By Serena Kappes
Updated October 20, 2004 06:00 AM
Ronald Asadorian/Splash News

Talk about yo-yo dieting: Christian Bale lost almost 70 lbs. to play an industrial worker suffering from insomnia in the new psychological thriller The Machinist, and then gained it all back – plus 30 more – to play the titular superhero in Batman Begins. Find out more about the versatile British actor.

1. Donuts were his reward
Bale, 30, joined the ranks of actors like Tom Hanks (Castaway) and Robert De Niro (Taxi Driver), who shed major weight for plum roles. The 6’2″ Bale dropped 63 lbs. to play a man whose health deteriorates after not sleeping for a year. “I wouldn’t have done that amount of weight loss if I hadn’t thought the movie itself was worth seeing,” he says. His diet? Coffee, cigarettes and an apple a day. “When he started to eat again, we warned him, ‘Start slow. Eat poached eggs and raw foods,'” says costar Jennifer Jason Leigh. “We watched in horror as he started with donuts.”

2. He likes to be scared
It wasn’t a childhood obsession with the Caped Crusader that drew Bale to the title role in Christopher Nolan’s dark, $135 million Batman Begins (due out in June 2005). Rather, it was a love of horror movies. “As a kid I liked to take walks in the woods at night after a scary movie to see if I’d get hairs standing up on the back of my neck,” Bale, the youngest actor ever to play the superhero, told Entertainment Weekly. Of course, the added bonus of working with legendary actors Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman didn’t hurt.

3. He has a phobia
“I have a fear of being boring,” Bale, married since 2000 to producer Sibi Blazic, told Entertainment Weekly. “The more high-profile I get, the less I can surprise people anymore.” He has kept his resume interesting, jumping between indie films like 1998’s glam-rock drama Velvet Goldmine and 2000’s American Psycho, in which he played a yuppie serial killer. After Batman, Bale will costar with Colin Farrell in the 17th-century adventure film The New World about explorer John Smith.

4. He stood out early on
At only 13, Bale beat out 4,000 other hopefuls to win the role of a British child living in a Japanese concentration camp during World War II in Steven Spielberg’s 1987 adventure epic Empire of the Sun. The actor, who’s one of four children (and was inspired to act after seeing older sister Louise appear in a musical in London’s West End), got his theatrical start at age 10 in the London play The Nerd.

5. He has very serious fans
Bale’s fans – who call themselves Baleheads – are so devoted to the actor that they once raised more than $1,000 to “adopt” a baby gorilla, named Nahimana, with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, one of the actor’s favorite charities. “I sort of feel like I’m creating the Mob or something,” Bale joked to Entertainment Weekly. “People are going to start getting snakes through their post (the mail) if they don’t give me a part.”