Friday, September 14, 2012

The Hero Behind the Dark Knight’s Mask

In a time when celebrities are most often associated with sex tapes, court appearances, and rehab, it’s refreshing to report on the good deeds and quiet humility of one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

Following the recent mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, internet campaigns urged the movie’s star Christian Bale to visit the town. One young woman sent out a Facebook plea to the onscreen Batman, pointing out that the hospitalized victims “need to know Heroes can be real too, not just the bad guys.”

Bale set out to prove just that. He went to Aurora (as a private individual, not a representative of the Warner Brothers studio) to offer his condolences to the victims of the massacre, and his gratitude to the hospital staff at the Swedish Medical Center and The Medical Center of Aurora.

“He just said he wanted to come to thank all of us because he has been thinking about this,” said a hospital official. “He did this out of his heart, and you could really tell. It was so sincere," she said. “It was just, ‘Thank you.’”

Bale and his wife Sibi also stopped by a makeshift memorial near the theater and walked among crosses erected for the murder victims. With a true superhero’s humility, Bale kept all this under the media radar.

As he did with another recent act of kindness. Bale heard about Ohio four-year-old Jayden Barber, diagnosed with terminal leukemia. It was Jayden’s dream to meet his idol Batman. So Bale flew him and his entire family out to Los Angeles, spent a whole day at Disneyland with him, and put up his family at a hotel there for the week.

This too was kept quiet until the family revealed all on their Facebook page. Jayden’s mother wrote that Bale and her son “talked movies and super Heros [sic] and he was genuinely happy to hear about everything Jayden wanted to tell him.”

That wasn’t all. Last December Bale, in China for a movie premiere, traveled eight hours from Beijing in an attempt to visit Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who was under unofficial house arrest. “What I really wanted to do was shake the man's hand and say thank you, tell him what an inspiration he is,” said Bale. He was confronted there by thuggish guards who manhandled him and then followed his car until he was out of the vicinity. Bale asserted that he was "not being brave” by trying to contact Chen; but in fact, through this gesture of support, Bale was taking a courageous stance against the totalitarian authorities.

But even superheroes stumble. Three years ago a profanity-laced audiotape of Bale ranting at a crew member on the set of Terminator Salvation hit the internet and caused a stir. He took responsibility for it, and a few days later offered his public contrition: “I was out of order beyond belief,” he acknowledged. “I acted like a punk… I made it ugly. That was awful of me. I took it way too far.” The film’s director said at the time, “Christian doesn't feel good about this. He's given thought to the adjustments he wants to give to his life. Christian is a good man.”

Heroism isn’t always about overpowering the bad guy. Sometimes it’s manifested in simple but meaningful gestures of humility and kindness like those exhibited by Christian Bale, the man behind the Dark Knight’s mask.

(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 9/14/12)