‘American Psycho’: Christian Bale Followed Dangerous Wall-Street Guys to Disturbing Places to Research the Movie

Christian Bale put in a lot of effort to nail his role as Patrick Bateman for American Psycho. Some would say the hard work paid off, as Patrick Bateman is one of his most acclaimed roles to date.

But while researching for the part, Bale once admitted he hung around with real-life Wall Street guys to prepare. Much to his surprise, his newfound acquaintances weren’t too far off the characters in the movie.

Christian Bale never went to a gym before ‘American Psycho’

Christian Bale posing in a suit.
Christian Bale | Toshifumi KITAMURA /via Getty Images

Bale is known as a sort of shape-shifter when it comes to roles. The actor has morphed his body to fit whatever physique his characters require of him. He’s slimmed down, gained weight, and bulked up to add gravity to his numerous roles. But American Psycho was the first film where the actor started gaining muscle for a part.

“I had never gone to a gym in my life,” Bale told MovieMaker (via People).

But DiCaprio orbiting the role might have acted as another motivator for Bale hitting the gym. As some may know, DiCaprio was offered a huge sum by the studio to star in American Psycho. People asserted that the sum added up to $20 million for the film. But director Mary Harron wouldn’t do the film without Bale, which Bale is still grateful for.

“She really threw herself on the sword for me,” Bale said. “I will always appreciate that, so much. She has incredible integrity and just stuck with me throughout.”

At one point, both Mary Harron and Christian Bale were off American Psycho. The studio behind the film continued to back Leonardo DiCaprio as the star, and wanted filmmaker Oliver Stone to direct.

But Bale continued maintaining his newfound physique, certain that the role would eventually circle back to him.

“I said to her, ‘I’m still gonna make this, and I’m still gonna keep prepping on it.’ And I would call her to talk about scenes, and she would be on a family vacation and she’d say, ‘Christian, please, I’m trying to have dinner. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s other people making the film now,’” Bale said about Harron.

Christian Bale followed dangerous people to some disturbing places to research the role

With all the work, and faith, Bale put into getting the role, the Oscar-winner was determined to nail his performance. But he wasn’t only willing to put in the physical effort to transform into Bateman, but also the mental effort. Bale went to extreme lengths to enter the mind of American Psycho’s vain serial killer. This included following real-life Wall Street guys to further research the part.

But it wasn’t an experience Bale was fond of.

“Someone introduced me to this group of young guys, and I spent quite a lot of time with them,” Bale once confided to Vulture. “I went on the trading floor, and to offices, and then we went out for the evenings, and I have no idea where we went, I couldn’t tell you, but it was disturbing.”

Being around these gentlemen, the Empire in the Sun star learned a valuable lesson about researching roles that almost acts as a cautionary tale.

“That was a lesson to me in how much people want you to be the character that you are playing,” he continued. “All I had to do was sit back and be quiet, and people will blur the lines between character and person. And hearing and witnessing this complete misunderstanding of the book.”

Although Bale tagged along with his newfound acquaintances, he didn’t say much and just observed. To the actor, the experience was as fascinating as it was “nauseating.” So much so that he refused to keep in touch with his research subjects ever again.

“Those were some of the most dangerous people I have ever come across in my life,” he shared.

Why director Mary Harron couldn’t do ‘American Psycho’ without Christian Bale

Harron wanted nothing to do with American Psycho if Christian Bale wasn’t involved. The director just couldn’t get over how right the then-relatively unknown actor was for the part.

“[Christian] had the right look and the right sort of inner mystery; you couldn’t get to the bottom of him. I thought he was the kind of actor that could play bad. And he’s funny. We had the same sense of humor,” Harron once told Vice. “Besides him being a great actor, we saw the part the same way. I was very committed to him.”

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