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Wednesday, May 16, 2001

Psycho killer, qu'est-ce que c'est?

Actor Christian Bale probably has more fans in Tokyo than at home in the U.K., given the splash that "Velvet Goldmine" had in this "visual-kei" obsessed town. Fans of the fey beautiful boy Bale played in that film, though, may be surprised to see him pumped up and wielding a mean chain saw in "American Psycho." In town to promote the film, Bale talked about his experience of playing modern literature's most notorious killer.

On his attraction to the film:

When I called Mary Harron, I just opened the conversation by saying, "Look Mary, I find this script is one of the funniest scripts that I've ever read. So should we stop talking immediately?" To which she said, no, that's the whole point. She feels that's what most people miss about the book.

It was the wit of the piece and the comedy of manners, really, that Mary focused on. For me, personally, it was unlike any character that I've ever played or probably will ever play. It was a perfect opportunity for me to distance myself from a number of nice-guy costume-drama roles that I have done -- in very good movies, that I liked, such as "Little Women" and "Portrait of a Lady." But this was an opportunity for me as an actor to surprise myself and everybody else. It was ideal, really, so I jumped at the chance. I was also attracted by everybody telling me it would be career suicide for me to play the part.

On the film:

I think the initial misunderstanding that people had about Patrick Bateman was that he was the centerpiece of a story just about a serial killer. To me it was almost irrelevant that he was a serial killer. It's a ridiculous exaggeration of the '80s greed-is-good mentality and of this young man -- 26 years old, endless amounts of money, privilege, a so-called Master of the Universe -- being able to get away with anything because he was essentially American aristocracy. It was really a comment about capitalism at its worst, and that era where image meant everything.

On playing Bateman:

I think I enjoyed playing Patrick Bateman probably more so than any character I've ever played. A lot of people thought that it might leave some sort of dark residue on my soul, from playing such a twisted character. The approach to the movie, though, was not one of realism: It's a kind of heightened reality. I think we trod a fine line of not making it too much of a caricature, but also recognizing that the characters in this movie are incredibly superficial. Whilst Patrick Bateman himself performs in everyday life, when he puts on his designer suit and shows his business card, it's all a performance just like an actor. So I allowed myself to perform much more in this movie.

On getting into the part:

The most research and preparation I had to do was physical, [since] the character is so vain and obsessed with his looks. Being English, I tend to enjoy going down to the pub far more than going to the gym, so it was very unnatural for me. I just had to convince myself that I loved it, which was the most difficult thing about playing this part. Working out is incredibly boring. I swear it's true that the bigger your muscles get, the fewer brain cells you have. I found that I had to stop thinking when I was in the gym, because if I thought about it, I'd realize how ridiculous it was.

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