Just as Bruce Wayne travels the world in Batman Begins, so too was Christian Bale looking for inspiration in another country when he tried to visit Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng in a small village with CNN in tow. However, it wasn’t as easy for Bale, who was immediately met with hostility and physical violence as they tried to approach Chen’s home.
CNN has the whole harrowing tale, which began when The Dark Knight Rises star Bale filmed The Flowers of War in China. While on-set, he heard stories of the blind activist Chen Guangcheng, a lawyer who started helping “victims of abusive practices by Chinese family-planning officials” in the late 1990s. Bale was so impressed with this man that he wanted to go visit him.
It turns out CNN had already tried this trick and been turned away by the thugs surrounding the village where Chen and his family are on house arrest. It’s shocking to hear that Bale kept asking, “Why can I not visit this free man?” while getting punched in the face and while more guards tried to drag him away from the CNN crew because of the small camera he held.
It’s the kind of detail that sticks with you, like when journalist Laura Ling tells of how she was dragged across Chinese soil back into North Korea. We’ll be curious to see if the fact that a celebrity got involved with this case will do anything to help Chen Guangcheng and his family.
For his part, Bale doesn’t want any extra acclaim for his unsuccessful trip: “This doesn’t come naturally to me, this is not what I actually enjoy—it isn’t about me,” he told the CNN crew in the van on the way back. “But this was just a situation that said I can’t look the other way… I’m not brave doing this. The local people who are standing up to the authorities, who are visiting Chen and his family and getting beaten or detained, I want to support them.”
Here’s the video of the whole affair:
The irony? Bale’s movie The Flowers of War might be China’s first chance to win an Academy Award.