From 1992 to 2002, Scottish-born, Chinese-descended and Canadian-raised movie fan Harrison Cheung rode the ups and downs of Christian Bale’s pre-Batman career. It was an odyssey that spanned the earliest days of Internet marketing and relocated him from applauding Bale from afar in Toronto to working closely with the future superstar and actor’s Adam West lookalike dad at a home in Manhattan Beach.
This Friday, Cheung will be back in Manhattan Beach for an 11 a.m. signing event at the local Barnes & Noble for his new biography Christian Bale: The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman (co-written with Nicola Pittam). For the past five years, the author has been working in Austin as an Internet marketing strategist for IBM.
After a busy appearance on the Comic-Con conference floor last Friday, Cheung tells FishbowlLA via telephone that he’s reminded of a famous observation once made by another author, Sandra Tsing Loh. “She said that if you don’t make it in Hollywood by the time you’re 40, you need to either open a yoga studio or move to Austin,” he jokes.
Remarkably, this is the first Bale biography. Released May 29, the book offers fascinating glimpses of the relationship the actor had with his late dad (who died in 2003) and that patriarch’s very shaky financial management skills. It also provides a time-capsule look at the earliest days of the Internet.
Thanks to Cheung, Bale had the net’s first official actor website, dedicated newsgroup and more. After his partnership with the Bales ended, Cheung would go on to support in similar fashion various independent films as well as the marketing outreach of actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Gosling.
For his services as a personal assistant, marketing whiz and general career advisor to Bale, Cheung was never properly compensated. How that all played out, with constant deferrals from dad, is another important strand of the book. If Cheung has any advice for would-be real-life Alfreds, it is to get these details properly sorted out at the outset – in writing.
Although Cheung has not heard from Bale since parting ways and publishing the new book, he notes that stranger things have happened. “Maybe, after the weight of carrying the Batman franchise subsides, he’ll get in touch with me one day,” he says. “Who knows?” If and when that happens, perhaps Cheung and Bale can share another hearty Celine Dion joke.
[Jacket cover courtesy BenBella Books]