Although it feels like it was released just around the riverbend ago, Disney's Pocahontas turned 20 years old in 2015. And one surprise star in Pocahontas was Christian Bale as the voice of British explorer Thomas. The red-headed Thomas traveled to the "new world" with John Smith for glory, God, gold, and the Virginia Company. Bale voiced the kind-hearted but morally-conflicted Thomas and I'm convinced that the role of Thomas prepared Bale for some serious movie greatness.
I already was a fan of Bale back in 1995 when Pocahontas was released. I had been too young to admire Bale's talent in Empire of the Sun when it was released, but he melted my heart in Newsies, thoroughly disappointed me in Swing Kids, and managed to simultaneously do both in Little Women . Although Newsies had been a bust for Disney when it premiered (a giant mistake of all filmgoers in the 1990s!), the entertainment giant was smart enough to recognize Bale's talent to bring him back on as the voice of Thomas in Pocahontas.
While Bale is usually in more heavy-hitting fare, this Disney animated classic did make an impact on his career. Here are five ways that Pocahontas helped prepare Bale for his movie career 20 years ago.
1. He Voiced An Animated Character
Pocahontas isn't the only time that Bale lent his dreamy voice to an animated film. In the English version of Howl's Moving Castle, he was the voice of the titular Howl — a super sexy, mysterious magician. (Yes, I know I'm calling an animated character sexy. Deal with it. I thought Thomas was adorable too.) If you haven't seen Howl's Moving Castle, I highly recommend the film from Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, who was also responsible for Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. And after you see it, I challenge you to tell me you don't find the Bale-voiced Howl attractive.
2. He Shared The Screen With A Movie Star
The biggest star of Pocahontas was not Bale, but Mel Gibson as the voice of John Smith (back when it was still socially acceptable to be a Mel Gibson fan). Since then, Bale usually has the leading role in his movies, but he has notably shared the screen with other acting superstars quite a few times. Hugh Jackman was his magician nemesis in The Prestige, he starred opposite Johnny Depp in Public Enemies, and he was a part of the star-studded ensemble of American Hustle.
3. He Learned How To Shoot A Gun — Sort Of
John Smith taught Thomas how to shoot his musket with both eyes open, which led to Thomas killing Kocoum in an effort to save John (and after encouragement/bullying from the evil Governor Ratcliffe). Those gun skills (Yes, we know he didn't really learn them in order to voice the character) came in handy when Bale portrayed the cold-blooded killer Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. The comparisons kind of end there since Thomas wasn't anywhere near as twisted as Patrick Bateman, and Thomas was in a moral dilemma when he killed Pocahontas'-intended Kocoum. Plus, Bateman liked to use varying weapons and methods for his killings. Still it must be noted that Thomas did murder Kocoum and it (almost) led to a battle between the English invaders and the American Indian tribes. But hey, in the end, Thomas chose not to kill Powhatan and the warriors from the other tribes, channeling another famous Bale character — Batman.
4. It Set Him Up For Oscar Glory
Pocahontas won two Academy Awards in 1996 for its music (totally deserved). It took 15 years, but Bale won his own Oscar in 2011 for a supporting role as Dicky in The Fighter (yet again, totally deserved).
5. He Got Familiar With The Story Of Pocahontas
The simplest connection to Pocahontas and Bale's later career is the fact that he played John Rolfe in Terrence Malick's The New World 10 years after the Disney movie. (Bale has teamed up with the auteur again for this year's Knight of Cups.) In real-life, Rolfe did marry Pocahontas after her relationship with Smith, which must be noted wasn't as romantic as Disney portrayed. The Disney sequel Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World showed Pocahontas choosing John Rolfe over John Smith (yet again, not really what happened) and Malick's slow-paced film also prominently featured a romantic triangle between the three historical figures.
And in the circle, in the hoop that never ends that is Bale's relationship with his 1995 role, Pocahontas and Rolfe named their son Thomas — the same as his Pocahontas counterpart. Coincidence? Uh... yeah. Probably. But it's still a fun fact for all Pocahontas-Christian Bale lovers.
Images: Disney; Giphy (6)