Christian Bale Claims His Pay For American Psycho Was Less Than The Film's Make-Up Artists

Christian Bale has always had an unnervingly focused commitment to his craft and it's often helped him as much behind the scenes as it has on-screen. Back when he was still a struggling actor, he had to take his commitment to frankly unbelievable levels in order to get cast (and then recast) in "American Psycho."

The 2000 adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis' controversial 1991 novel had been through a shaky development process. Mary Harron was hired to direct after submitting her script, which itself had to beat out multiple other screenplays, including a version by Ellis. The Canadian filmmaker then lobbied hard to get Bale cast as Patrick Bateman, the psychotic, murderous yuppie lead. As Bale recalled in GQ's character breakdown video series, "She really put herself on the line [...] she just said, 'No, I want Christian' even though all the financiers were saying we're going to give you no money."

After a stage reading in New York with Bale, Harron, and Ellis himself, both the director and Bale were removed from the project. But Harron's lead, applying some of that singular commitment, simply refused to listen, and continued to prepare for the role despite other actors and directors being approached and in some cases hired. Leonardo DiCaprio was one such actor, who ended up turning down "American Psycho." Once producer Ed Pressman and Lions Gate had cycled through multiple directors and leads, according to Bale, they simply said "Let's call that crazy guy who keeps telling everyone he can play the lead." Of course, the financiers weren't too enthused with casting a relative no-name actor at the time and made their feelings clear in the salary they offered Bale.

'Nobody wanted me to do it'

Speaking to GQ, Bale explained how he was paid an embarrassingly low sum for the part. In fact, it was the absolute legal minimum Lions Gate could get away with paying him. As the actor recalled, "I remember one time sitting in the makeup trailer and the makeup artists were laughing at me because I was getting paid less than any of them."

After losing out on some of the biggest stars of the day — DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Johnny Depp were all connected to the project at various points — the financiers seemingly didn't think Bale was worth all that much. It's true that, at the time, he had little to no recognition among the public, with arguably his biggest role thus far being as a child actor in Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun." As such, according to Bale, "Nobody wanted me to do it except the director. So they said they would only make it if they could pay me that amount."

Luckily, "American Psycho" would prove to be Bale's breakout role, with the actor garnering widespread praise for his darkly humorous take on Bateman. He was seemingly the only one who shared Harron's view of the infamous psychopath as a kind of blank, vacuous vortex of humanity. Bateman wasn't a person, he was a collection of received ideas and quotes pilfered from 1980s yuppie and commercial culture, and was so outrageously over the top that the absurdity couldn't help but play as funny. 

Bale's recognition of that inherent humor clearly wasn't enough to interest the film's financial backers in paying him a fair wage or even hiring him at all. But just like the novel and movie, that's just yet another searing indictment of the American psychos of the financial world.