Christian Bale used Tom Cruise as inspiration for ‘American Psycho’


Back in the day, I saw America Psycho for the first time at a free screening in New York while I was on vacation. That was the only time I’ve ever seen it the whole way through – since then, I’ve seen parts here and there, and nothing has really changed my initial opinion. I wasn’t really impressed with the film on the whole. Yes, I understood why people liked it, or thought it was a good movie, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. Technically speaking, I guess it was brilliant. Great directing (by Mary Harron), solid supporting cast (Chloe Sevigny, Samantha Mathis and Willem Dafoe, amongst others) and a stellar lead performance by a marble-mouthed, sucked, tucked, plucked and buffed Christian Bale, doing his best terrifying eighties yuppie serial killer Patrick Bateman. I guess I just didn’t care for the subject matter. Plus, I’ve always thought American Pyscho’s author, Bret Easton Ellis, is totally overrated.

Anyway, American Psycho is one of those films that grows in appreciation over the years. While it didn’t break any kind of box office records, it’s recognized as a cult classic, and probably one of Christian Bale’s best performances. I think of its appeal as a lot like Fight Club, another film I didn’t care for. Those films are like artsy violence pr0n. And guys love them. Me? Meh.

American Psycho’s director Mary Harron was interviewed by BlackBook Magazine for some new project she’s got going on. But American Psycho is still one of her most celebrated films, so of course she got some questions about it. Her answers were new though – she claims that Christian Bale based Patrick on Tom Cruise, of all people. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

The art of the onscreen murder was never staged with such graphic gusto as when Mary Harron filmed Christian Bale slicing and dicing his way through the excess of 80s Wall Street in American Psycho. Since then, the Canadian-born director has dabbled in television, filming episodes of Big Love and Six Feet Under, as well as feature The Notorious Bettie Page. Harron’s latest project is an entry in the Fear Itself anthology, a television series broken down into 13 different episodes and featuring some of the biggest names working in horror today.

How did you and Christian Bale develop his character in American Psycho?
It was definitely a process. We talked a lot, but he was in L.A. and I was in New York. We didn’t actually meet in person a lot, just talked on the phone. We talked about how Martian-like Patrick Bateman was, how he was looking at the world like somebody from another planet, watching what people did and trying to work out the right way to behave. And then one day he called me and he had been watching Tom Cruise on David Letterman, and he just had this very intense friendliness with nothing behind the eyes, and he was really taken with this energy.

[From BlackBook Magazine]

Is it weird that this makes total sense to me? I can so see Tom Cruise in the character now. Especially Patrick’s creepy, not-really-amused smile and his crazy eyes. Oh, and his laugh! That was probably based on Tom Cruise too! This makes so much sense to me, I might need to see that film again just so I can pick out the Cruise-y parts.

Here’s Christian and wife Sibi at the Los Angeles Film Festival premiere of ‘Public Enemies’ on June 23rd. Images thanks to .

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58 Responses to “Christian Bale used Tom Cruise as inspiration for ‘American Psycho’”

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  1. andy says:

    We all knew that Bale gets his inspiration for his film roles from all over the place but I never expected him to look so close to home!

  2. Kristen says:

    This is the best story ever.

  3. sooooul glo says:

    Holy Smokes! it all makes sense now- he nailed the whole alien-esque presence of scientologists tom cruise

    love Bale in this movie

  4. Annie says:

    Haha! I love it.

    “So to play this absolutely batshit bonkers guy? Oh yea, I just pretended I was Tom Cruise.”

  5. j says:

    The interesting thing is that this film was made in 1999 before the whole couch jumping fiasco, RoboBride Kate and Cruise’s divorce to N.Kidman.

    At that time no one thought of him as the lunatic that he is now. He hid it better then but I give props to Bale for noticing that Cruise was only showing a fake facade in public already then.

  6. Pole says:

    This makes so much sense. He’s spot on too 😀

  7. gaby says:

    I personally did not care for this movie at all, I never understood why people think it’s so great. It just seemed pointless and strange with a lot of senselss gore, sex, and violence. But anyways this makes perfect sense to me Bale is sooo Tom Cruise in that movie! lol

  8. Obvious says:

    Now i HAVE to see this movie. only because this interview makes me laugh s hard.

  9. Lem says:

    click. that makes perfect sense.

    yes @j: I’ve always thought of Tiny Tom as a whackadoodle. I was never fooled.

    Posted in Christian Bale, Crazy, Creepy, Tom Cruise .. hehe lol

  10. andrea says:

    awesome. totally makes sense. kind of like johnny depp using keith richards for jack sparrow. cruise and bateman have the same contrived-sh*t-eating-grin facade.

  11. Constance says:

    BEE is brilliant as an author and commentator. AP was done very well on film and Bale is fantastic.

    Time wise let’s be honest…

    Before the Katie thing. There was the very awkward and public (shifty eyes) years that were with Nicole Kidman.

    The Beginning of the Public Beard Years if you will.

  12. Juice In LA says:

    Totally agree with J (and most of you all) this story is delicious…. and Bale nailed Cruise.

  13. Roma says:

    I’m with you Constance, I adore BEE and especially American Psycho. There’s so much behind the Bateman character that they weren’t able to capture on film.

    I know some designers who drop “Silian Rail font” when talking business cards just to see if they can suss out a fan.

  14. crash2GO2 says:

    Wow. I agree with j’s post. This was back in the day when Cruise could do no wrong.

  15. Giz says:

    This is one of my all-time favorite films. However, I’m very careful about which friends I admit this to. It’s so wrong that I should like it.

    I could almost see Tom Cruise as Patrick and/or Bale basing Patrick on Cruise. However, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much with Cruise in the role. It would have made for any extremely creepy experience.

    Bale’s Patrick comes off more satricial than anything which makes such a hideous character a guilty pleasure to watch.

  16. Bodhi says:

    Bwhahaha! That is heeelarious!!

  17. Sumodo says:

    This nails it. I am now a Christian Bale fan. Look out, Matt Damon, you have company.

  18. Sumodo says:

    @Bodhi Luuuvvv your dog!

  19. moo says:

    I am now making a note to pick up that movie tonight!

  20. moo says:

    @Giz:This is one of my all-time favorite films. However, I’m very careful about which friends I admit this to. It’s so wrong that I should like it.

    haha!! One all time fav of mine is American Beauty and I get a weird reaction too!

  21. elle em says:

    I loved that movie! Can things get any worse for Tom Cruise? People are going to have a field day with this one!

  22. original kate says:

    “oh my god…his business card has a watermark!”

    best christian bale role ever.

  23. nycmom10024 says:

    Not sure if links are ok, but everytime someone ask why American Psycho I always direct them to this picture on IMDB. It is picture 280 of 288. It always takes me to another place…

  24. Cletus says:

    @nycmom- a happy, magical place. Thanks.

  25. Dorothy says:

    I think i am the only person alive who still likes Tom Cruise!!!

  26. Tess says:

    NOT a good day for Cruise. First Balki, then Bale.

    Bale’s very very good, in my book. He carried Spielberg’s “Empire of the Sun” and he was just a kid when that was filmed.

    And love the film or hate it, his performance in “Am Psycho” memorable.

  27. Kathie says:

    I just thought he was channeling his inner Christian about weird, I’ll just bet that guy has kinks no one wants to examine in daylight euuuwwww!

  28. nikki says:

    @dorothy:i like Tom Cruise,i saw all his movies but he’s really so fake….as if he acts every time!

  29. Mel says:

    I’m proud to say I never was a fan of Tom Cruise from day one. From the moment I saw Risky Business, I hated his fake smile, nasally voice and hollow talent. There was and continues to be nothing real about him. Imagine women going crazy for this guy? Including a teenage Katy Holmes. I just didn’t see the appeal.

  30. Ally says:

    Wow, finally a reason to watch the movie. (I’ll still fast-forward through the gory bits with my eyes closed.)

    “artsy violence pr0n” – ditto, amen, I mean seriously what is it with so much of this crap in American cinema, side-by-side with squeamishness about consensual s3x? Disturbing.

  31. birdie says:

    I bet Tom Cruise can get a table at Dorsia.

  32. birdie says:

    I have all the characteristics of a human being: blood, flesh, skin, hair; but not a single, clear, identifiable emotion, except for greed and disgust. Something horrible is happening inside of me and I don’t know why. My nightly bloodlust has overflown into my days. I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip.

    …..Matt, you are so glib!

  33. Firestarter says:

    Regarding American Psycho, the movie was good, but OMG, the book was sooooo much better. I have to say when I saw the movie after reading the book first, I was a little disappointed.

    And yes, I can totally see where Tom Cruise is in that character.

  34. Mairead says:

    So, are we allowed to like Christian Bale in public again? 😈

    @Firestarter, with the exception of High Fidelity, I always find it safest to watch the film before reading the book if at all possible.

  35. bitbrit says:

    hahaha… my boyfriend has always said he thinks tom cruise was a psycho!

  36. Lem says:

    high fidelity was a book?

  37. snowball says:

    I loved American Psycho! Bale absolutely nailed that whole empty eyes, manic, self-obsessed character. Props to him for already getting that Tom Cruise was borderline insane.

    I saw the movie first, then bought the book. It’s true the book is better, but after watching Bale, I couldn’t imagine anyone better to play Bateman. And AP is one of only a dozen or so books I have that I love re-reading, even if the author is a skeezebag.

  38. crash2GO2 says:

    Wow, I think this is almost the only post everybody is almost unanimous on.

    I thought Christian Bale was scary good in Empire of the Sun as well. Being as he was only a kid, I wasn’t sure if it was a fluke or not. I’m glad to see it wasn’t.

  39. Firestarter says:

    @Mairead- Yes, that is a good piece of advice. because you won’t be too disappointed with the movie.

    I ,however, read American Psycho the minute it came off the presses years ago. I have a fascination with Serial Killers, I know, strange, but true , and had heard a great deal about the book before it hit the bookstores. The day it was released I ran and bought it, and read it that night.

  40. Environ says:

    Lem: high fidelity was a book?
    Yep, it’s exactly like the movie except, instead of Chicago it’s set in London. Also all of the music mentioned in the book is Motown/pop, where all of the music in the movie is indie/alt/rock. Although it’s a preference, I thought the movie’s music is superior. I actually squirmed at some of the awful music mentioned in the book.

  41. Jenna says:

    I really enjoyed this movie and getting to see Bale almost nude made my night when I watched it. 😀

  42. gee_gee says:

    I have never liked Christian Bale until now. I’m sold! This totally makes sense to me. I hate Tom Cruise. And I hated Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. Now I know why. So was Bale channelling Cruise during his famous tirade last year also?

  43. Bodhi says:

    Ditto Mel!! And thanks Sumodo! She is my sweetest little pea!

  44. True says:

    Tom Cruise grew up with all sisters and a single mom. He’s treats people with kindness and respect. There have been no cases of him ever hitting a woman or anything violent really. All these clips came AFTER American Psycho was released. There’s no merit to this claim unless you give the actual interview that must of happened before the release of American Psycho. I acknowledge that he can be unusual at times but to call him the inspiration for a serial killer is ridiculous.

    There’s a clip on youtube, where Cruise gets squirted with water. He’s shows emotion there, so he is a human.

  45. Madchen says:

    “He had this intense friendliness with nothing behind his eyes.”

    What a perfect description for Xenu’s No. 1 Boy.

  46. Dayum! says:

    That was the best thing I read all week, as well as giving me my Halloween costume.

  47. Dayum! says:

    oops,almost forgot:

    This movie just made Bale 1000x hotter! I like my men a little bit nuts! 😀

  48. GatsbyGal says:

    Intense friendliness with nothing behind the eyes, haha, that’s Tom Cruise to a T. How awesome is this story? Sometimes I really love the world.

  49. Bambi says:

    I’m surprised that some people were able to “re-read” American Psycho! I also liked Ellis’ writing, but American Psycho is without a doubt the only book I’ve read that has made me physically nauseous. ::shudder:: Even the man who sold me the book warned me about it.

    Tom Cruise is the perfect model for the Bateman character and fittingly enough, he rose to fame in the Eighties. Never cared for Tom Cruise myself although it was only in recent years that I started thinking about why.

  50. hmm says:

    I wonder who he used for inspiration when he attacked that guy on the set of his movie.
    And True, you said it. There have never been reports of Tom Cruise being anything but professional and nice to everyone he has worked with but now it’s become cool to dump on him.

  51. Praise St. Angie! says:

    Abusers often appear to be “professional and nice” to the outside world.

    until the news gets out (a la Chris Brown/Rihanna).

    sort of like the neighbors of serial killers who have “no IDEA!” that the guy next door to them was cutting people up and eating them.

  52. Bobby the K says:


    It would be easy to say he took inspiration from cruise after cruise displayed all the nutty behaviour.

    But i wonder if he would have said that at the time.

  53. Maritza says:

    I’d like to hear Tom Cruise’s opinion about the matter.

  54. Whitey Fisk says:

    Fantastic story, Kaiser!

  55. Whitey Fisk says:

    P.S. The split screen header pic is priceless.

  56. nycmom10024 says:

    Just thinking I wonder how Bale feels now that his former director has made this public knowledge? Since it is something he has never shared all these years, he may not be all that pleased.

    Empire of the Sun is also one of my favorite movies. That last scene always brings me to tears. I remember feeling a little bit dirty when I first realized the hot (to me) Christian Bale was the boy in Empire of the Sun.

  57. Divorcee says:

    Christian Bale is not only an outstanding actor but he saw right through Tom Cruise who he never met, that guy is awesome, loved him in Equilibrium, he truely is the ultimate action hero in my opinion. I’m sold, I have to buy me a copy of ‘American Psycho’ I have to see the Tom Cruise he sees.

  58. Ben says:

    hehehe.. lol
    fun fact..
    Tom psycho cruise..