‘I can sink and ruin a perfectly good movie and a so–so career in one speech…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) A bold prediction for 2019: Christian Bale’s stock will soon plunge.
The actor, already notorious for his tyrannical on-set behavior, went off the deep end at Sunday’s Golden Globes, alienating a sizable market share with petty comments about former Vice President Dick Cheney, whom he portrayed in the movie Vice.
“Thank you to Satan for giving me inspiration on how to play this role,” he said.
Ironically, Bale—who was recently named the 11th most bankable star of 2018, with an average lifetime box-office gross of just under $91 million (driven largely by the “Dark Knight” franchise)—demonstrated remarkable self-awareness and prescience in his two-minute speech.
Immediately before taking the nuclear option on his career by going political, Bale thanked his wife for telling him “less is more” and reminding him that he “can sink and ruin a perfectly good movie and a so–so career in one speech.”
On Monday, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the daughter of the former veep, fired back on Twitter, reminding people of the Batman actor’s less-than-stellar personal code of conduct.
Satan probably inspired him to do this, too. Christian Bale arrested for ‘assault on mother and sister’| The Independent. https://t.co/kesnNno9Zv
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) January 7, 2019
The Golden Globes is known for being a more free-wheeling, off-the-cuff alternative to the Academy Awards, evident from the ample bottles of Moet champagne on the tables at Sunday’s ceremony.
It also has been known for ginning up political controversy, as when Meryl Streep used the podium to attack President Donald Trump two years ago.
Many in the industry speculated that Streep hoped her virtue-signaling might give her an edge with Oscar voters in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
Ultimately, that effort fell short, although the rant did earn her a tweeted response from Trump.
Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 9, 2017
The fallout from liberal grandstanding was apparent as last year’s awards ceremonies faced record declines in viewership. But apart from Bale’s speech, this year’s Golden Globes ceremony was, in fact, notably apolitical, perhaps suggesting behind-the-scenes pressure from producers to quell the ratings losses.
Some public figures in recent memory have found that political posturing can reap dividends when marketed properly. The controversy generated by Nike last year for hiring NFL anthem-kneeler Colin Kaepernick took the athletic-apparel company’s stocks to an all-time high by rebranding it to millennial consumers as both socially aware and anti-establishment.
In Hollywood, A-list stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Angelina Jolie who express cause-awareness that is generally benign—albeit insufferably preachy—have been able to maintain their brand, whether in spite of or because of their political bent.
However, direct affronts on red-state viewers’ values and political sensibilities rarely pay off, particularly where hypocrisy is concerned.
After Jim Carrey mocked gun advocates in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting and refused to promote his violence-friendly movie “Kick-Ass 2,” his marketability plummeted, and the once prodigious comedian became essentially unbankable as a film star.
Likewise, gratuitous attempts at forcing progressive “wokeness” onto audiences have proven miscalculated, as revealed by 2016’s all-female “Ghostbusters” remake, which despite a $144 million production budget pulled only $128 million domestically (although it was able to recoup its losses in foreign receipts for a net gain of $85 million).
By contrast, conservative moviegoers have rewarded major releases that support their values, such as two of the top-grossing R-rated films of all time, Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ (net gain $581 million over production costs) and Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper (net gain $488 million over production costs).
Eastwood’s latest, The Mule, opened Dec. 14 and already has surpassed its $50 million production cost with about $80 million in total domestic receipts.
Bale’s Vice opened Christmas Day and thus far has pulled only around $30 million in the box office—half its estimated production cost.
But the Cheney biopic—which was unlikely to draw conservative audiences from the start, and tempered its expectations accordingly—is desperately hoping to court favor with its niche audience of leftist hatemongers in Tinseltown itself.
“The fate of Vice depends on how it fares with critics and moviegoers,” wrote IndieWire. “But no matter what happens in that arena (and the fate of [production company] Annapurna may hang in the balance, as this smart, angry liberal movie cost some $60 million), screen actors will give Bale and [Amy] Adams the love.”
It’s a risky gambit that may have necessitated Bale’s headline-grabbing Globes performance in order to generate the buzz it needs to become Oscar bait. But short of a Faustian deal with the devil, history says it will likely backfire, with potentially disastrous consequences for its leading man.