Classic Scene: American Psycho

Did you know I’m utterly insane?

Bret Easton Ellis’ satirical 1991 novel American Psycho was extremely controversial on release due to the graphic violence described within its pages, and Mary Harron’s 2000 adaptation starring Christian Bale as the titular ‘American Psycho’ would be no different. Bale completely dominates as the unreliable narrator Patrick Bateman, an 80s Yuppie Wall Street stockbroker with a love of Huey Lewis and the News, classy business cards (“Oh my God… it even has a watermark”), discussing Ed Gein’s deluded philosophies, and killing prostitutes with chainsaws. Jared Leto, Reese Witherspoon and a very memorable Willem Dafoe help round out the cast, but it’s Bale and his blank and empty stare that steals the show. The audience is never quite sure whether the events described by Bateman are real or just the delusions of an American Psycho. Now if you’ll excuse us, we have to return some video tapes…

But did you know…

1) Lionsgate were adamant on hiring Leonardo DiCaprio over Bale. Harron was very much against the idea, “partly because he was such a big star but also because he had a teenage girl fanbase. I just didn’t think he was right for it”. DiCaprio was eventually brought on and Harron was removed, replaced by Oliver Stone until creative differences caused both to depart. During this time Bale remained committed, turning down numerous roles and even calling other actors to dissuade them taking the part, “I called them all and told them it was my role.”

2)The sequence in which Bateman is quizzed by Dafoe’s detective Kimball was shot three times. Once as though Kimball knows Bale is definitely guilty of murder, once where he is suspicious of him, and once where he has no idea at all. These various takes were then all edited together to create a sense of uncertainty and better portray Bale’s deluded mindset.

3) Tom Cruise served as the unlikely (or likely?) inspiration for the mannerisms of Patrick Bateman. According to Harron, Bale “called me and he had been watching Tom Cruise on David Letterman, and he just had this very intense friendliness with nothing behind the eyes, and he was really taken with this energy.” Bale thought it was perfect for the character.