Christian Bale’s first major film role: ‘Empire of the Sun’

Meriah Doty
Movie Talk

We now know him as Batman and also as the actor who went to Aurora, Colorado, to pay his respects to the victims of the deadly July 20 mass movie theater shooting.

But when he was just around 13-years-old, Christian Bale was the star of the Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun."

"I'd nothing to lose, I wasn't thinking in terms of a career. I wasn't really thinking about the consequences at all," Bale recently told Interview Magazine of being in the ultimate tear-jerker World War II-era film. And he didn't waver when it came to taking on the responsibility of the film's leading role, but, he said, it was more out of naïveté: "I tend to think you're fearless when you recognize why you should be scared of things, but do them anyway. I didn't recognize it that time."

Before "Empire of the Sun," Bale was in a much lesser-known fantasy film that was released in only a few countries abroad called "Mio in the Land of Faraway," also starring Christopher Lee ("Lord of the Rings" movies and Tim Burton films "Sleepy Hollow" and "Dark Shadows"). Before that he had appeared on a few British television movies.

However, it was his heart-wrenching depiction of an English schoolboy who becomes a prisoner of war in China that launched Bale on a global stage. "Suddenly people were saying I was cocky because I'd done a Steven Spielberg movie... I suddenly started feeling like a freak because everyone was treating me differently. It was confusing, and I did wonder if acting was for me anymore," Bale said of the attention he received after "Empire of the Sun" came out in 1987.

In the film, Bale played Jim, the son of an upper middle class family residing in Shanghai. After the Japanese invade, Jim becomes separated from his parents and is eventually captured and shipped to an internment camp. Bale's emotive performance is simply unforgettable as his character endures starvation, bombings, and bears witness to the deaths of civilians -- all at such a young age.

"Empire of the Sun" was nominated for six Oscars and also earned Bale a few young actor awards. He starred opposite John Malkovich, who played an American in the internment camp, and Miranda Richardson, who played Jim's neighbor.

Interestingly, Ben Stiller had a small part in the film as the character Dainty. In his early twenties, it was Stiller's first film role.

Another notable fact: Like "The Dark Knight Rises" and the rest of the latest Batman trilogy in which Bale stars, "Empire of the Sun," too, is a Warner Bros. film.

Insider Access: Yahoo! Movies Interviews Christian Bale