Christian Bale has, somewhere along the line, picked up entirely the wrong reputation.

Sure, he throws himself into his work with an intensity that can be dizzying to watch, and he's still living down the infamous recording that leaked from the set of "Terminator: Salvation" when he had a meltdown at cinematographer Shane Hurlbut. But the Christian Bale that I've seen when I've interviewed him over the years and the Christian Bale that is spoken of by his collaborators is not the guy who we see in those few human moments that people tend to judge him by.

When we sat down to talk about "Out Of The Furnace," he was positively chatty about his work on this film, and he's obviously very proud of what they've made. He threw himself into his role as the "good" brother in a very sad and damaged story about the way we sometimes carry our family's burdens as our own. He and Casey Affleck are great together, and there's an enormous sadness to the work they do.

He's equally good in David O. Russell's "American Hustle," which I can't review until Wednesday morning, and just seeing him go from "Furnace" to "Hustle" in one year, it's pretty hard not to be blown away all over again by Bale's range and by the way he throws himself into each of his performances. There's no one choice that I would point at as proof that he's one of the best actors we've got working right now. Instead, it's a cumulative thing. It's the focus and the dedication he brings to the table every single time.

Ultimately, I got Bale to laugh during our conversation, and I'll consider that a victory. This was one of those conversations that reminded me that it's not fair to judge people by one small part of their public persona, especially when they're chameleons like Bale.

"Out Of The Furnace"  opens Friday in theaters everywhere.