That Time Christian Bale Scared The Hell Out Of Jared Leto When Filming American Psycho

Christian Bale playing Patrick Bateman in American Psycho

It’s hard to believe that American Psycho is already 20 years old. The controversial film still has a lot of movie fans talking about its terrifying satire of an unhinged businessman and serial killer, Patrick Bateman, played by Christian Bale. The actor knocked out the performance out of the park, so much so that it sometimes literally terrified his co-stars, including Jared Leto.

As a refresher, Jared Leto played investment banker Paul Allen, who Patrick Bateman, is jealous of. Bateman takes Allen back to his apartment and plays the song Hip To Be Square by Huey Lewis And The News, explaining the history of their discography and commenting on the meaning of the song. Meanwhile, Bateman puts on a raincoat, grabs an ax, and yells “Hey, Paul” before bludgeoning him with it. The look of surprise on Leto’s face was authentic when Bale attacked him for the scene. Here’s what director Mary Harron told EW about that moment:

We decided to shoot the rehearsal of the actual murder without telling Jared. Christian held back his performance until then so that it would be a real surprise. When he screams 'Hey Paul' and Jared turns around and sees Christian running towards him with the axe, he looks genuinely shocked.

It’s easy to see why Jared Leto would be genuinely surprised after seeing a crazy-eyed Christian Bale holding an axe behind him. While some may have not liked his performance as The Joker, I’m sure Leto could have risen to the challenge and looked just as frightened. Still, it’s a great idea to add that little extra authenticity to a scene, and it sounds like that was what Mary Harron was hoping for. And yet, she added some extra surprises as well, saying:

It was one of those scenes where everything does fall into place. By accident, the blood spray only hit one side of Christian’s face. When you look at him head-on, his face seems covered in blood. But when you look at him from the side, his face looks quite clean. It was a perfect metaphor for the Jekyll-and-Hyde aspect of Bateman: pristine on the outside, bloody and psychotic on the inside. And it all happened by chance.

Before American Psycho started production, some producers wanted Brad Pitt to take on the terrifying lead role, with David Cronenberg to direct. This fell through, however, due to Cronenberg’s weird demands, like not wanting to shoot restaurant scenes and the gory violence.

Of course, it’s hard to even imagine anyone else playing Patrick Bateman. Christian Bale is undoubtedly an amazing actor with a wide range, willing to take on any role, even if that means radically transforming his body.

Surprisingly, not many of Christian Bale's American Psycho co-stars thought much of him at the time. Josh Lucas, who co-starred with Bale, told him that many of the other actors thought he was a terrible and didn’t understand how he got the role. Then, after they saw the movie, they understood.

One last weird, but insightful, fact regarding Christian Bale's American Psycho performance is that he took inspiration from Tom Cruise. Bale had been watching Cruise on Late Night with David Letterman and thought he had an “intense friendliness” with nothing behind the eyes. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Jason Ingolfsland