By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com December 22, 2010 at 1:55AM
F. Scott Fitzgerald may have said that there were no second acts in American lives, but that presumably didn't include the Welsh-born Christian Bale, whose career to date seems to have been structured by Robert McKee. Beginning as a child star in Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun," and working consistently into his teens in such films as "Newsies" and "Swing Kids," the actor firmly moved into the adult phase of his career with his iconic performance in "American Psycho." That, in turn, saw him win the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman in Christopher Nolan's revival "Batman Begins," which has firmly landed the actor on the A-list.
He's been stuck in rather dour blockbuster roles of late, with "Terminator: Salvation" and "Public Enemies," and suffered some bad PR after an on-set rant was leaked, but it seems we're moving into yet another phase of Bale's career -- he's all but a lock to pick up an Oscar for his revelatory performance in David O Russell's "The Fighter," and he'll play Batman for the final time next year in "The Dark Knight Rises," giving up the role that made him an icon. Where will Bale go next? A live action Powerpuff Girls movie?
In fact, The Hollywood Reporter have brought news of one project that the actor will sneak in before he dons the cowl again. The trade reports that Bale will take the lead role in "Nanjing Heroes", a mega-budgeted historical epic from director Zhang Yimou ("Hero," "Raise the Red Lantern"). The project, which at about $90 million is one of the most expensive Chinese films ever, has been entirely financed within the country, and will be shot 40% in English, and 60% in Mandarin Chinese.
The film is the latest of a recent spate of projects focusing on the Nanjing Massacre in 1937, when thousands of inhabitants of the then-capital Nanjing were murdered by invading Japanese troops: last year saw the excellent "City of Life and Death," while Steve Buscemi and Daniel Bruhl toplined the drama "City of War: The Story of John Rabe," which focused on a German businessman who saved a huge number of Chinese refugees.
Bale won't play Rabe, but instead a similar character, an American priest called John. Yimou, who co-wrote the script with Liu Heng, commented when announcing the casting at a press conference that, "I met Christian in America and was impressed with his serious book research for the role." Yimou will also hire American visual effects company Dark Side FX, whose previous work includes "The Dark Knight."
There's no news on a US distributor or release date, but with filming kicking off on January 10th, Bale has plenty of time to complete his work before his spring start on "The Dark Knight Rises." Yimou's next film, meanwhile, the romance "The Love of the Hawthorn Tree," will play out of competition at the Berlin film festival in February. We're certainly looking forward to seeing the director work with Bale, even if the material sounds suspiciously Ed Zwick-like.