Bale is in China making a movie about Chen Guangcheng called "The Flowers of War."
Chen is a self-taught lawyer who angered authorities after documenting forced late-term abortions and government-ordered sterilizations and other abuses by overzealous authorities trying to meet population control goals in his rural community.
He was imprisoned for allegedly instigating an attack on government offices and organizing a group of people to disrupt traffic. His supporters say these charges were fabricated.
Although now officially free under the law, Chen has been confined to his home in a village eight hours' drive from Beijing and subjected to periodic beatings and other abuse, activists say.
Thursday, government-backed guards tried to grab the camera from Bale's crew and stopped the group from visiting Chen.
The film opens in China on Friday and next week in the United States.
While China has the world's third-largest film industry - both in box office and output - it has made relatively little global impact. Story lines are often heavily influenced by the ruling Communist Party, whose culture commissars must approve scripts and have final say over whether a film gets released.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.