Few movies are more quotable than American Psycho, the 2000 satirical thriller based on the controversial novel by Bret Easton Ellis. The book's narrator, Patrick Bateman, is an all-time character and Christian Bale brings his entitled '80s yuppie mentality into the film. "That's bone." He tells a co-worker about the shade of white used for his business card.
But Bateman is merely an empty vessel for the murderer living inside. "I like to dissect girls. Did you know I'm utterly insane?" He reveals his true nature in quiet voice-over and before a kill. Bale would become a star thanks to his performance. His Patrick Bateman is one of the unforgettable characters of modern cinema.
It's been 20 years since American Psycho premiered and there's no time like the present to celebrate one of the sharpest horror movies ever made. These are 20 things you never knew about the movie:
1. Bale found his inspiration for Patrick Bateman in a Tom Cruise appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. Bale saw in Cruise "a very intense friendliness with nothing behind the eyes." Ironically, Cruise is a character in the novel, American Psycho. He lives in the same apartment building as Bateman and they meet on an elevator where Bateman screws up the name of Cruise's film, Cocktail, calling it Bartender. Bale also used Nicolas Cage's live-wire performance in Vampire's Kiss as inspiration for Bateman.
2. The name "Patrick Bateman" is an homage to Norman Bates, Alfred Hitchcock's killer in Psycho.
3. American Psycho was planned for years before it was released in 2000. Originally, Ellis was set to option his own script for director Stuart Gordon with Johnny Depp as Bateman. But Gordon wanted to go black and white and X-rated to stay true to the novel and plans fell through. Director David Cronenberg then became attached with Brad Pitt in the lead, but the project also failed to get off the ground.
4. Director Mary Harron took charge of American Psycho when Lionsgate bought the rights. She considered many actors for the role of Bateman, including Billy Crudup (who turned it down), Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Sean Leonard, Jared Leto (who would be cast as Paul Allen), and Ben Chaplin. But Bale would win out, and Harron offered him the role. Interestingly, Ewan McGregor had also been offered the role, but he declined after Bale personally urged him to do so.
5. Harron was subsequently ousted by Lionsgate soon after taking over. The studio disagreed with the director about casting bigger names and they reached out to Leonardo DiCaprio for the lead. Harron left the film because of this and Oliver Stone was brought in to replace her. He cast James Woods as Kimball, Cameron Diaz as Evelyn, Elizabeth Berkeley as Courtney, and Chloë Sevigny as Jean. But DiCaprio dropped out to make The Beach instead and the project floundered yet again. Harron was then rehired and the rest is history.
7. When DiCaprio was attached to the film, feminist activist Gloria Steinem lobbied for him not to take part, as his fan base consisted chiefly of young teenage girls and he could ruin his career. Steinem had spoken out about the novel several times and was against a film version in any way. Ironically, the year the movie debuted, she married the star's father, David Bale.
8. In each scene with Detective Donald Kimball (Willem Dafoe), Harron asked Dafoe to portray the character three different ways: 1. Kimble knew Patrick Bateman killed Paul Allen; 2. Kimball didn't know Bateman killed Allen; and 3. Kimball wasn't sure if Bateman killed Allen. Harron then edited the takes together, making it hard for the audience to tell what Kimball thought of Bateman.
9. Method actor Bale researched Bateman's character emotionally by studying the novel, and physically, by spending months tanning and exercising in order to achieve the "Olympian physique" of Bateman described in the book. He also maintained the killer's intense morning routine shown in the film, distanced himself on set from people as Bateman would have, and he spoke in an American accent at all times. At the wrap party, Bale spoke in his native English accent and surprised the crew who thought he was American the whole time.
10. Two scenes featured unexpected improvisation by Bale that Harron kept in: Instead of jumping rope normally in one scene, he started to skip and cross his jump rope as a schoolgirl would. And, before Bateman kills Paul Allen in his apartment, Bale started dancing to Huey Lewis and the News. Reportedly, Bret Easton Ellis didn't like the dancing.
11. Harron relays a great story on the American Psycho DVD commentary that, during Bateman's first shower scene, all the women on set gathered around to watch Bale get wet.
12. The events Bateman mentions in the phone message to his lawyer transpire in the book, but not in the film.
13. Guinevere Turner, who plays Patrick's "friend" Elizabeth (in the scene with Christie the call girl), also wrote the film's screenplay.
14. The whooshing sound effect used during the famous business card scene was created by slowing down the sound of a sword being drawn from its sheath. All of the business cards read "Vice President."
15. While the novel American Psycho is set in 1989, the film adaptation is set in 1987. This is evidenced by the scene where Patrick is briefly reading Zagat's Survey: 1987. Also, the televised speech by President Ronald Reagan, as shown the final scene of the film, also occurred in 1987 (Reagan had already left the White House by the time the events in the original novel took place).
16. In the final scene, Bateman says, "Rockin' and rollin' and whatever..." This is a phrase often used by Patrick's younger brother, Sean Bateman, who appears in another Ellis book, The Rules of Attraction. Sean also makes a short appearance in the novel American Psycho, where he promptly uses the phrase.
17. The scene in which Patrick and Courtney are in bed (when she asks him if he'll call her before Easter) is taken from Ellis' first novel Less Than Zero. The conversation between Clay and Blair is almost identical to the one in American Psycho (Easter has been substituted for Christmas).
18. The framed black paintings hanging in Bateman's apartment are part of a series called "Surrogate Paintings" by Allan McCollum. The two large prints in Bateman's apartment are part of a series called "Men in the Cities" by Robert Longo.
19. American Psycho debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, where it polarized audiences and critics. Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and praised Bale's performance as being "heroic in the way he allows the character to leap joyfully into despicability; there is no instinct for self-preservation here, and that is one mark of a good actor."
20. A sign reading "This is not an exit" is shown in the closing scene. These are the last words of the novel.
[Editor's note: This article was originally published April 15, 2015.]
[h/t to IMDb, Wikipedia, and the American Psycho DVD extras]