MOTW: Five Unknown Facts about "American Psycho"

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A wealthy New York investment banking executive hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he escalates deeper into his illogical, gratuitous fantasies. Starring Christian Bale, Reese Witherspoon, Willem Dafoe, Chloe Sevigny and Jared Leto.
Photo Credit: Lions Gate Films
March 15th, 2013

MOTW: Five Unknown Facts about "American Psycho"

After the psychological thriller "American Psycho" first debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, it went on to polarize both critics and audiences. Based on a novel by the same name, the film focuses on the life of a wealthy investment banker, Patrick Bateman, who leads a secret double life as a serial killer. While "American Psycho" quickly earned an almost cult-like following of fans, there may be some facts that audiences still don't know about the film.

1. The film underwent a number of directorial, script, and even leading star changes before it finally made it to the big screen. The novel, penned by Bret Easton Ellis, was originally optioned to be adapted into a film back in 1991. At the time, the author was scheduled to write the screenplay for the film, and Johnny Depp had been slated to star as the lead character. Director Stuart Gordon had plans to film the movie in black and white and wished to keep the script as close to the original novel as possible. This, however, would have meant an automatic X-rating for the film. Ultimately, that project fell through, and Gordon was replaced by director David Cronenberg, with Brad Pitt taking the place of Johnny Depp. That project also failed to gain traction. Ultimately, Lions Gate picked up the rights to the movie, and Mary Harron took over as both the director and screenwriter.

Harron considered a number of well-known actors for the part of Patrick Bateman. Although Billy Crudup was offered the part, he later turned it down. Other actors who were considered included Johnny Lee Miller, Johnathon Schaech, Robert Sean Leonard, Jared Leto, and Ben Chaplin. Producers tried to lobby Harron into casting Edward Norton. Digging in her heels, she refused to do so, and the part was later offered to Christian Bale. Lions Gate later tried to make a switch and offer the part to Leonardo DiCaprio. Harron threatened to leave the project if they did. Calling her bluff, the producers offered the part to DiCaprio, and Harron was later replaced with Oliver Stone. Eventually, DiCaprio also left the project in order to shoot "The Beach." The film's budget began to spiral out of control, so Stone fled the project as well. Harron was later rehired, and Bale was once again slated to play the role of Patrick Bateman. When he was warned that the role could very well spell career suicide for him, Bale was reportedly more interested than ever in taking the role.

2. One of the differences that set the film apart from the novel is the fact that the book was set in 1989. Conversely, the film is set two years earlier. This fact is evidenced in the scene in which Patrick can be seen reading a 1987 Zagat's Survey. There is also a televised speech featuring President Ronald Reagan that appears in the film's final scene. President Reagan had actually already left office by the time the events in the novel take place.

3. The MPAA originally gave the film an NC-17 rating. Due to distribution problems, this type of rating is often considered a kiss of death for many films. Director Mary Harron argued against the rating; however, she was ultimately forced to trim several seconds from the film in order to attain an R-rating.

4. Audiences paying careful attention to the film will likely pick up an unsure vibe regarding precisely what Detective Kimball's opinion of Bateman was. This feeling was produced quite deliberately by director Mary Harron. She accomplished this by asking William Defoe to portray the character of Detective Kimball in three different manners. First, she asked him to portray that the detective knew Bateman had killed the character of Paul Allen. Second, she asked Defoe to portray the detective was being unaware that Bateman had committed the murder. Third, she asked Defoe to portray his character as if he was uncertain as to whether Bateman was Allen's murderer. After filming was completed, Harron then edited all of the takes in order to provide the audience with a distinct uncertainty regarding exactly what the detective's overall impression of Bateman actually was.

5. The actress who played the role of Elizabeth, Guinevere Turner, also wrote the screenplay for the film. Her screenplay ultimately won out over three other scripts, including a script that was written by the author of the original novel, Bret Easton Ellis. In the film, her character dubs Patrick with the nickname of Batman by removing the letter E from his last name. Interestingly, Bateman later played the title character in the film "Batman Begins" as well as "The Dark Knight" and "The Dark Knight Rises."