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The Actor Who Inspired Christian Bale's American Psycho Performance Isn't Who You Think

Christian Bale's performance as Patrick Bateman in 2000's American Psycho is one of the most celebrated roles of his career, if not of any actor's career in recent memory. It's not easy to portray a mentally unhinged serial killer who hides his true self behind a mask of yuppie materialism (assuming he isn't an unreliable narrator like Joaquin Phoenix' Joker, depending on your theory about the film's bizarre ending). And yet according to reviews, Bale knocked it out of the park. Looking back, American Psycho was the role that cemented Bale's reputation as in intense, serious performer — before that, he was mostly known for being the kid in 1987's Empire of the Sun — and the disturbing character he put onscreen is hard to forget. 

However, even though American Psycho is over two decades old, some mysteries have remained after the credits rolled. Even aside from the ending, it's worth asking — how did Bale pull off such a masterful performance? While the movie is designed to keep you guessing, and almost every scene is open to interpretation, Bale's acting talents are clear as day. He is a method actor, as well, so his muses don't spawn out of the aether. Every role begins with an influence, which means Bale had to receive the headspace blueprint he needed, in order to step into the mind of an American psycho, from ... somewhere.

Funnily enough, it turns out that Bale was inspired by a fellow actor, and you will never guess who.

To create Patrick Bateman, Christian Bale found his inner Tom Cruise

One of the keys to any good movie role is body language. If an actor is expected to portray a psychopath, they can't just sound psychotic: they also have to look psychotic. Christian Bale worked long and hard with American Psycho's director Mary Harron to nail the character of Patrick Bateman, but apparently all he needed was an epiphany. And Tom Cruise.

During an interview with Black Book Magazine, Harron revealed that she spent a lot of time on the phone, talking to Bale about how he could step into Bateman's expensive shoes. In these conversations, she described the character as "Martian-like," and that he "[looked] at the world like somebody from another planet." 

But one day, Bale called her and said that, finally, he got it: while observing Tom Cruise being interviewed by David Letterman, Bale noted that the Mission: Impossible star had what he described as "this very intense friendliness with nothing behind the eyes." Bale decided that replicating this would be the perfect approach to Patrick Bateman, or as Harron put it, "he was really taken with this energy."

Regardless of your opinion regarding Bale's analysis of Cruise, it proved beneficial, since he used it as the basis for his Bateman acting — a man whose eyes and mouth convey two distinct personalities. And you can't argue against the results, considering the awards (and acclaim) he's received ever since.