'Dark Knight' star Christian Bale has been the center of cinematic buzz not just for his upcoming role as Batman in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises.
Bale has been dominating headlines for a recent visit he made on Thursday to Dongshigu Village in the city of Linyi, China to see blind lawyer and human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, who has been under house arrest in China since September 2010 after being released from serving a four-year prison sentence for damaging property and organizing a mob to disturb traffic according to reports. When Bale and the CNN camera crew he brought along approached Chen's home, security guards that watch Chen around the clock appeared, roughed up Bale and company a little, and then forced them to retreat.
But Bale's posse didn't just run away. They hightailed out inside their car only to become part of a car chase that might have been just as thrilling as the Dark Knight Rises' trailer itself. CNN's Steven Jiang recounts the whole saga briefly from beginning to end, writing:
As Christian Bale approached an impromptu checkpoint leading to this tiny village in eastern China, four men blocking the narrow path started marching toward him in menacing unison.
I am here to see Chen Guangcheng, the Dark Knight actor said and I translated, with correspondent Stan Grant and cameraman Brad Olson next to us.
Go away! the plainclothes guards barked, pushing us back.
Amid the scuffling and yelling, dozens more guards in olive-green, military-style overcoats -- and two gray minivans -- emerged from the other side of the checkpoint, all coming toward us.
Why can I not visit this free man? Bale asked repeatedly, only to receive punches from guards aiming for his small camera as they tried to drag him away from the rest of us.
As we retreated, I recognized the ringleader -- the same burly man who had hurled rocks at the CNN team 10 months earlier to force us out of the same location.
A precarious scene ensued Thursday as one of the gray minivans chased our car at high speed on bumpy country roads for some 40 minutes.
When the dust settled, we counted a broken car, a damaged camera -- and a Hollywood star disappointed at-but not shocked by-his failure to see a personal hero.
What I really wanted to do was to meet the man, shake his hand and say what an inspiration he is, Bale said.
Bale, who's known to be media-shy, was inspired by Chen and the injustice he faced so much that he reached out to CNN to follow him in his visit. According to CNN, Chen supporters believe that authorities used heavier-than-normal charges to silence Chen, who rose to fame in the late 1990s thanks to his legal advocacy for what he called victims of abusive practices by China's family-planning officials. Bale first learned about Chen through news reports when he was in China filming The Flowers of War, a wartime drama set in 1930s that will be China's official entry into next year's Academy Awards, earlier this year. In visiting Chen, Bale hoped to raise international awareness of Chen and, as a result, turn up the heat on the Chinese government.
This doesn't come naturally to me, this is not what I actually enjoy-it isn't about me, said Bale. But this was just a situation that said I can't look the other way.
Ironically, many other Chen supporters and activists besides Bale have tried to visit, and, CNN reports, nearly all of them have been forced to turn back, often violently, by plainclothes police and local thugs.
I'm not brave doing this, Bale said. The local people who are standing up to the authorities, who are visiting Chen and his family and getting beaten or detained, I want to support them.