Academy Award Winner Christian Bale is known for his chameleon-like transformations when taking on a new role. He has morphed from a 120-pound Insomniac factory worker, to Batman, to his most recent Oscar-nominated performance as Former Vice President and human heart attack Dick Cheney, but those aren’t even his best cinematic transformations! Here are 5 balloons from film and television that you had no idea were actually played by Christian Bale!
It (Mini-Series, 1990) – That’s right! The ominous red balloon that Pennywise the Clown uses to terrorize the children of Derry, Maine is none other than the future Dark Knight himself, Christian “Batman Forever In My Heart” Bale, in one of his first major on-screen roles. Crazy, right? He looks so young! Christian happens to be a huge fan of clowns and allegedly put production weeks behind schedule because he couldn’t make it through a single take with Pennywise without laughing. Christian stated in an interview years later that the idea of a clown murdering children is still “bloody hilarious” to him because “clowns are just silly lil’ buggars with big shoes and sad haircuts.” To this day he considers It to be the funniest project he has ever been a part of.
Ocean’s Eleven (2001) – Clooney, Pitt, Damon… BALE!? You read that right! In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo, Christian appears as one of the balloons used to obstruct the view of a security camera during Steven Soderbergh’s hit casino heist film. If you look closely you can even see that classic Christian Bale smirk behind all that blue balloon rubber. Unfortunately, tempers flared between Christian and the director when Christian insisted his balloon character wear the same tuxedo as George Clooney’s human character in the film. Soderbergh had to shut down filming for a day and a half as he struggled to convince Christian Bale that balloons don’t wear tuxedos, even in fancy Las Vegas casinos. Eventually cooler heads prevailed, but sadly Christian wasn’t asked back for the subsequent sequels and the franchise as a whole never quite recovered.
Around The World In 80 Days (2004) – Christian Bale made arguably the most impressive transformation of his career by gaining over 2.5 tons to play the hot air balloon in the Steve Coogan/Jackie Chan epic remake, Around The World In 80 Days. Christian spent over 18 hours a day in the makeup chair applying the balloon prosthetics and mainlining helium straight into his toes and eyeballs. The helium caused Christian’s voice to become so high pitched during filming that only dogs were able to hear him when he spoke. All of his lines were later re-recorded by Angela Lansbury and then cut from the film completely.
Up (2009) – Our boy CB worked closely with celebrated thespian and motion capture pioneer Seth Green (Mars Needs Moms (2011)) to capture the motion of not one, but over 500 different balloons for the animated Pixar movie. The 2013 Teen Choice Award Nominee even took things a step further, as he’s known to do, by giving each and every one of those 500 balloons deeply intricate backstories. Unfortunately, the directors of the film decided to not explore any of Christian’s 500 backstories because they were all, “Too graphically unsettling for an animated children’s film.”
Mary Poppins Returns (2018) – It’s hard to believe that while Christian Bale was totally embodying George Dubya’s favorite babysitter and terrifying monster person, Dick Cheney, he was able to also totally embody the balloon Ben Whishaw’s character floats off with during a big musical number in Mary Poppins Returns. Well, you better believe it! Christian filmed both iconic roles at the same time. While his part may not have been quite as big in Mary Poppins Returns, Christian didn’t just show up and collect a check. No way! Being the consummate professional that he is, Christian dove head first into the character. He insisted that the entire cast and crew address him as Mr. Balloon Man in-between takes. He even made Lin-Manuel Miranda carry him around set while wearing a little sailor boy outfit in order to maintain the authenticity of the character when the cameras weren’t rolling. This resulted in one of the most beautifully nuanced and empathetic portrayals of a blue balloon in cinematic history.