After Louise, one of Bale's three sisters, gets cast in a musical on London's West End, the young chap is inspired to give acting a try. "I thought it was really good fun, and it looked easy," Bale tells The New York Times of his start, which gives way to several commercial gigs and his London stage debut at age 10 in The Nerd, opposite Rowan Atkinson.
Following bit parts in TV movies, Bale beats out 4,000 hopefuls for the lead role in Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun, playing a young British boy imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp. The performance earns Bale a best juvenile performance award from the National Board of Review, but the 13-year-old grows uncomfortable with his newfound fame. "I ran from it," he later tells the AP of his early success. "I said, 'I like the acting, but I really don't want anything to do with the rest of it.'"
Though he plays second fiddle to stars Winona Ryder and Claire Danes, Bale makes a memorable comeback with Little Women. "Handsome Christian Bale makes a dreamboat out of Laurie, the boy next door to the March family," writes The New York Times of his performance. In 1998, he tackles another period piece with Velvet Goldmine, playing a newspaper reporter researching the disappearance of a '70s glam rock star.