Why Christian Bale Dropped Out Of Playing George W. Bush In Oliver Stone’s W.



  • Christian Bale was initially cast as George W. Bush in Oliver Stone’s W., but dropped out due to dissatisfaction with prosthetic makeup tests.
  • Josh Brolin was cast last-minute and spent months studying Bush’s mannerisms and vocal style for his performance.
  • Bale later portrayed Dick Cheney in Vice, receiving critical acclaim and an Academy Award nomination, potentially due to his comfort with physical transformations and Adam McKay’s script.



Oliver Stone’s biographical comedy-drama W. is based on the life of George W. Bush, who could have been played by Christian Bale, but he ended up dropping out of the project. Throughout his career as a filmmaker, Oliver Stone has covered a variety of genres, from horror with Seizure to war movies with Platoon and thriller with Savages, and one genre that can be found multiple times in his career is political film. In 2008, Stone returned to that genre with W., which was both a critical and commercial failure.

W. tells the story of George W. Bush (Josh Brolin), who in his younger years was seen by his father, George Bush Sr. (James Cromwell), as a waster and an alcoholic. After some failed attempts at different jobs, Bush finally settled in politics and went on to become the President of the United States in 2001. Although W. received mixed to negative reviews, the performances of the cast were praised, but Stone’s project almost had a different lead actor, as he had originally cast Christian Bale, but he dropped out.

Christian Bale Didn’t Feel Like He Could Play George W. Bush

W Josh Brolin as George W Bush

Oliver Stone cast Christian Bale as George W. Bush in W. because he was looking for a star, and back then, Bale was known for his performances in American Psycho, The Machinist, Batman Begins, and The Prestige. Being a well-known method actor, Bale spent months studying and learning the mannerisms and vocal tics of George W. Bush, but when it was time for the prosthetic makeup tests, Bale wasn’t satisfied with the results (via MTV). Bale then decided to leave the project as he didn’t feel he could play the part (GQ via Film Detail), and Brolin was cast at the last minute – and just like Bale, he spent months working on Bush’s vocal style and mannerisms.

Although Stone said in that same interview with GQ that he needed a star (like Christian Bale) and Josh Brolin “was not a star”, he then added that he liked Brolin when he met him. However, that didn’t mean it was an easy task for Brolin, who said in an interview with USA Today (via The Guardian) that he couldn’t understand why Stone wanted him to play George W. Bush, and “was a little insulted”. In the end, Brolin accepted the challenge and even convinced Stone to let him not wear any prosthetics, as he wanted to act like George W. Bush, not look like him.

Bale Later Portrayed Bush’s Vice President In Vice

christian bale vice dick cheney

Instead of starring in Oliver Stone’s W., Bale returned to Gotham City in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, but he paid a visit to the political film genre some time later. In 2018, Bale starred in Adam McKay’s biographical political satire film Vice, where he played George W. Bush’s Vice President, Dick Cheney. To play the part, Bale underwent a major body transformation (something he’s very familiar with), gaining over 40 pounds and shaving his head. Vice was received a lot better than W., even getting various nominations for different awards, including Best Actor for Christian Bale at the Academy Awards.

Starring alongside Bale in Vice was Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush, whose performance was also praised by critics, earning him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Bale might have felt more comfortable playing Dick Cheney in Vice because he didn’t need to wear any prosthetics and he was already used to major physical transformations, and surely, Adam McKay’s script also played a big role in convincing him to take the role. It’s hard to say if Christian Bale playing George W. Bush in W. would have improved the movie, but it might have not made it better if he didn’t feel comfortable playing the role.

Sources: MTV, GQ, USA Today


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