The drive to use his privileged position to help others has always been very present in the life of Christian Bale. The Wales-born 50-year-old actor experienced it at home, where he watched his father, David Bale, who protested and shouted at Margaret Thatcher. “As a child I didn’t really understand what he did, but I loved it, and I admired how he went out of his way for others,” he remembers. Beyond donating money to causes here and there, Bale has gotten directly involved with one by creating a community for foster children where siblings can stay together instead of being separated. The project is a small village of sorts in Palmdale, California, in which he will invest $22 million.
The winner of the Oscar for best supporting actor for The Fighter broke ground on the project on Wednesday, although work will not be complete until 2025. Located next to a park and near a shopping area, this small village, which will include a dozen homes, two studio apartments for transitional housing and a community center, is located in Palmdale, a city of about 150,000 located 60 miles north of L.A., and it will be the first of its kind in California.
The project took shape as part of an organization called Together California, which Bale created together with Tim McCormick, who was executive director of Children’s Villages in the United States for almost two decades until a couple of months ago, when he left to join Bale; and with Eric Esrailian, a professor of medicine at the University of California who is also a philanthropist and a well-known figure — a few months ago he signed an open letter with Kim Kardashian to ask Joe Biden to seek a resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and its impact on the Armenian population. “With our Together California model, [the village] is something absolutely new, totally transformative and something completely needed. Imagine the absolute pain and the trauma of losing your parents or being torn from your parents, and then losing your brothers and sisters on top of that, that’s no way to treat kids,” Bale told The Hollywood Reporter at the ceremony to break ground. “And so, we will be the hub for that. I hope that this village will be the first of many, and I hope that people, Californians and Angelenos, know to come join us in opening our eyes to what’s happening right under our noses. These are our children, and we must help our children.”
In addition to Sibi Blazic — a stunt performer who has been married to Bale for a quarter of a century; the couple has two children, Luka and Joseph — various political and child welfare officials from state and federal agencies were present on Wednesday. These included Kathryn Barger, the recently re-elected Los Angeles County supervisor, who explained that Bale set many conditions so that the location of the project would be appropriate. “You can’t just pick a place. You’ve got to walk around, see what it feels like. How far is it to school? Is it practical? Where are the local stores? I was just doing all of that. I get obsessed and I get into details. I get very myopic about it all. I absolutely wanted to walk the streets and find out,” said the actor. “Who does that nowadays? Who takes the time to understand?” Barger reflected. “This is going to be one of the most important projects we work on in L.A. County as a place of transforming youth.”
Between shovels and tractors, Dr. Esrailian confessed that there were “friends from Hollywood” who told him “that’s a lot of money for only 70 kids.” “But it’s 70 kids or 80 kids forever, and if even one of those children ends up having an amazing life and potentially contributes to society and this village made it possible for them, I think it’s a bargain,” he said. Among the investors are some “generous donors,” including part of the Bale family, but also his agent, Patrick Whitesell (ex-husband of Lauren Sanchez, now Jeff Bezos’ fiancée) and other Hollywood stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio. “Before I started doing this, I was writing checks for various charities that I support around the world, and they’re wonderful, and I’ll continue to do that. But I want to be more involved. I want my kids to be more involved. We are going to be able to come and touch the homes and the buildings and actually see the difference that we’re able to make in children’s lives. That is just priceless,” said Bale, who intends for this to be just the first of his villages and to create more in California and elsewhere in the country.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition