Christian Bale Became A Real Life Stalker To Get Into His Role

To get his character for Amsterdam just right, Christian Bale admits to following people around and stealing their characteristics and physical habits.

By Vic Medina | Published

christian bale amsterdam
Christian Bale

Oscar winner Christian Bale isn’t afraid to play odd characters; indeed, his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman may be one of his most “normal” roles. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Bale revealed that for his new role in the film Amsterdam, he built his character on characteristics he stole from people he stalked on the street. He proudly admits to picking up “a lot of strange behavior” from people he followed on the street, incorporating that into Burt Berendsen, his character in Amsterdam.

“I remember one time talking on the phone to David and I saw this amazingly interesting guy walking down the street,” Bale told EW. “I just became a weirdo stalker following him and studying him. So he’s a big influence, whoever he is out there. I don’t know his name.”

The film, directed by David O. Russell, is set in 1933 New York City, and revolves around three friends who witness a murder, are then framed for it, and uncover a conspiracy while trying to clear their names, and it’s all based on a true story. Christian Bale’s Burt, a scarred, eccentric World War I veteran, is joined by Margot Robbie’s Valerie Voze (a nurse who cares for him after he is injured in the war) and John David Washington’s Harold Woodman (his buddy in the war) as the trio of friends in the center of the mystery. The film also stars Robert De Niro, Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Rock, and Rami Malek.

christian bale burt
Christian Bale in Amsterdam

David O. Russell first pitched the idea of Amsterdam to Christian Bale six years ago, and through the film’s slow development, Bale became more engrossed with the character, determined to get it right. That determination led him to seek inspiration in literally anyone he met on the street, even if that meant following them around to study them. “I’m fascinated with people. I don’t begin to understand people ever. That’s why I think I love doing what I do, because I’m endlessly confused but delighted by them.”

Bale also admits channeling a little of Peter Falk’s Columbo into the character. although he insists it is a combination of lots of parts from different people. It’s rare for an actor to be able to develop a character this way, but he and Russell work well together. After all, Russell’s 2011 film The Fighter won Bale his only Oscar thus far, for Best Actor.

Despite the commitment from all involved, Amsterdam failed to impress critics, who gave it a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film reportedly lost over $100 million in production and promotional costs. Since its October opening, it has only earned just over $30 million worldwide.

Christian Bale’s next film, The Pale Blue Eye, finds the actor playing a world-weary detective investigating the 1830 murder of a West Point cadet, and teams up with a young Edgar Allan Poe to solve the case. The film opens in limited theatrical release in December but premieres on Netflix on January 6, 2023. After that, he’s on to a new film, The Church of Living Dangerously, playing a pastor who becomes a drug runner for the Mexican cartel.

Bale has certainly come a long way, with his Amsterdam role coming fresh off of his role as Gorr in Thor: Love and Thunder, a far cry from his breakthrough role in American Psycho, a film he recently admitted he was only paid the actor’s minimum to star in.