The American Psycho director, Mary Harron, did an excellent job portraying concepts of conformity and the cryptic effect that it has on one’s sociability, lifestyle and sanity. Even though the film came out in 2000, the psychological thriller is still viewed as one of the best of all time. The setting is in New York City, but the American Psycho filming locations were predominantly in Toronto, Ontario. The American Psycho script was written by Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner. Check out various screen facts below.
Eight Years in the Making
The American Psycho novel by Bret Easton Ellis was published in 1991. One year later, Edward Pressman, a producer, bought the movie rights to the novel. From that point onward, it took eight years to get the American Psycho film to the big screen.
Selecting the right actor for the role of Patrick Bateman was one of the reasons the film took so long to create. Originally, Stuart Gordan, the director of Re-Animator, was to direct American Psycho. He wanted Johnny Depp to be the lead, but Ellis didn’t think he was right for the role.
Later on, Mary Harron was to be the director and Christian Bale was to be the lead. But executives of the film wanted Leonardo DiCaprio to be the lead and Oliver Stone to be the director. This was news to Harron and Bale, so they refused to meet with DiCaprio. “There’s something very boyish about him,” Harron said at the time. “He’s not credible as one of these tough Wall Street guys.” Funny enough, Leo would star in The Wolf of Wall Street nearly 15 years later.
One Take Mask Scene
One of the most iconic scenes in the film is when Bateman slowly peels off his morning face mask. This moment tells us that there’s layers to Bateman’s persona and he’s lost in various masks or realities. The shot is incredibly powerful and the mask miraculously comes off in one piece. The scene only took one take.
The Career Warning
On numerous occasions, Bale was advised not to take the Patrick Bateman role because people thought it would be “career suicide.” He revealed that many people told him taking on a devious character would negatively impact his career. However, Bale used all the negativity to drive the project and his performance forward. In retrospect, accepting the role was absolutely the right choice because American Psycho is commonly viewed as one of his best performances.
One of the reasons Harron thought Bale was the best choice for the role is the fact that he is actually quite dorky and so is Bateman. In the film, Bateman attempts to hide his nerdiness using suaveness which is a subtle touch of his character. Most people thought Bateman was a cool dude, but he’s much deeper than that and Harron realized it.
“Don’t Touch the Watch”
In the book, Bateman drops the line, “Don’t touch the Rolex,” in disgust. Since the film was so macabre, the production team had trouble getting the brands they wanted, including Rolex. The luxury watch company agreed to have a Rolex watch shown in the movie, but only to be worn by other characters, not Bateman. This is also why the line was adjusted to, “Don’t touch the watch.”
Feminism Push Back
Gloria Steinem, the renowned feminist and journalist, was opposed to both the book and the film. She believed that the violence depicted against women would be harmful to audiences. Apparently Steinem went as far as trying to talk DiCaprio out of taking the role, but this was a rumor.
Oddly, Steinem married Bale’s father, David Bale, on September 3, 2000. This was less than a year after American Psycho’s premier. Unfortunately, their romance was short lived as David died of brain lymphoma in 2004 at the age of 62.
Bale’s Commitment to Fitness and the Role
Even though there was a risk that Bale might have lost the role to DiCaprio, he stayed true to his commitment with Harron. In fact, he continued with his fitness regime to prepare for the role and said, “I just pretended it didn’t happen.” Bale worked out six days per week for three hours with a personal trainer.
“I’m English so I never go to a gym, but for that role it was part of the whole deal that I had to go. I still kept going down to the gym everyday because I was going, ‘Oh, I’m making the film’,” Bale said. “I would call Mary Harron – she’d be having a nice dinner with her family – and I’d go, ‘So Mary, so when we do this scene…’ And she’d go, ‘Christian, Oliver Stone is directing, DiCaprio is playing your role.’ I said, ‘Right, but you said it, my role, all right? It is coming back, so let’s talk about it, because it’s coming back to us.’” Bale was right because after nine months the American Psycho project was handed back to him and Harron.
Afterthoughts from the Author and Director
Bret Easton Ellis was involved in the film’s creation so his thoughts on the finished product were important. There were two things he didn’t like about the movie. First, he didn’t love that the American Psycho ending had so much ambiguity. Mary Harron agrees on this too and actually called it a failure, despite the film’s immense success.
The second thing Ellis didn’t like was much more nominal. He was not a fan of the moonwalk Bateman does in his apartment right before murdering Paul Allen, played by Jared Leto. In addition, Harron didn’t like that Jared’s character was named Paul Allen. In the novel, his name was Paul Owen. Harron picked Allen as a last name from a list, but feels poorly about it because some believe the film is connected to Microsoft’s co-founder, Paul Allen. She has publicly stated this was a coincidence and definitely not intentional.