We all know Christian Bale is brooding and intense, part of what made him the perfect Batman (and made his Bruce Wayne so little fun to be around), but HOW brooding and intense? So intense that when a mild-mannered DP wandered into a shot, Bale embarked on a three-minute diatribe of vituperation and invective that’s the verbal equivalent of a Batman beating. You can hear the whole thing (released by TMZ) here, but be warned, it is NOT work safe and if you don’t like profanity — or cringing in embarrassment — don’t listen.

The incident took place on the set of TERMINATOR: SALVATION last summer; according to TMZ, the recording was released to the insurance company in case Bale walked out on the film. If you want to connect the dots, it was also soon before the unfortunate event where Bale’s family called the police on him prior to the UK premiere of THE DARK KNIGHT. Temper, temper.

UPDATE: This follow-up post on TMZ casts more light on the incident — there were a stressed out star and a crew that persevered:

Bruce Franklin — assistant director and associate producer on the film — told us “Christian is a method actor and was completely immersed in his scene… his reaction was from the heat of the moment.”

Franklin said Bale was under a lot of pressure because of his crazy “Dark Knight” promotion schedule, and that the crew ended up shooting for another seven hours that day.


  1. Wow, this is insane prima donna territory. That said, he seems especially frustrated that it’s happened repeatedly, and I have to say I’ve had days where I really want to have a moment like this with someone who insists on continually frustrating me. Still, this is what the super ego is for, Christian.

  2. There is no context here with which to judge the outburst. It may seem completely uncalled for to outsiders, but none of us have any idea what led to it. For all we know, maybe the guy deserved it.

    Not too long ago, my bank made an error that cost me a fair chunk of cash. After dealing with them for six weeks, and realizing that they would never give me a consistent answer as to what happened, rectify their mistake, or reimburse me– or take any kind of responsibility at all, really– I finally blew a gasket in the bank manager’s office, and told her off. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t lose my temper easily at all, but to hear a recording of the incident, one could peg me as a completely unreasonable prima donna pretty easily. But you’d have to ignore the month-and-a-half that got me there.

  3. The rant wasn’t that bad.
    I actually have more respect for Bale now than ever. He’s a perfectionist and demands perfection from the people around him. If you’re lucky enough to work with him you have to bring your A-game and raise your own personal bar of effort. The DP wasn’t paying attention (twice) to the actors and the intensity of focus they have to concentrate to get a great performance.

  4. I think the people complaining about Bale’s behavior need to grow up. The DP is the cinematographer and at that level of movie making, a cinematographer should know enough to not walk into the middle of a shoot.

    Besides, this is normal talk at any construction site or factory. I’m assuming anyone who’s shocked over this sort of talk has never had a “real” job.

  5. Whoa. I’m amazed by the level of tolerance of Bale’s behavior here and elsewhere on the internet.

    Maybe the DP was clumsy and made a mistake. Was that really worthy of a 3 minute outburst that must have destroyed the compusure of the entire set? Was Bale’s way the BEST way to deal with such a problem?

    Movie sets are full of prima donnas and solid professionals. I admire Bale’s work a great deal, and reportedly he since apologized for his outburst.

    I know one thing: when you hear that a star is “beloved” it’s because they treat their co-workers with respect and professionalism, not like it’s a kindergarten sandbox.

  6. No, I’m sorry. I don’t need to grow up if I think this sounds crazy – there’s something seriously wrong with a person who can’t deal with a problem without sounding dangerously psychotic. And having been in the workplace in several different professions for many years I’ve NEVER heard this kind of vicious diatribe.

    The language is just a small part of it – it’s the fact that Bale has ALL the power here, and he can, in fact, get this guy fired just by asking. So the other guy has to just take it. That’s cruel, sadistic, and of course totally unprofessional in any business I can think of.

    In short: normal people get mad and swear on the job. Crazy people go on for five minutes, getting madder and madder, while berating a subordinate.

  7. It ABSOLUTELY was worth a 3 minute tirade. Speaking as someone who’s been on set for filming, you don’t walk around checking lights WHILE THE SCENE IS FILMING. If that guy was the DP, he’s a real idiot and he needs to be removed. It takes, at minimum, hours, and sometimes whole months (on larger projects), to set up a single shot, and if a member of the crew is parading around while everything needs to be locked down for filming, then the crew member deserved to be yelled at. Personally, I would have removed him from the set, at least for the rest of the day, if not forever. The other 99% of the crew was acting toward accomplishing a goal, and ONE guy was sabotaging it with his behind the camera antics. Ruining something that had a hundred thousand man-hours behind it- just to check a light- is idiotic behaviour and should be dealt with.

    It’s indeed NOT a kindergarden sandbox, entertainment is a real job, and the set needs to be locked down when filming. The DP can check the light in between rolling the film. NOT during. What was he going to do that needed immediate attention like that? Change the lightbulb? He couldn’t check that in between shots?

    Bale was right, I would have done the same exact thing, except i would have fired the DP. It sounds like it wasn’t the first time, either, Bale remarks that he’d done it before. The director sounds like he was caught off-guard and didn’t see it, so he’s taken the wrong position – the position he needed to take was to reprimand the DP. You need to reward good behaviour and punish bad, or the gaffer’s going to think it’s ok to wander around and fix things while filming too. Bottom line – not acceptable.

    The most distressing thing I see in posts like this is the attitude that, since it’s entertainment, it should be all fun and games. Hey – it’s fun for me to watch, it must be fun to do it. That’s the attitude of a hobby-ist. In film, in comics, in all entertainment, this is our job, our vocation, our life’s work and if someone screws it up like that, they’re not on the same page and need to be sent back to hobby-land.

  8. Accidents happen. Yes, even multiple times.

    But if there’s a professional problem with people on the set then there are RULES for how to deal with it. That would be the professional thing to do. People are fired off films all the time. But when that firing is done by the actors, not directors or producers then it’s a slippery slope to egoland.

    That is why the workers have UNIONS. Why this audio was kept for legal reasons. There is a chain of command with such mega productions.

    Don’t get me wrong, this won’t affect my film watching. I still like Bale on screen, but just because he did a decent Batman doesn’t mean I’ll cut him slack as a human. I have a 25 year-old daughter who has an anger management problem. I’ve seen it develop over decades. Classic signs. Not a mere one-off (as Heidi reminds us) and that was off the set.

    It’s particularly sad at one part of the audio where you can hear Bale being restrained as he threatens to hit the guy.

    Sorry… “professional”? That would have been picking up a cell phone and calling the appropriate people to have the DP replaced — if he was was not qualified enough. After all, there is an assistant DP, a second unit DP, and several others to help do the job.

    Bale just lost it, plain and simple.
    Sad, but that’s how some people are.

  9. Scott Koblish, I agree the Director should have taken action on the DP.
    That’s one of his jobs over the entire production.

    And the director was right there.
    Yet Bale doesn’t address the chain of command?

    That would be the appropriate action. Bale can still have his rant — since it seems a personal stake for him to do so. But seriously, wrongfully firing a union worker is unprofessional. I’m sure it happens, there are plenty of egos to be stroked in the Biz, but it doesn’t make it right.

  10. Scott — Would you really have preseumptuously said “Let’s go again” and angrily refused to let the OBVIOUSLY rattled crew take a minute to recover from the incident? Or threatened to break things and kick someone’s ass? You can hear the crew trying to placate Bale for the whole three minutes while they stand around awkwardly. Would that really be the best most professional way to treat a shoddy DP?

    I admit, I have not worked on a film set. (Been on lots of TV sets however.) It sounds like the DP dropped a light while he was adjusting it during a take. A mistake, perhaps one of many. I can understand an angry outburst as a response, but a three minute long tantrum that rattled the entire crew and had no real purpose except to show how angry Bale was? That is NOT constructive.

    So maybe I an naive, but this seems to be one of those Venus and Mars things. I’ve noticed that men seem to have a a higher tolerance for the “yelling solution.” As long as the yelling solution doesn’t morph into the hitting, punching, kicking, biting, knifing and shooting solution, it’s okay. I guess as a physically harmless way to let off aggression, it beats the alternative. I don’t like yelling. (JUST TYPING WITH CAPS LOCK ON.)

    I don’t think less of Bale as an actor, and still will enjoy his performances. Obviously, be can be a bit of a jerk, but he also takes his work seriously. I’d guess that this isn’t an ongoing problem for him as he works steadily outside of Batman.

    Reputations do matter. I can think of at least one actor who played Batman who quickly gained a reputation as a difficult jerk and doesn’t even always show up for his comic book convention signings. Or two more words: Mickey Rourke.

  11. Heidi, I also find it funny that this is water off a duck’s back for the careers of most men, whereas women in the Biz get labeled as “unbalanced” when they go off the rails.

    Twilght’s director Catherine Hardwicke comes to mind.

    McG as director simply didn’t take control of his ship.
    Can’t even get his crew to take a minute break under threat of the actor?

  12. Jimmie — oh so true. Any woman who did that would immediately and forever be labeled crazy and unhirable. There would be no second chance. Unless she happened to drop her top while she did it, in which case cameras would immediately start following her around 24/7.

    There was a great article in The New Yorker a year or so back about how Nicol Williamson’s erratic behavior sabotaged a stage play and how the director had hired him despite the actor’s troubled rep. Unfortunately, the piece isn’t online, but you can read about the results and a famous Broadway meltdown here.

  13. You’re probably right as a Venus/Mars thing. ;-) I’ll lay off the caps.

    It would be pretty upsetting to me, in any capacity, or role, in a film, if the Director thought it was ok to have the DP wandering around set checking lightbulbs while the cameras were rolling. Everyone bitches about the cost of the actor, but at the price the DP’s being paid, he should be a professional. As far as I’m concerned, there really is no excuse for trying to fix a lightbulb during shooting. None. There are a hundred people doing their jobs properly, and one very important one, not.

    The DP should have been disciplined the first time he did it, by the Director, and if the Director wouldn’t do it, and it’s clear that the director either didn’t see it or gave it an improper pass, as Bale himself gave it a pass the first time it happened, it’s important that the rest of the crew speak up. And speak up loudly. It’s their sweat and effort too – it’s too easy for one person to ruin it for the rest of us, and that person should be told they are ruining the shot, in no uncertain terms, and if yelling is what’s needed to get someone’s attention for unprofessional behaviour, then yelling is what’s needed.

    Also, what I don’t hear from everybody is that Bale was probably acting out a scene of emotional intensity. He was probably not in a good place emotionally, likely from the demands of the scene, and the director was not running the show properly while Bale was acting out his scene. I was the assistant DP on a film where an actor was supposedly choking another actor to death, take after take, set-up after set-up for a whole day, and it was really tough on these guys to play that scene, they really had to work themselves up into a lather and get into a zone in order to pull it off, so we made sure they had room to do it or it wouldn’t have worked, the whole movie would have collapsed if it wasn’t a believable scene – three years of work down the drain from everybody involved.

    Three years of trying to get something done, millions of man-hours, with quite literally millions of dollars on the line – that is not the time for on-set antics from the DP.

    Eh, whatever. I just get distressed when I think that nobody takes anything seriously anymore, and the people who really care about what they are doing get trotted out for a public flogging – “boo, hiss – you care about your work to the point of obsession, boo, hiss”.

    I work really hard at entertaining people, I’ve worked 16 years with, and I am not kidding about this – 50 days off out of nearly 6,000 – and more often than not I’m working 16 hour days, and I get this sort of “what’s the big idea?”/”goof off” from a lot of people. Well, it is a big idea to me, and I really identify with other people who are trying to get something done with the same intensity of focus and drive. That’s probably why I’m reacting so strongly to the whole thing, so apologies for the intensity, but I feel like the message doesn’t get out there enough because what we do as entertainers is what other people do for their hobbies.

    End of rant, I gotta get back to work, another 15 hour day calls…

  14. Again, context:


    Terminator Salvation Assistant Director/Associate Producer Bruce Franklin, who can be heard trying to reason with Bale on the tape, has commented on the incident:

    “If you are working in a very intense scene and someone takes you out of your groove…It was the most emotional scene in the movie,” said Franklin. “And for him to get stopped in the middle of it. He is very intensely involved in his character. He didn’t walk around like that all day long. It was just a moment and it passed.

    “This was my second movie with Christian, and it has always been a good experience with him,” added Franklin, who also worked with the actor on 2000’s Shaft. “He is so dedicated to the craft. I think someone is begging to make some noise about this, but I don’t think it’s fair. The art of acting is not paint by numbers, it’s an art form. “ [E! via horror-movies.ca]

    His on-set outburst occurred days before he was arrested in London for an alleged assault on his mother and sister in a London hotel room on the eve of The Dark Knight premiere. [Telegraph UK]

  15. From a former electrician on movies…just walk away. Your union. Problem solved.

    Maybe the DP saw something, it was a closed set, didn’t wanna get an electric in there and tried to do it himself to save time and it backfired…right it off as a mistake. Don’t go all blowhard and scream at the guy. But it is what it is.

    He’s an actor…he’s not curing cancer or fighting AIDs. Maybe if news was ACTUALLY news & maybe if TMZ didn’t exist this wouldn’t be a problem.

  16. I only wish it were true that any actress lashing out on set automatically saw their careers end, because then we wouldn’t have all those shitty Barbra Streisand movies.

  17. Scott, well said, and I hope I didn’t come off as arrogant in my response.
    You have some valid points. In truth, I’d rather put this at the tepid feet of the director, McG.

    I’ve been on a few closed sets myself (Pursuit of Happiness, Four Christmas, et.) and I tell you, when the director yells, “action” the walkie-talkies go silent and everyone and their momma freezes who doesn’t have a moving part / job. And yes, the days started at 5:00 AM for me. Around 2 PM you just want it to be over.

    I’ve seen the reaction when someone blows it. It is usually swift. But that heat is usually coming from the director or his assistant. Usually a strong director has a cloud of people around him because nobody does anything without their approval, but the lax director can have all kinds of surprises on their set. Add a method actor who is hot on and off the set and a wandering DP and trouble is just waiting in the wings.

  18. Anyone else sort of surprised at how quickly people either want to tar an feather him, or excuse it completely as just an outburst due to method acting? A mistake was made, he went too far, he apologized. I’m not really sure why this warrants all the internet freakouts. Even he’s talked about how method acting only goes so far, when asked about whether playing such a dark character had anything to do with Ledger’s death. It’s still acting.

    As for what it has to do with the incident a few days later, they honestly don’t seem related. One has to do with on set issues, the other with long standing family issues. They aren’t necessarily connected, no matter how close they happened in terms of time.

    I’m just not ready to label the guy as “trouble” based on literally one set incident, and one personal incident that seems to have been hugely overblown. So, yeah. He’s a talented actor, he clearly went too far, the director should have stepped in, it is now done.

  19. I actually heard about this “incident” months ago, though I didn’t know they caught audio of it.

    IIRC, Bale was in the midst of promoting Dark Knight, working double-long days on T4 and wasn’t too happy with how loose the discipline was on the set. Back then I was being told it was McG’s screwing-up, but I guess with the glorious addition of crystal-clear audio, it became Bale’s.

    Director’s lose their shit like this on set way more often, but since they never have the booms hovering overhead (so the audio would be too hard to listen to) and they aren’t the face of the movie few people care. When the lead feels he need to lose it on the DP and gets to do so essentially unabated for three minutes it’s a sign that the director isn’t in control.


  20. When you hear me screaming in my booth at NYCC, I hope you’ll all understand that I’m in the middle of the emotionally intense work of an editor and have been deeply immersed in nitpicking a scene with my virtual blue pencil. Kicking, biting, and knifing will start promptly at noon on Saturday.

    Oh, who am I kidding. After *my* weeks of 16-hour days with no face-to-face human contact, I’ll probably just be a glassy-eyed zombie all weekend and unable to communicate with other bipeds above a whimper.