Once upon a time, Newsies was a movie musical starring Christian Bale that flopped at the box office and with critics when it was released by The Walt Disney Company in 1992. Today, Newsies is a lauded Broadway musical smash starring Jeremy Jordan in the role played by Bale in the film, which despite failure inspired a passionate cult of fans who call themselves “Fansies.” No one is more surprised by this turn of events than Bale himself. “These things never make any sense,” the Oscar-winning actor and Hollywood’s current Batman told EW in a recent interview. “I’m incredibly happy for them. They’re having the success our movie never had.”
In case you’re not a “Fansie” and your memory of the movie has dimmed like faded newsprint, Newsies was set against the historical backdrop of the New York City newsboy strike of 1899 and featured songs by Alan Menken and J.A.C. Redford. Bale was 17 years old when he played the part of 17-year-old Jack Kelly, who hawked copies of the New York World with tactics as dubious and gotcha! as the era’s yellow journalism. When media moguls Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst decided to make their newspaper boys pay more for the papers they sell, Jack rallied his fellow paperboys to strike. Complications ensued, resolution was achieved, and the Newsies danced. In 2011, Disney Theatrical Productions began work on a stage version with songs by Menken and Jack Feldman and a book by Harvey Fierstein. Newsies The Musical opened on Broadway last March to sell-outs and acclaim. It earned eight Tony nominations and won two (Best Choreography, Best Original Score).
No, Bale hasn’t seen the show — and he says he has no plans to do so. Why? “I’m not really into musicals,” Bale responded. “But I wish them the best. And I’m sure the person playing the character I played exceeded whatever I did, and congratulations to them.” Would it be personally difficult to watch another actor perform the part, and perform it with greater success? “No, no, no. That wouldn’t be hard. I’m going to be having to do it with Batman,” says Bale, whose final turn as the caped crusader, The Dark Knight Rises, opens July 20. Referring to reports that Warner Bros. intends to quickly reboot the Batman franchise with a new director and star, Bale adds: “They’re going to rejuvenate it soon, and I’ll have to be watching someone else play Batman. I’ll be fascinated. I’ll be fascinated to see which way they go, which choices that actor makes.”
Unless, of course, the new Batman sings.