Christian Bale: 'I was told a lot that American Psycho was going to kill my career'

Christian Bale: ‘I was told a lot that American Psycho was going to kill my career’

Director Mary Harron absolutely wanted him to play Patrick Bateman, even refusing to audition Leonardo DiCaprio for the role.

Released in 2000 at the cinema, American Psycho is one of the most significant films of the career of Christian Bale. Here are some anecdotes about its production, when we just learned that the latest novel by its author, Bret Easton Ellis, was going to be adapted into a series. This is Luca Guadanigno (Call Me By Your Name) who will be the showrunner of The Shards for HBO.

At the time, Bale was best known as the young star of The Empire of the Sun (1987), by Steven Spielberg, or Velvet Goldmine (1998) by Todd Haynes. The role of Patrick Bateman, imagined by Bret Easton Ellis in his shocking 1991 book, was therefore very far from anything he had done before. Character sure of himself, but particularly twisted, evolving on Wall Street, violent with his entourage, in particular the women crossing his path… Here is an anti-hero all the more striking as he had to be interpreted by a young actor to stick descriptions of the novel, while being able to carry its complexity, and much of the film, on its shoulders.

American Psycho: why the film could have been completely different

Originally, Johnny Depp had shown interest in this role, as early as 1992. Lionsgate wanted to hire Leonardo DiCaprio instead after his revelation to the general public in Secret wounds And Gilbert Grape, but the director explained that she did not see him playing Bateman. Moreover, she has refused to give him an auditionbecause he seemed too young for this tortured character, and he also had a “fan base” composed mainly of teenagers.

“Leonardo was simply not the right choice for this role, she explained as early as 2000. He had too childish a side. He wouldn’t have been believable as one of those Wall Street sharks… Plus, I didn’t want to deal with the fact that his fans were on average 13 years old. They wouldn’t have been able to see that movie, or it would have gotten us in trouble.”

A few years later, DiCaprio has finally indeed embodied a “Wall Street Shark”finally, a “wolf” rather, at Martin Scorsese. But he no longer had his youthful appearance of the mid-1990s.

When Mary Harron refused to audition the actor, Lionsgate dropped her for a time from the project, which interested directors with styles as different as Danny Boyle (Trainspotting), David Cronenberg (Fly) or even Stanley Kubrick (shining). She eventually returned to the controls ofAmerican Psycho at the end of the decade, and she was able to impose the actor she had in mind: Christian Bale. Fortunately for him, because he had been refusing roles for 9 months to free himself for this project!

“I was called a lot to tell me that I was going to kill my career with this film, said the person concerned when he left. Lots of people gave me the example of Anthony Perkins in Psychosis, they told me that once you’ve played such an iconic villain, you stay associated with that role and you don’t play anything else. In the public imagination, you become that person.”

The future will have proven wrong all those who thought that Christian Bale would not emerge a winner from this experience. On the contrary, this role relaunched his career, allowing him to continue with leading roles, as in The Machinist Or Equilibrium in the early 2000s. Then he obviously signed on to play Bruce Wayne/Batman in the trilogy Dark Knight of Christopher Nolan (2005-2012), a role which will have finally stuck to him as much as that of Patrick Bateman, without however blocking him in his career. By making ambitious choices (The New World, The Prestige, Le Mans 66…) and by not hesitating to follow drastic diets in order to transform for his roles, he was able to build a career that was ultimately very eclectic.

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