American Psycho is perhaps one of the most divisive films in movie history. Which makes sense, considering it's pretty faithfully adapted from one of the most divisive books of the 20th century. It's not surprising then that even Christian Bale's performance as the serial killer Patrick Bateman would be controversial among his own co-stars when they were filming the 2000 movie adaptation.
In a new oral history from Moviemaker, Bale explains how his co-stars originally didn't understand his acting style as Bateman. As Bale said:
Josh Lucas and I did a film together recently and he opened my eyes to something that I had been unaware of. He informed me that all of the other actors thought that I was the worst actor they’d ever seen. He was telling me they kept looking at me and talking about me, saying, ‘Why did Mary fight for this guy? He’s terrible.’ And it wasn’t until he saw the film that he changed his mind. And I was in the dark completely about that critique.
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In a meta sense, it's understandable that he would have intentionally alienated his co-stars. For one thing, this was one of Bale's breakout roles, and his co-stars explain that his style of acting, and behavior on set, was unnerving. As his co-star Chloë Sevigny described his method performance:
Working with Christian was pretty hard because I didn’t know this whole Method thing. I was pretty fresh. I hadn’t done that many films before, and that an actor would lose himself to such a degree and was so consumed by the part, I was having a hard time kind of… just wanting to socialize with him, but feeling that he didn’t, and then my ego being like, ‘Does he not like me? Does he think I’m a terrible actress?’
But this, of course, was exactly what he was going for. As he explains in the oral history, his intention was to make Patrick Bateman into a completely heartless monster. Here's how he and director Mary Harron viewed the character:
I think the thing that united us on it is I had no interest in his background, childhood—and she didn’t either. We looked at him as an alien who landed in the unabashedly capitalist New York of the ’80s, and looked around and said, ‘How do I perform like a successful male in this world?’ And that was our beginning point. And we didn’t want to talk about why was he this way, what happened in his childhood—there was none of that between Mary and I.
In the oral history, Harrom reveals another incredible little detail about Bale's performance in American Psycho. He says that after filming the business card scene, "Josh Lucas and Justin Theroux came up to me after one of the takes and said he breaks into a sweat at the same time… every time."
It certainly makes sense that Bale has since been nominated for three acting Academy Awards—and won once.
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