Bale took the character to new heights and became a generation-defining superhero with a darker, edgier interpretation of the well-known character in Christopher Nolan's critically acclaimed trilogy.
For 2005's Batman Begins, the search for the new Bruce Wayne was vast, with Jake Gyllenhaal, Joshua Jackson, future Superman Henry Cavill, Eion Bailey and Cillian Murphy all testing for the role, with Murphy later being cast as the villainous Scarecrow. Josh Hartnett revealed in 2015 that he turned down the part, and Nolan said he met with Heath Ledger, who had no interest in superhero movies at the time. (The late actor would go on to win a posthumous Oscar for his iconic turn as the Joker in 2008's The Dark Knight.)
Ironically, Bale was the first potential Batman Nolan met with in relation to the project, with the filmmaker talking about the actor's audition in a Warner Bros. featurette.
"The testing process on this kind of performance, it's not about acting ability or chemistry or any of those things," Nolan explained. "It's about being able to project this extraordinary iconography, really, from the inside. It's visual iconography. Christian, somehow he figured this out before the screen test. That you could not give a normal performance. You could not give an ordinary performance. You had to project massive energy through this costume, in order to not question the costume."
After losing a third of his body weight for The Machinist, Bale had just six weeks to get in superhero shape after getting the Bat Signal.
"My metabolism had to get back up to speed, because my heart had got used to a whole different way of living for some time," Bale told the BBC.
He returned to his regular weight by eating high-calorie foods and then packed 35 pounds of muscle on top of it, before realizing he overdid it. "Actually, I gained too much weight in the run-up to Batman Begins," Bale told Train. "I wasn't the size that Christopher Nolan wanted, so I had to cut down 20 pounds or so just before shooting—I was a lot beefier at first."
Bale suited up for three films, ending his watch in 2012's The Dark Knight Rises, with many calling his Bruce Wayne/Batman the most definitive. But the star admitted to being disappointed with his take.
"I didn't quite manage what I hoped I would throughout the trilogy," Bale told Yahoo Movies in 2016. "Chris did, but my own sense of self is like, 'I didn't quite nail it.'"