Nominee Profile 2020: Christian Bale, “Ford v Ferrari”

by Silvia Bizio December 27, 2019
Christian Bale

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For his portrayal of Ford race car driver Ken Miles in Ford v Ferrari Welsh actor Christian Bale received his 5th Golden Globe nomination: he's won twice, last year for Vice, and in 2010 for The Fighter, for which he also won his only Oscar (in a Best Supporting role). Bale's other two Golden Globe nominations were for The Big Short and American Hustle.

Born January 30, 1974, in Haverfordwest, Wales, Bale got his passion for acting from his mother who was a circus performer. His father was a commercial airline pilot, but Bale has often said, his nature always pulled him toward his mother's performing skills. The family lived in different countries throughout Bale's childhood, including England, Portugal, and the United States, because of his father's job. Bale has said that this constant change was another important reason for his career choice. His first acting job was for a cereal commercial in 1983. The following year, at 10, he debuted on the West End stage in The Nerd. Roles in British TV miniseries caught Steven Spielberg's attention: he cast him as the young lead in the 1987 Empire of the Sun.

Young Bale, then 13, gave an amazing, emotionally riveting performance as the young British boy who tries to survive under the Japanese occupation of Shanghai during WWII. After a long hiatus, in the year 2000, he tackled his first performance as an adult as the yuppie serial killer in American Psycho, and never stopped working. He often portrays obsessive and detached or loner characters, and he's known for staying in character during the filming process. His physical transformations for the sake of his characters, like the ones he underwent for The Machinist in 2004 or American Hustle are legendary. He then became a global superhero as Batman in The Dark Knight saga.

In James Mangold's Ford v Ferrari, Bale's character, Los Angeles based British race car driver and mechanic Ken Miles, helps engineer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) develop and build the model Ford GT40, which the Detroit carmaker intends to use to challenge Ferrari's power as a sports car at the famed and brutal Le Mans (France) 24-hour car race. The year is 1966.

“Enzo Ferrari was seen as a God in the sports car world,” says Bale, “and Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts in the film) didn't like that a bit: he was somewhat jealous. But the film's story transcends the mere mechanical and racing aspect: there are two opposing philosophies about selling cars, while Ferrari needed to sell cars in order to compete and win in the racing circuit, Ford, aggressively mass-market oriented, was thinking the opposite way, trying to win races in order to reinforce the brand and sell family cars to everybody. It's an interesting juxtaposition. I often ask professionals what's the best car in their opinion,” continues Bale, “and they always whisper - a Ferrari Testarossa of course. And the Ferrari, in 1966, was slick and elegant, with sexy curves, way more attractive than the Ford GT40. But the GT40 had a beast of an engine. As for me, I'm no car fanatic: I drive a Toyota Tacoma, and I'm very happy with it.”

Bale also says the story of Ford v Ferrari honors automobile pioneers the same way films such as First Man or The Right Stuff honor NASA astronauts and their risks and accomplishments. “Miles and Shelby are talented and courageous and are visionaries in their own way. Le Mans at that time, and car racing in general, were an extremely dangerous affair. Miles died for it.”