Bale has played Batman on the big screen twice
Batman actor Christian Bale is a former child star who has hit the Hollywood big time.
From the youngster who was the lynchpin of Japanese war drama Empire of the Sun, to his portrayal of a serial killer in American Psycho, and a paranoid insomniac in The Machinist, Bale has always chosen challenging roles.
But his performances as the Caped Crusader in 2005's Batman Begins, and now The Dark Knight, are his most high profile to date.
In a recent interview, Bale admitted that he was not a fan of Batman until he met director Christopher Nolan, who was at the helm for the two most recent films.
"He presented a Batman that I had an interest in playing," Bale told US radio station Fresh Air.
"But also for me, with absolute respect to, you know, anybody else who has played Batman in the past, I always felt that I viewed them as a man standing in a rubber suit. And I never could quite buy it.
"So what I felt was the only way that I personally could make it work is if he truly becomes a beast when he is within the Batman costume. It does make you feel quite invincible.
"It has such protection on it, you know, you feel like you can achieve great violence very easily. You feel very defended as well and protected by it."
Born in Pembrokeshire, Wales, in 1974, Bale's father was a commercial pilot while his mother was a dancer - his grandfather had been a stand-up comic and children's entertainer.
In a recent interview, Bale said he had "great parents" who supported his acting, but was regularly bullied at school.
"I took a beating from several boys for years. They put me through hell, punching and kicking me all the time," he told People.
But he added: "If you can face the bullying at school and come through it stronger, that is a lesson for life."
Bale made his big screen debut at the age of 12 with the lead role in Steven Spielberg's adaptation of JG Ballard's tale of life in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, Empire of the Sun, released in 1988.
Bale lost 63lb (28.5kg) for his role in dark thriller The Machinist
In 1989 he appeared in Kenneth Branagh's version of Henry V and in the following year starred as Jim Hawkins opposite Charlton Heston in a TV version of Treasure Island.
Throughout the '90s he mixed roles in arty films like 1997's Metroland with Hollywood parts, including the voice of an English settler, Thomas, in Disney's version of Pocahontas.
In 1998, he played a journalist in glam rock drama Velvet Goldmine opposite Ewan McGregor, but it was his role in 2000's American Psycho that drew the most attention since his Spielbergian debut.
He played bloodthirsty Patrick Bateman in the screen adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's 1980s yuppie satire.
Controversial for its depiction of violence and sexual assaults on women, the book was considered "unfilmable" by critics.
But Bale's performance, coupled with Mary Harron's direction, won high praise.
The New York Times singled out Bale's "star-making" performance as "alternately funny, blood-curdling and pathetic".
"One minute Bale's Patrick is a cowering corporate geek and self-described empty shell, the next an arrogant, name-dropping smoothie, the next a hysterical wimp unable to distinguish reality from fantasy," it said.
"The fluidity with which Mr. Bale moves from one state of mind to the other makes for the kind of tour-de-force performance you'd expect from Sean Penn."
Bale followed American Psycho up with supporting roles in Samuel L Jackson's remake of Shaft, and the screen version of Captain Corelli's Mandolin.
He became known as a method actor when he lost 63lb (28.5kg) in weight to play the lead role in psychodrama The Machinist.
After Batman Begins, he went on to star in The Prestige as a tortured magician, and had a leading role in 2007 Western 3:10 to Yuma, before reprising his Caped Crusader role in The Dark Knight.
Bale, who has a three-year-old daughter with wife Sibi Blasic, was accused of assault by his mother and sister just hours after the European premiere of The Dark Knight in London.
But he denied the allegation and no charges were brought.