Christian Bale is not an artist. He's an actor—not that he's proud of it.

"It's embarrassing to be a star," he said in this month's Esquire. "Most people look at you like, 'That's not a f—ing job, is it?' And then on top of that, you learn very quickly that you're just a tool — other people are manipulating everything you do, you're at the mercy of editors, and there's nothing you can do."

But Bale, 36, is well aware of the movie machine and how to use it for his benefit. "I learned that there's a certain character that can be built from embarrassing yourself endlessly," he said. "If you can sit happy with embarrassment, there's not much else that can really get to ya." The actor, who infamously went on a taped, expletive-filled rage rant a few years ago, has also gained fame for his willingness to go to physical extremes for his roles, losing 63 pounds for The Machinist before having to gain it all back and then some, for Batman Begins.

Despite all of this, he doesn't seem to have much respect for the rigors of his chosen profession. "I have a very sissy job, where I go to work and get my hair done, and people do my makeup, and I go and say lines and people spoil me rotten," he said. "And everyone has that kind of curiosity of how far can you go, how far can you take it. I think it's always good testing yourself. With various things that could be incredibly unimpressive to other people, but there's some meaning to it within yourself — and also stupid, which many people called me during that time."

But just don't call what he does art. "Art is something to be proud of. Art is no compromise," he said. "As an actor, you're giving it up, you're at the mercy of so many other people. So are you truly reaching the lofty goals? No, of course you're not. And there are some movies where that was never the aim anyway." Not that he cares what you think. "Being misunderstood is not a bad thing as an actor," he said. "I know the truth." –AMY LEE

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