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The actor who inspired Christian Bale’s portrayal of Patrick Bateman for 'American Psycho'


If you have ever read American Psycho, then it is a scientific certainty that you have uttered something along the lines of “who the hell thought of making this into a movie”. That is by no means a slight on the quality of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel, more so the inevitable knee jerk that comes from reading such profane violence. 

The notion of turning the book into a screenplay like for like would perturb even the most liberal of minds. And yet in many ways, the Mary Harron-directed film translated the novel perfectly to the big screen, remaining just the right side of R18. 

Christian Bale’s portrayal of the wall street lunatic and Huey Lewis and The News fan, Patrick Bateman, is so perfectly faithful to the character that it is almost impossible to re-read the novel without affecting an internalised impression of the star himself. 

The inspiration for this uber authentic performance, however, did not come from the novel alone. One of the key influences on Bale was fellow actor Tom Cruise, because who else was it going to be? 

In an interview with Black Book, director Mary Harron, revealed the Cruise connection, when discussing the development of the character with Bale, “It was definitely a process. [Bale and I] talked a lot, but he was in L.A. and I was in New York […] We talked about how Martian-like Patrick Bateman was, how he was looking at the world like somebody from another planet, watching what people did and trying to work out the right way to behave. And then one day he 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.”

In fairness to Cruise, at least Bale acknowledged that whilst he did technically remind him of a murderous monster, it was with an intense friendliness that he did so. 

The Letterman interview in question sees Cruise talk about rock climbing and laugh maniacally at Letterman’s jokes, which his responses then seem to reveal he didn’t really understand.

The intensity required for the role made it a perfect fit for Bale and his final performance is, quite frankly, one of the most underrated in cinema history. Regardless of where he drew his inspiration from, he certainly pulled off one utterly disturbing ‘alpha’ nutcase.