Entertainment Tonight (April 5th, 2000)


American Psycho: “It doesn’t matter what sex, creed or color — he hates the world.”
– Christian Bale (on his character in ‘American Psycho’)

A hungry new ‘American Psycho’ is in Tinseltown. Find out what Christian Bale had to say about his “appetizing” new role in this interview!

Entertainment Tonight: I talked to you just before you started this, and you said that this was a role that you had to do. Why was this role one that you just had to do?

Christian Bale: That was really about mental preparation for a role. I had a year and a half, unfortunately, things happened that needn’t have between the time Mary Harron (the director) asked me to play Bateman and the time we actually started filming. It’s a matter of immersing yourself in a character and it’s very difficult to completely ignore that until you’ve played the character.

ET: What was it about Bateman that made you want to play him in the first place?

CB: At first, it was the surprise at the screenplay, because although I hadn’t read the novel, I had an idea about the novel, which I find is the case for many people. That idea was quite wrong. I thought that it was a very deep, dark psychological thriller analyzing a serial killer.

That’s what I was expecting from the screenplay, as well. Then I read something completely different — an analysis of these trust-fund yuppies, of Wall Street men at their worst, of capitalism at its worst.

It’s this great, undeniably funny black humor, dancing with a real disturbing comment on violence. There’s intelligent satire — real wit. All these things were completely unexpected to me, and then on top of that you have this central character that is really unlike any character that certainly I’ve ever come close to ever playing. That was, of course, an appeal to me.

He’s this completely loathsome individual, with nothing redeeming about him whatsoever, but with this almost slapstick element to him that makes you laugh at him. Not with him, but rather at the difference between his perception of himself and our perception of him. He really is quite a ridiculous man.

ET: I think that people need to know that there’s not very much violence in the movie, but that it’s very funny.

CB: I think a lot of people are expecting there to be these quite infamous scenes from the book, and some people have said that it’s not violent enough, but the violence is in the tone of the piece. Or it’s off-camera. There’s obviously a difference between what you can do in a book and what you can do in a movie. I think it’s more effective to leave it to the imagination of the viewer. There’s nothing that the director can come up with that’s anywhere near as horrific as the imagination of anybody watching.

It’s much like the movie ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray.’ In that, obviously you have the portrait. I pictured in my head this brilliant portrait portraying a life of sin. Then they decided to actually show it in the film and it was a little bit ridiculous. That ruined it for me. I think the same would have been true with the violence in ‘American Psycho.’ And yet, it is very funny, in places — not throughout the whole thing. It is very disturbing, as well. That’s what I liked about it. It’s certainly not a one-trick pony.

ET: You cut away from the violence a lot. Nonetheless, there are scenes with an axe and with a chainsaw. Did that cause any jokes on the set? People running around with the axe — things like that?

CB: Yeah, you can’t help but have fun doing that. It also tends to be very uncomfortable for everyone else because you have an actor walking around without any clothes on, and nobody really knows where to look. There isn’t anything innate about Bateman, so he’s sort of giving a performance all the time. So as opposed to most movie sets where it’s nice to have some sort of sense of intimacy so that you can get more realism out of the actors, with Bateman and the other characters who never really listen to each other, they’re all completely self-obsessed.

So it didn’t matter that you had the crew just sort of standing and staring straight at you. In fact, it was really great to get a direct reaction — to have people laughing or horrified by what you were doing. It was really good to get that feedback.

ET: You didn’t mind doing the nudity, then?

CB: No, I think that it was appropriate for ‘American Psycho.’ You find yourself doing things that you would never dream of in everyday life. In fact, it might be thought of as a nightmare. But with the excuse of being a character, and this sort of confidence that you get through acting, it wasn’t really a problem for me.

ET: You’re in good shape, so you can show off.

CB: Well, Bateman is incredibly narcissistic and talks about his workout routine. So it wasn’t just the vanity of an actor. It was essential that in order to portray Bateman, the actor had to have a six-pack. I had to work like crazy to get there. It certainly wasn’t something that came naturally.

ET: You’re not keeping that regimen anymore?

CB: You can’t. It took over my life, rather than just enhancing it. I had to become so addicted. I had to adopt some of his narcissisms, basically, and deny myself anything tasty. It was a very boring diet — very bland food. I went out and indulged myself on anything that I had denied myself as soon as the movie ended, starting with a pint of Guinness.

ET: Good start. Has anyone in your family seen this movie?

CB: My mother has seen it. I watched it for the first time with her. I was kind of curious to see what she would think. She loved it. She was crying with laughter. She was horrified. She had lots of questions. Either it worked, or my mother is just sick. I don’t know. I’ve found that many of the female journalists like the movie.

Very often that has happened. It has been tagged with the label of being misogynistic, but that’s the character. He’s not solely misogynist — he’s everything. It doesn’t matter what sex, creed or color — he hates the world. It’s wrong to confuse the character with the piece as a whole.

ET: Has your wife seen the movie?

CB: Yeah.

ET: She’s OK with it?

CB: Oh, yeah. She doesn’t really understand why there’s a controversy around it.

ET: Did they have to snip a bit out to get the R rating?

CB: Yeah, I haven’t actually seen the R-rated version so I don’t know how much had to be cut. Hopefully not too much.

ET: Just that one scene with Bateman and two prostitutes, right?

CB: Right. But I don’t know how much is gone from that, because I think that it was a very good scene. I think it’s a really funny scene. It’s also a scene that tells you a lot about Bateman. It’s not a gratuitous sex scene. It’s actually pretty un-erotic, really. I hope that not too much of it goes. I think that most people who have seen the full version are quite surprised that it caused such a stir.

ET: For a while, you weren’t going to do the film and they replaced you with somebody very famous. At that time, how did it feel?

CB: Obviously, it’s not a good feeling to have a part which you believe to be your own taken away from you. I wish it wouldn’t have taken so long to come back to us. Quite what happened, I don’t know. In terms of creative confidence, it was actually a real boost because Mary Harron was prepared to put her own job on the line for the sake of casting me as Bateman. That can’t do anything but boost my confidence. It’s just unfortunate that it took a year and a half to get this movie made.

ET: Now you have a fan base on the Internet who is always talking about you. Are they going to be surprised by this film because it’s a side of you they haven’t seen?

CB: Well, it’s not a side of me.

ET: Right. It’s a character you play.

CB: I can only assume that to be a good thing. It’s sort of a sin to be boring. Certainly ‘American Psycho’ isn’t that.