to escape creditors and, maybe, family. When his father dragged him, kicking and screaming, to America, Bale became a lonely person.
Bale grew up with much resentment. A few years ago, he exploded, on a movie, set, ranting and raving at a crewmember; a four-minute rant, at the top of his lungs, laced with deep-seated anger. He has issues.
GS Christian Bale is not alone in being a maladjusted adult, once forced into acting as a child to pay the family bills, a Dickensian background.
HC: Yes; especially when you consider the popularity of Christian Bale. You must wonder about the parents who line up their children to audition for "American Idol," say. I think the dream of a big, fast success, a fast track to fame and fortune, is destructive; the child actor does the hard labour, the parents reap the benefits.
GS: Did Christian find ways to undermine the demands of his father?
HC: Sometimes, but he wasn"t consistent. Christian would go to meet and greets without showering. If a child approached him, in a restaurant, say, asking for the autograph of "Batman," Christian would rail, ruthlessly, at him or her. Always, he acts as if he doesn"t care about his fans, at all. Such episodes, which often seemed staged, took off much of the shine that David applied to Christian.
GS That"s some title, "Christian Bale: the inside story of the darkest "Batman"?
HC Yes, but I didn"t come up with it. When the publisher, Glenn Yediff, of BanBella Books, told me the title, I almost fell off my chair. All I could say was, "That"s a long title."
GS: What"s the gist of the book?
HC: The book is a biography of actor, Christian Bale, especially his career from child actor to Internet star to "Batman." My book is a story of how Internet marketing influenced and launched the career of Christian Bale. How these efforts eventually make him a star, which didn"t lead to much happiness for him or so it seems.
Equally importantly, the book is a story of how a fan, me, had his dreams come true. How I met my favourite actor. How I worked on the career of my favourite actor. How I moved into the home of my favourite actor and did well by him
GS: How did your agent, Jennifer De Chiara take to the idea of writing a biography?
She said, "No one has ever heard of Christian Bale. No one is going to care about a biography or a memoir about the guy who launched the career of Christian Bale." This was 2005, only months before "Batman" released.
Eventually, De Chiara pitched my book to Yeffeth, at BenBella Books. He thought it a good fit. BenBella specialises in science fiction and books for the comic-con, pop culture fan.
GS The "Batman" connection made Yeffeth look twice.
HC Yes. Yeffeth wanted to talk with me before deciding. The day after Yeffeth and I met, De Chiara said, "BenBella wants your book."
GS Did you work with an editor at the publisher.
HC Yes. They had an editor and a fact checker. Obviously, doing a biography of Christian Bale, who was getting a reputation for a bad temper, you want to make sure it is all factually correct.
GS Did the editor help or get in the way?
HC BenBella was encouraging. Everyone understood the fan attitude, right away. They also understood the book had to launch at Comic Con. That was exciting.
I started writing the book as my memoir. I wanted to write a story about someone who meets his or her favourite actor. How they become close friends. How the actor"s career launched, with some help from the fan, but they parted ways, with some needless resentment and have yet to reconcile.
During many long nights, I mostly I dumped my mental diary on to the pages. I have boxes on boxes of press kits, newspaper cuttings and correspondence from the years I was with Christian. I kept everything, which contributed to the accuracy and veracity of the biography.
I didn"t have to rely on my memory as much as some reviewers believe I did. Source material, confirmation, was not an issue. We could argue the quality of my evidence, but there"s documentation for every assertion in the book.
I wanted to make sure the book was as fair and balanced, as possible. I wanted to cite sources. I didn"t want the book to be a memoir, only.
GS You used many sources, in the book, and one chapter is mostly secondary sources.
HC Yes, one of my biggest concerns was that naysayers would dismiss the book, out of hand. They"d say, "The book is by a disgruntled former employee." I wanted journalistic integrity. Thus, I cited sources. I put events in context. I put comments clearly in quotations to confirm the history and the reasons for his actions.
I wanted to write a book the media could rely on. When I was helping Christian Bale, I developed good relations with entertainment journalists. My working background, in the Canadian high-tech industry, with GEAC, helped a great deal, too.
I learned to back up every claim with facts, evidence. No evidence, no story, it was that simple. I prefer to avoid a lawsuit.
I learned not to make wild claims, without evidence. I learned to tell and show. The approach worked, well, with entertainment journalists, when I was the publicist for Bale.
Pitching journalists about Bale, I learned to lay out the story so as not to waste their time. This strategy worked well. It led journalists to think, "Yes, this is worth taking forward."
Always, I pitched Bale as a story with substance, making him interesting. No one had done this before. Journalists reacted positively, when facts backed claims.
Many of my friends, to this day, are writers in LA. They know I provide good leads, good story ideas. They can sell my story ideas to their editors, easily.
GS I imagine journalistic balance and emotion don"t fit well.
HC Strange bedfellows are those approaches. Wanting to find a balance doomed the emotional memoir draft. A marriage of the two seemed unlikely.
GS You had a co-author, Nicola Pittam.
HC Yes, she"s a British journalist, based in LA. Pittam is a seasoned media reporter. She writes for many publications, in the UK, including Splash Media. She and I became friends, some time ago.
GS: Is this were Nicola Pittam made the difference, find material about Bale in the UK.
I told Pittam I wanted to write a biography of Christian. I wanted to make sure my book had a stamp of solid journalism. Born in Pembrokeshire, Wales, Christian Bale grew up in Bournemouth. I needed to get material from the UK to trace his childhood.
Pittam had the contacts. We went to England. She knew exactly where to find much information about the early years of Christian Bale.
Let me give you an example of how valuable Nicola Pittam was for me. A few years ago, at the European premier of "The Dark Knight," police arrested Christian for supposedly assaulting his mother, Jenny, a one-time circus performer, and his sister, Sharon.
GS Remind me that incident.
HC As reported, the night before the premiere of "The Dark Knight," the London police took Bale to the police for questioning. His mother, Jenny, and sister, Sharon, reported he physically assaulted them, in his suite at the Dorchester Hotel. An incident tied to his wild temper, I suspect.
GS How did his fans react?
HC The fan reaction was hostile. The fans immediately started posting, "His mother and sister are gold-diggers. They were hitting him up for money and he wouldn"t give it to them. Now they"re claiming he assaulted them."
To me, it was akin to telling a rape victim, "You must have done something. You were asking for it." Jenny and Sharon did nothing.
I experienced his temper, first-hand. I firm believe his temper got the best of him that night. It"s reasonable that tired and jet-lagged, Bale lost control. He was never happy to do publicity, ever.
It"s fair to say, that in part, I wrote the book to explain, in context, the temperament of Christian Bale. How easily he gets out of hand and how he gets on with his mother. To this day, he refuses to talk to his mother and sister, Sharon.
I"m still friends with his mother and a couple of his sisters. I felt sorry for them. The fans painted Jenny and Sharon as something they are not.
Now, Nicola Pittam gets to work. She was invaluable in ferretting out the details of this incident. Her sources were all over the place and faultless. She had police sources as well as many other sources in the UK media. We have the best possibile information about that incident at the Dorchester Hotel.
GS How long did it take you to write this book?
HC I would say roughly two and half years. Because my day-job is in front of a computer, working for IBM, I was lucky. I could write after hours. I often wrote long into the night.
GS That explains the quality.
HC Thank you.
GS When did the book publish?
HC That was 29 May 2012.
GS In year or so since publication, has Christian Bale said anything to you or to anybody about the book?
HC No, through his family, I learned everyone is happy with the book. I think they expected a much harsher treatment. I wrote the truth and everyone seems happy with that.
When he was promoting "The Dark Knight," last year, Bale passed on all questions about my book. In a way, I corned him, with well-documented truth. If he said the book was good, sales would skyrocket, which he likely didn"t want. If he complained about the book, I have documentation. His best response was to say nothing.
GS The old, "Have you stopped beating your wife," approach.
GS What do you think Christian Bale thinks of the book?
HC I think he read it. I think he would be curious. I think he would be curious about my memory and my perspectives.
One of the big issues he and his family have is how he remembers his father, David. Bluntly, his father brainwashed him. He didn"t want Christian to support, emotionally or financially, anyone else in the family, except him.
His father was playing games, all the time. Christian received a warped view of his father and, from his father, his mother. I think this was another reason I wanted to be as factual as possible.
I wrote factually about the US efforts to deport David as well as his money problems. I wrote, factually, of what David did and sequenced what he did. This way, I think, Christian might, as an adult, look at what his father did to him.
Ideally, Christian would decide, "That"s why I"m lonely, miserable and hard to get to know; it"s not me. It was my dad. My dad made me this way."
GS Why should Christian Bale concerns us?
HC For a celebrity watcher, this is a biography about a private celebrity, of large proportions. The research is thorough and complete. I allow the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.
People may notice that when Christian isn"t promoting a film, he disappears. He"s not out in public fronting a charity, say. He"s not on the red carpet for any cause. Christian Bale is private. Once out of the public light, he doesn"t want anyone watching him.
This is a book about how child stars grow up. In a way, he survives the transition, from child star to adult star. There are many tragedies, such as Corey Haim, that don"t make the transition, successfully.
GS: There"s much at stake for child actors.
HC Before a parent goes running off, trying to sign his or her son or daughter to Nickelodeon, "American Idol" or a Disney show, they should consider the long-term effects on a child star. These kids often grow up warped, jaded or damaged.
I knew many former child actors, such as Ryan Gosling, who is a Canadian, and Corey Haim, who was also a Canadian. If the child is even moderately successful, he or she usually supports one or both parents financially. This flips the usually parent and child arrangement, which the child star sees around him or her, in the family of non-acting friends.
Consider all the bad celebrities that were once child actors, but, today, are sleazy fodder for "TMZ." I bet you a single parent raised most of them. During their most productive and formative years, the child-star supported their parent, financially.
GS Does the Coogan Act not help, at least in California?
HC Yes, but you can get around the Coogan Act, meant to protect child actors, easily. The child-star pays all the expenses, including those that benefit the parents most.
My ex-wife was the publicist for Corey Heim. It was a tragedy. I remember getting a call in the middle of the night from Judy Heim, mother of Corey. She said, "We need $100.00 sent to us by Western Union so we can buy groceries." This was maybe five years ago. How could one of Canada"s biggest teen-idols, he was the Justin Bieber of the 1980s, come to such a tragic end.
The smart move, for Heim, was to move back to Canada for the health care and some distance from the competitive excesses of Hollywood. He wouldn"t do it. Corey wanted to stay in LA. He always said, "One more audition and I could get back on top."
Many child actors, teenage actors, don"t have much support. Parents push the child to work because they, mom or pop, live off their child. For Corey Heim, he was supporting his mother who had cancer.
GS Is the cause dream fulfilment, although through a surrogate.
HC That's true for David Bale. He had a terrible life and dreamt of becoming influential or important. He saw his son, Christian, as a way to realise his dreams.
To do this, David had to bring Christian to America. In America, fame translated into wealth. Wealth meant importance and influence.
When I meet the parents of child stars, they always reflect on a lost dream. "I used to play piano; I wish I"d stayed with it. I did high school drama; I wish I stayed with it." About their child, they say, "I don"t want to stop Johnny from pursing his dream."
GS: The dream of the parent is more to the point.
HC: Yes. What eight-year-old knows what they want to do with their life? Sure, firefighter or nurse, these are the ideas most children have about the future. Few children want to learn lines, spend eighteen hours a day on a movie set, compete ruthlessly for attention and pay the freight for their parents
In England, there are strict child-actor rules. A child actor can only make one project each year, until she or he is 18-years-old. One reason David Bale wanted to get Christian out of England was the child actor laws.
GS: What should a reader expect when they pick up your biography of Christian Bale?
HC It depends on his or her perspective. Some hard-core Christian Bale fans don"t want to read anything portraying Christian as flawed. I get much criticism from these readers.
Others see that I lived the crowning fan dream. I saw these fans at Comic Con: for them, the book is dream come true. Write a letter to your favourite actor. Work for the actor and launch her or his career. The fact Christian and I eventually parted ways doesn"t matter.
Readers might see the book as a template for something they want to do. I explain my skills, my methods. Maybe the reader can"t make it in Hollywood. Maybe they"re more suited to helping someone else make, as was I.
GS I wonder if you have expectations for what other authors of fan books might take away from "Christian Bale: the inside story of the darkest "Batman."
HC I hope fan-authors might recognise how important, how effective, self-marketing can be; it makes the difference. This came home to me, strongly, when I worked with Bale. For my own work, I redoubled my efforts.
It"s difficult to get attention, in publishing and film. The work I did for Bale took advantage of the fast-emerging Internet. Today, anyone can have a website or a social media page.
The difference between success and failure, today, more than in the 1990s, is to make noise, relentlessly. Keep pages up-dated. Encourage the mainstream media, of every sort, to view your page.
GS You mention, in the book, a talent agent warned you not to write about Bale: why.
HC A book about out Christian Bale did concern the agent. What concerned the agent was that I wrote and wanted to publish a book dealing with fan-empowerment. Hollywood needs an audience, ticket buyers or DVD renters. Yet, I think it"s interesting how Hollywood decision makers loath recognising any other influence, than themselves and their friends, in their marketing decisions.
The agent and others believed my unusual career with Bale, as fan, friend and publicist would highlight how much fans matter. As I show in the book, fans can and do have influence on filmmaking. Christian Bale likely wouldn"t have much of a career if he hadn"t developed an extensive, loyal on-line fan-base, in the 1990s.
GS What was the agent implying would happen if you spoke publicly, in a book about Bale?
HC I think the agent worried other actors, especially the up-and-coming, would put on a marketing hat. The agents, managers and producers, the Hollywood decision makers, would have to think smarter, differently, out of the box. Bale set the precedent for self-marketing among actors.
Typically, young people go into Hollywood and throw themselves on the mercy of an agent or a manager. They don"t realise how much they can do on their own. This is especially true they have someone helping them with any marketing smarts
GS: I suspect such attitudes would make it difficult for someone, such as you, with Hollywood marketing smarts, to make a living doing what you did for Bale.
HC: It did. The work I did for Bale was mostly a hobby. I had a day job, in high tech, to pay the bills.
My business model had flaws; it wasn"t perfect. My work, with an up-and-coming actor, such as Bale, was important, successful and a break through. Yet, up-and-coming actors can"t afford to pay for my services.
GS: If it"s free, it works.
HC: Yes. Does Tom Cruise need marketing? Probably not, he"s already well known; he"s a name and a brand.
An up-and-coming actor needs good word-of-mouth. He or she needs grassroots marketing. Yet, those who need the help, most, are the least able to afford it.
GS: Do you think the help you offered Bale might work for middle-career actors that have vanished from movies or television.
HC: I think so. I worked with other actors, not only up-and-coming actors, but a couple people who were middle career. They were looking for a way of exciting their fan base to re-energise their film or television audience.
I"ll give you an example. One of my clients was Heather Langenkamp. Her name may not ring any bells. She portrayed Nancy Thompson, the lead role in the first three "Nightmare on Elm Street" movies.
Langenkamp is a cult favourite. Everyone knew her as the screaming hero from the "Elm Street" movies. What I did for her was to build Internet marketing momentum.
GS: I saw her billed for a convention.
HC: Yes, when she appeared at a convention, such as Comic-Con, she drew a large audience. It didn"t leverage her into new roles, unfortunately. The conventions keep her current among cult-movie audiences.
GS: Paid her bills, too.
HC: Langenkamp needed Internet marketing to preserve and develop her fan-base. Her goal was simple. She wanted Hollywood studio executives to note her fan base and see it as an advantage when casting her.
A middle career actor benefits from Internet marketing. Such actors have a fan-base, of some sort and some general name recognition. The fan base is eager to know, "What are they up to next?"
Developing and preserving a fan-base, using the Internet, works well for film festivals and personal appearances. In some ways, Internet marketing of middle career actors is tougher sell. An up-and-coming actor has little or no baggage, yet.
A middle career actor has baggage, good or bad. Movie executives usually pigeon hole actors; can Langenkamp transcend horror or cult movies. These executive also focus on the last box office bomb and blame the actor, rather than the director or producer, say.
GS: What can fans, such as Bale-heads, do for the actor beyond buy tickets or rent DVDs.
HC: Traditionally, an agent, if she or he is working with an up-and-coming actor, did what Hollywood calls, "Artist Development." We"ve all heard stories about the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, a time when a studio might groom an up-and-coming Elizabeth Taylor, say. The studio ensured she wore the right cloths, went to the right parties and seen with the right people.
Artist development doesn"t happen much anymore. There isn"t much hands-on grooming to launch a star, today. There are too many up-and-coming actors and not enough money or ability to develop actors to go around.
Today, the prevailing attitude is bean counting. A new actor brings nothing to the table. Thus, the new actor must show they have a built-in audience, a fan base.
What I did with Christian Bale was to tell movie executives, "Look, the audience is measurable in web traffic. I can direct traffic to buy tickets at film festivals, say.
"I can direct traffic to buy or rent videos. I can also get a letter writing campaign to impress journalists and editors." I did.
An editor might claim Bale is an unknown. If so, I"d flood him or her with e-mails from fans. A feature story might appear a week or two later.
GS: I guess the fans you mobilised took away from the authority of the agent or manager.
HC: Yes, there"s an analogy with real estate agents, which helps clarify how Hollywood works. Real estate agents have a certain number of listings priced from low to high. The agent is going to work the million-dollar listings, as these bring the greatest commissions, whereas the one hundred thousand dollar listings fend for themselves.
It"s much the same with agents or managers, in Hollywood, who work on percentage. Ten per cent of what Tom Cruise earns for a movie is more tempting than ten per cent of what Jane Doe, a new actor, earns. No surprise the agent is all over his or her huge star client, but not developing new actors, as there"s no money in it for them.
GS: A new actor becomes the star by luck.
HC: Sometimes actors become stars by luck. Mostly, actors become stars by packaging. An agent might say, "You need to hire some of my other clients in supporting roles," to a producer that wants Brad Pitt to star in his or her new movie. The agent may bundle a screenwriter, director and a few up-and-coming actors with Brad Pitt.
GS: That was once standard practice in the music business. If you want the huge star, take these two opening acts.
HC: Yes, that's similar. It shows how up-and-coming actors need to connect with a strong agent. Build an on-line presence and network, network, network.
GS: Are you working on a new book.
HC: I recently delivered a book proposal on the use of prescription drugs in Hollywood. Sadly, I knew many actors that died from drug use or are in rehab. It seemed a timely topic.
I"m writing with my co-author, Nicola Pittam. I"m finishing my first novel. I wrote a novel a couple years ago, "Idol Worship"; it won a prize from the Writer"s Guild.
GS: What was "Idol Worship" about?
HC: It"s about a child actor trying to make it in Hollywood. They say to write what you know. No publisher bought that manuscript.
GS: How did "Idol Worship" win a prize?
HC: I entered the manuscript in a competition, hoping to lure an agent. My mission succeeded. I got the attention of a top agent.
I chugged on to write the next book and the next book. I would love to be a novelist because you get full creativity and expression. Non-fiction is easier to write, but not as much fun as novels. The intrinsic reward of the novel is special.
GS: This has been most interesting. Thanks so much.
HC: You"re welcome.
Click here to read the review of the new novel by Harrison Cheung, West of Weird, by Karen Thompson.
Anon (2012), comicbookmovie.com/batman_movies/news/?a=65388, appeared on 8 August.
Anon (2012), thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/film/4364526/Batman-star-Christian-Bale-made-fans-cry-and-hated-Leo-DiCaprio-says-new-book.html, appeared on 11 June.
Michelle Cristiani (2012), goodreads.com/book/show/13236179-christian-bale, appeared on 18 September.
Bryant Dillon (2012), "SDCC 2012: Fanboy Comics Interviews Harrison Cheung, Author of 'Christian Bale: The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman'," in fanboycomics.net/index.php/interviews/books/item/1134-sdcc-2012-fanboy-comics-interviews-harrison-cheung-author-of-christian-bale-the-inside-story-of-the-darkest-batman, on 19 July.
Debbie Emery (2012), "Inside Christian Bale"s Vicious Rants and "Verbal Explosions" Against his Family," in radaronline.com/exclusives/2012/06/christian-bale-temper-angry-family/. 1 June.
Helen Ginger (2013), goodreads.com/book/show/13236179-christian-bale, appeared on 28 April.
Caroline Graham (2008), "http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1038830/Whos-greatest-actor-world-Christian-Bales-assistant-reveals-stars-father-boosted-sons-ego.html, appeared on 26 July.
Pete Roche (2012), "Unauthorized Bale biography reveals darkest Batman," in examiner.com/review/unauthorized-bale-biography-reveals-darkest-batman on 16 July.
Danny Tyran (2012), goodreads.com/book/show/13236179-christian-bale, appeared on 28 December.
Click here for the Harrison Cheung book site.
Interview edited and reduced for publication.
dr george pollard is a Sociometrician and Social Psychologist at Carleton University, in Ottawa, where he currently conducts research and seminars on "Media and Truth," Social Psychology of Pop Culture and Entertainment as well as umbrella repair.
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