In his acceptance speech after winning the Golden Globes award for best actor, Christian Bale scorched Richard Cheney by giving an unexpected shout-out to what he said was his inspiration in portraying the powerful and uncharismatic former vice president.
"Thank you, Satan," Bale said, speaking in his natural British accent, which also caught many by surprise. He also joked, to the audience's amusement, that he'll be "cornering the market" on playing "charisma-free" public figures. "What do you think, Mitch McConnell next? That could be good."
Bale's kudos to what many cultures and religions see as the personification of evil did not go unnoticed.
"Hail Christian! Hail Satan," the Church of Satan, which describes itself as an atheist organization, said in a tweet about Bale's comments.
Despite its name, the Church of Satan (different from the Satanic Temple) neither worships nor believes that Satan is some sort of powerful, supernatural and evil being. The group said it sees Satan as "a symbol of pride, liberty and individualism" and a projection of one's potential. Bale won on talent and skill, so his shout-out was "fitting."
But not everyone was flattered.
"Satan probably inspired him to do this, too," Liz Cheney, the former vice president's daughter and a Republican congresswoman from Wyoming, wrote in a tweet sharing a July 2008 story that says Bale was accused of assaulting his mother and sister. Bale, though, was not charged. Police said less than a month later that they found insufficient evidence to prosecute the actor.
Larry Elder, a conservative radio host and political commentator, also seemed aghast.
"Gee, some people in America consider Cheney a bright, principled, conservative public servant and loving husband and father," Elder tweeted.
Others took the comment in jest.
"BREAKING: Attorneys for Satan have filed for defamation lawsuit against actor Christian Bale," tweeted Col. Morris Davis, who led military prosecutions at Guantanamo Bay from 2005 to 2007.
Critics lauded Bale for his performance. The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday wrote that Bale inhabited Cheney "down to his distinctive, sideways grimace and wheezily stentorian inhalations."
"It's always deliciously entertaining to watch a great actor plunge into a role with this much brio and lack of vanity," Hornaday wrote, though the praises ended there, as she called the entire movie an "absurd mess."
The New York Times' A.O. Scott wrote:
"Bale, thickening and greying before our eyes, burrows into the personality of a shrewd operator endowed with whatever the opposite of charisma might be. His Cheney lacks any trace of charm, humour or warmth, except sometimes in the company of his family."