Why Christian Bale’s American Psycho Co-Stars Thought He Was The ‘Worst Actor’

Christian Bale in American Psycho as Patrick Bateman 2000

Remember when Christian Bale and Josh Lucas starred in Ford v Ferrari last year? Well, that actually wasn’t the first time those two actors appeared in the same movie. In fact, earlyish on in both of their careers the two men appeared together in American Psycho, but Josh Lucas and his cohorts were clearly less impressed by Christian Bale's acting during the 2000 movie than they presumably were for Ford v Ferrari (which led to Bale being nominated for a Golden Globe).

Mary Harron’s now well-known film actually really worked to jumpstart Christian Bale's career, but as Josh Lucas mentioned to Bale himself, other actors on the set of American Psycho did not get what Bale was going for with the character of Patrick Bateman at all. In fact, per Bale, he was recently told by Lucas that people thought he was honestly “terrible” at acting while the movie was filming. Here's a portion of the quote from the interview in MovieMaker's American Psycho Oral History...

Josh Lucas and I did a film together recently and he opened my eyes to something that I had been unaware of. He informed me that all of the other actors thought that I was the worst actor they’d ever seen. He was telling me they kept looking at me and talking about me, saying, ‘Why did Mary fight for this guy? He’s terrible.’ And it wasn’t until he saw the film that he changed his mind. And I was in the dark completely about that critique.

Looking back, it may seem like this was a really silly take on the actor and the character from some of the other people on the set. We know now that Christian Bale takes plenty of chances as an actor (you need look no further than the weight loss and gains he’s endured for roles to know that). We also know that American Psycho is a cult classic and very well-regarded by a lot of individuals, but as Christian Bale admitted in the interview, the cast at the time didn’t.

In fact, a lot of people didn’t.

Cast Members Were Not The Only Ones Unnerved By American Psycho

In fact, we’re only a few weeks removed from learning famed director and critic Kevin Smith hated the movie so much the first time he saw it he couldn’t even face having dinner with American Psycho’s writer, Guinevere Turner.

Also, when American Psycho was first showing itself to viewers, director Mary Harron has repeatedly said people didn’t really know how to react. The stories surrounding American Psycho’s screening at Sundance are actually very similar to the reactions that audiencegoers had the first time that Fight Club screened. Per Harron:

The amount of hostility at Sundance really did take me aback. The audience just sat there and did not know how to react. Because this little group of us, the editor, me, Christian, a few other people—we were laughing away. We knew the scenes that are meant to be funny are funny.

Like American Psycho, Fight Club was a very different kind of movie with a very different tone. While Brad Pitt and Ed Norton found it funny, that wasn’t true of everyone initially. People even exited the screening early because it made them so uncomfortable.

An Even Odder Fight Club And American Psycho Connection

I mostly bring up Fight Club because it had such a similarly weird trajectory to success, but there’s also a side story worth mentioning here. Originally, before Mary Harron was involved with American Psycho, there was going to be a version with David Cronenberg.

A few years ago American Psycho book writer Brett Easton Ellis admitted there was a version with David Cronenberg that would have starred Brad Pitt, as well. Even Mary Harron had to work to get Christian Bale on board and approved by the studio for the movie, as Moviemaker also mentioned that at one point it would have starred Leonardo DiCaprio. So it wasn't as if if Bale was first choice here.

It was Harron who fought for Bale behind the scenes over Leo DiCaprio, given she didn’t want a movie star as the lead and wanted complete control over the movie. She also just thought Christian Bale was better for the part. The rest is history.

Obviously, I think DiCaprio’s a great actor, but I thought he was wrong for it. I thought Christian was better for it, and I also thought, and I think my instinct was right on this, he carried enormous baggage because he had just come off Titanic and I thought you cannot take someone who has a worldwide fanbase of 15-year-old girls, 14-year-olds girls, and cast him as Patrick Bateman. It’ll be intolerable, and everyone will interfere, and everyone will be terrified. It would be very bad for him and very bad for the movie. Because everybody will be all over it. They’ll rewrite the script and all the rest. And I knew I could only make this work if I had complete control over it, over the tone and everything.

Although Christian Bale knew about the casting from the studio's perspective, he stuck with the movie through a lengthy period of developmental hell. However, when it finally got to filming it seems he didn’t know the types of things his co-stars like Josh Lucas, who plays Patrick Bateman’s work pal Craig McDermott in the movie, were saying outside of the actual takes.

Years later, bygones seem to be bygones and Christian Bale seems more bemused by the story than upset about it. Regardless, this past year when the two actors were onscreen together again, Bale got to play the hero in Ford v Ferrari, Ken Miles, while Josh Lucas was the villain Leo Beebe (a real life executive who may not really have gotten his due in the movie). Lucas is still in a suit for this flick, but at least his claim to fame in James Mangold’s movie doesn’t revolve around a business card.

Ford v Ferrari is available (opens in new tab) on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital, as is the always-classic American Psycho.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.