Christian Bale, Machinist, Vice

Annapurna Pictures, Paramount Classics, Getty Images

Christian Bale doesn't always transform for a role.

But when he does, he's unrecognizable.

The 44-year-old Welsh actor, whose breakout role came at 10 in Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun, has earned his fourth Golden Globe nomination, the recognition coming this time for his uncanny portrayal of former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney in Vice.

Make that the portly, balding, white-haired Nebraskan Dick Cheney, who was 59 when he became VP.

"I've got to stop doing it. I suspect it's going to take longer to get this off," Bale told The Guardian last year, referring to the belly he acquired for his jovially sinister portrayal of the man who by many accounts pulled the most consequential strings in the Bush 43 White House.

He's had many a hairpiece and prosthetic added to his visage over the years, but Bale doesn't do fat suits, preferring to pack on—or lose—actual pounds to aid in the acting process.

"It's helpful not to look like yourself," said the Oscar and Golden Globe winner. "If I look in the mirror and go, 'Ah, that doesn't look like me'—that's helpful."

Christian Bale, Machinist

Paramount Classics

Bale has given his average, everyday weight as around 185 pounds, and he's been all over the scale during the course of his long career, from a terrifyingly emaciated 122 pounds for The Machinist to a soft 225 to play Cheney, with every form of musculature in between.

"Oh, I do a lot of coke whenever I lose weight," he cracked to Latino Review while promoting The Fighter, in which he played a former crack addict. "I'm not sure if it's so funny for this movie, to say that." 

While gearing up to play Cheney, he joked to Variety, "I've just been eating a lot of pies."

Here's how he really does it:

Velvet Goldmine, Christian Bale

Miramax Films

American Psycho, Christian Bale

Lionsgate Films

Christian Bale, Machinist

Paramount Classics

Batman Begins, Christian Bale

Warner Bros.

Rescue Dawn, Christian Bale

MGM

The Prestige, Christian Bale, Twins

Buena Vista Pictures

Christian Bale, I'm Not There

The Weinstein Company

Terminator Salvation, Christian Bale

Warner Bros.

Christian Bale, The Fighter

Paramount Pictures

American Hustle, Christian Bale

Sony Pictures

Exodus, Christian Bale

20th Century Fox

The Big Short, Christian Bale

Paramount Pictures

Christian Bale, Vice

Greig Fraser / Annapurna Pictures

Overall, Bale has lost and gained hundreds of pounds over the years, not including whatever he's done for roles that have called for a touch less meat on his frame or a tad more muscle.

Nutrition and medical experts have said that this lifestyle of gaining and losing and so on and so forth can be detrimental to one's health, and the prolifically adventurous actor at least seems fully aware of that. So while he passed on playing Enzo Ferrari, he opted for James Mangold's upcoming Ford v. Ferrari, playing a perfectly fit-looking mechanic.

Perhaps Dick Cheney was his chameleonic coup de grâce.  

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