It takes a brave man to step into the shoes of Patrick Bateman, the sexist, homicidal, Wall Street yuppie from Bret Easton Ellis’ controversial novel ”American Psycho,” so it’s a good thing 26-year-old actor Christian Bale has no fear. Though the Welsh-born star of Lions Gate’s upcoming adaptation of the book (in theaters Friday) has 13 years of movie roles to his credit (including ”Little Women,” ”Empire of the Sun,” and ”Velvet Goldmine”), many expect his intense and comical turn as Bateman to make him a frighteningly big celebrity. Bale recently spoke to EW Online about his devoted Internet following, and what it was like to go ”Psycho.”
Did you ever feel uncomfortable playing Patrick Bateman?
I can’t say I felt queasy once making this movie… I slept really well. I played Jesus in this TV thing [NBC’s ”Mary, Mother of Jesus”] after doing ”American Psycho” — I had nightmares the whole time, like I haven’t had since I was 10 years old. Sitting up in bed, sweating. Stigmata nightmares, those dreams where you think you’re awake and then suddenly you realize you’re still asleep and there was blood dripping from the ceiling and hitting my palms and things like that. And I was waking up going ”Aaaaaahh!” — rubbing my palms in the middle of the night, heart going. But Patrick Bateman? Nothing.
Two years ago, when you temporarily lost the role of Bateman to Leonardo DiCaprio, who gave you the bad news?
I remember calling [director] Mary Harron and leaving a message on her machine at home saying, ”Hi Mary, I’m just really excited about getting going because I can’t wait to really get stuck in on Bateman. Give me a call.” And then I went out, and I came back and there was a message from Mary: ”Um, um, um, oh, oh, um” — an awful lot of that. And then, ”Give me a call.” And then a plethora of different calls from people. My dad: ”What the f— is going on? Have you heard about this?” And other people who were a bit more diplomatic: ”Christian, I don’t know if you’ve heard about this diabolical turn of events…” There were all these different ranges of messages.
Did you think you’d ever get the part back?
Everybody around me was like, forget it! You’re getting fixated on this. And I wouldn’t. With any other script that came in, I’d say, ”Well look, I quite like it but no, because ‘American Psycho’ might come up. I’m not risking it.” I just refused to admit that it wouldn’t happen.
People are saying this is a star-making role for you. Do you feel that way about it?
It is an important role for me. Rather than being just a part in a film, essentially BEING the film meant an awful lot to me. I’m really enjoying that. Frankly, I found it a little bit frustrating doing ”Shaft” [starring Samuel L. Jackson] because I’m back to being one part in a very big film.
What’s your character in ”Shaft”?
I’m the bad guy, really. Myself and Jeffrey Wright. I’m sort of the bad bad guy and he’s the good bad guy. I [shot] my final scene on the courthouse steps — hint hint.
You’ve got a huge Internet following of ”Baleheads.” Are you weirded out by them at all?
No, not any longer. Because to start with I didn’t quite know — I was like, all right, what is it, quite? And these people are…? And they’re talking about me? Riiight… I had journalist after journalist going, [in a deep American accent] ”So, what about the Baleheads — kinda creepy?” They were all doing that so I began to think to myself, ”Oh, maybe it is creepy.” [But] I decided no, it’s not. So many actors have these websites now. I think I was like the third actor to have a registered site. I was a pioneer of the Internet! [laughs] Although I needed help getting on to it the other day at an Internet café. I forgot you had to put ”http” at the front.
Have you ever wondered why the Net fans picked you?
[adopts a mock Master Thespian tone] Well, come on — take a look, for God’s sake! My dynamic charisma! My terrifying talent! I’m sure that’s what it is. [laughs]
Are you worried people will be running from you after seeing ”American Psycho”?
I would hope more that they would point and laugh rather than fleeing in terror. I did hear that apparently some people did run from Anthony Hopkins when they saw him [after ”Silence of the Lambs”]. With me, I would hope that they just laugh and go, ”You dork!”