MUSTWORTHINESS Because -- all together now! -- he's Batman. That, and a hell of an actor. The Wales native went from losing 63 pounds to play a haunted insomniac factory worker (in Brad Anderson's forthcoming psychological thriller, ''The Machinist,'' due Sept. 24) to bulking up and strapping on a utility belt to be the Caped Crusader. (His secret: bread. ''That was what I craved most of all.'')
WHERE ELSE YOU'VE SEEN HIM From his debut at age 13 in Steven Spielberg's ''Empire of the Sun'' to his slithery turn as Patrick Bateman in ''American Psycho,'' he has one of the most fascinating career trajectories around.
WHAT HE'S DOING NOW Teaming with ''Insomnia'' director Christopher Nolan to do something no one has done before: rebooting a major film franchise only eight years after it petered out. The movie reintroduces one of the most beloved superheroes in the pop-culture canon, so look for explanations on everything from where the Batmobile came from, to how Bruce Wayne's parents died, to why he has such a close relationship with Lieutenant Gordon (Gary Oldman). ''What attracted me was Chris and the knowledge that what was being aimed for was a reinvention of Batman lore,'' says Bale, taking a break halfway through shooting the film in London.
SO DID BALE TAKE THE ROLE BECAUSE HE'S A SUPERHERO FAN? Not really. ''I like scary movies. As a kid I liked to take walks in the woods at night after a scary movie to see if I'd get hairs standing up on the back of my neck.''
HOW ABOUT SOME ADVICE FROM THE LAST BATMAN ''Early September in a Batsuit is a living hell,'' George Clooney told Entertainment Weekly.
AND FROM THE FIRST ''Here it is,'' says Adam West, from his Idaho home. ''It's important to be very careful about your cape. Don't use it for sexual high jinks. It can get ugly. Trust me. Also, be careful when flushing. And, um, be mindful of the parking meters with the Batmobile. They're everywhere!''
BALE'S THOUGHTS ON WEST'S ADVICE ''It sounds like he's still playing Batman, doesn't it?''