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Christian Bale has acted in many genres in the film industry, including musicals. He famously starred in the 1992 film Newsies, which developed a bit of a cult following over the years. It also allegedly had an unexpected effect on Bale’s movie career.

‘Newsies’ helped Christian Bale’s career thanks to Blockbuster

Christian Bale posing in a black suit at the premiere of "Ford v Ferrari".
Christian Bale | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Bale was still on the rise as an actor after doing the 1992 feature Newsies. The film was a musical where a very young Christian Bale played a homeless newsboy who later goes on strike. At the time the film came out, the Batman Begins star found himself starring in many critically and financially underwhelming movies. 

Empire of the Sun, which he did with Steven Spielberg, didn’t earn as much as Spielberg’s other successful projects. Bale also had a small part in Henry V, which didn’t make much money at the box-office, either. The Newsies only continued the trend of Bale’s box-office disappointments. But according to Harrison Cheung, who worked alongside Bale for a decade, Newsies exploded over home video. Which only helped Bale’s career.

“Without Newsies, I don’t know how Christian’s current success could’ve happened, because NEWSIES ended up being a hit on video,” Cheung once told Comic Book Movie. “In those days Blockbuster video store used to have a newsletter, and I was on great terms with the newsletter editor. The very first big article that we got in the newsletter was Christian Bale: The One to Watch. Back then, you walk through a video store and the movies were organized by genre, but I got Blockbuster to do Christian Bale movie displays across the country–which was the very first time they highlighted movies by actor. They displayed Empire of the SunTreasure IslandNewsiesSwing Kids, etc., and it was a nice collection of videos of ‘movies you might’ve missed’ to make people aware of an up and coming actor. And this was before there was an IMDb, and before any of those websites where you could check up on an actor.”

Cheung noted it was ironic that the movie Bale really didn’t want to do ended up benefiting him the most.

“So, the movie that Christian was dragged into kicking and screaming, that is considered one of Disney’s biggest bombs, the one he is most embarrassed by and left off his resume, was the most important as far as marketing himself to fans–which in turn gave him the Internet clout that has been so important in his career and future roles,” Cheung said.

What Christian Bale felt about ‘Newsies’


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Bale didn’t seem to look back too fondly on his time in the Newsies. In a 2007 interview with Entertainment Weekly, the Oscar winner confided that starring in a musical might not have been best for his career back then.

”At 17, you want to be taken very seriously — you don’t want to be doing a musical,” Bale said.

Bale quipped that fortunately time healed the wounds Newsies gave him. But if the actor wasn’t too keen on musicals, some might wonder why he agreed to Newsies at all. It turned out that Bale didn’t know Newsies was a musical originally.

“I never had any interest in doing a musical,” Bale once told Movieline. “I still don’t. In fact, when I first read the script, I thought it wasn’t a musical. Later, after I realized it was, I asked Kenny [Ortega] if maybe I could duck over here into the pub while the numbers were going on, and then come out when it was over. I hoped I could be the lead in a musical without doing any singing and dancing! Eventually I said, ‘F*** it, let’s just do it.’ But I had a lot of doubts about it–I never liked musicals, and even then I knew I’d never do anything like that again.”

Newsies might not have changed Bale’s mind on musicals. But he did appreciate the film in hindsight, and seemed to enjoy it more as an adult than he did in his younger years.

“I look back on it rather fondly now. It was either go to college or go to California and do Newsies. I decided to do the film. Which was an education,” he said.