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20 years of American Psycho: why the film could have been completely different

What if the famous thriller had been directed by Oliver Stone, with Leonardo DiCaprio in the role of Patrick Bateman?

American Psycho celebrates its 20th anniversary. In a river interview for vulnerability, Mary Harronthe director, returned to the genesis of the crazy thriller which took off the career of Christian Bale. If the film is almost as cult today as the book by Bret Easton Ellis, yet it could have been quite different. Disagreements with the production about the title role, change of director along the way: the filmmaker had to go out of his way to impose his vision of the adaptation of the novel and remain in control of the project which, there is twenty years, was deemed far too subversive.

Nothing was simple, therefore, starting with the casting. If Christian Bale is obvious today in the role of the sadist Patrick Bateman, the director remembers that he was not to the taste of the production, which preferred another rising star of the cinema industry to him. She, however, only had Bale in mind. “I had been talking to Christian about the role for ages. We got along very well, we had the same vision of the character, she remembers. I had already met other actors, but no one was suitable for the role. Until him. He flew to New York and auditioned in my living room. He had trouble with the accent because he had just filmed Velvet Goldmine, where he took the Manchester accent. But the way he was talking about the role…He understood it.” Mary Harron recalls considering for a time hiring Billy Crudup (spotlight) for the role, but the actor was a little too reluctant.

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One day, she receives a call from the producers. “They said, ‘Are you seated? Leonardo DiCaprio wants to play the role and they want to pay it 20 million dollars, but your budget (For the movie) will remain 6 million.’ And I was like, ‘That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.'”, she says. In addition to being impossible to finance, the filmmaker did not see the star at all, who had just exploded in titanic, in the shoes of a sadistic pervert like Bateman. “It didn’t fit at allshe continues. And then, having a young star who is the idol of millions of teenage girls? It’s shooting yourself in the foot. I wouldn’t have been able to make the movie the way I wanted because everyone would have been freaked out.”

But the producers insist and ask Mary Harron to meet the actor. Nothing to do, the director refuses. “What I didn’t realize at the time, in my naivety, was that the producers had already decided to get rid of me. Because DiCaprio wanted a big-name director behind the camera. He had a little list with the names of Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese written on it.” It is then replaced by Oliver Stonewho had made born killers a few years earlier with Juliette Lewis and Woody Harrelson, and learns in the wake that it is said that it was she who made the decision to let go of the director’s chair. “The producers said I left the project because I didn’t want to make a big budget movie. And I found that so insulting because it implied that managing so much money scared me. So I insisted that no, I didn’t resign, but I was fired.”

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At this stage, Oliver Stone is therefore in charge of the adaptation of the work of Bret Easton Ellis and Leonardo DiCaprio is about to slip into the skin of the psychopathic golden boy. However, everything goes wrong. The screenplay is struggling to be rewritten. Stone leans towards a less subversive adaptation, in the vein of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, where Bateman would no longer be just a fundamentally evil serial killer, but would have some goodness hidden inside of him. Eventually, DiCaprio dropped the project after being contacted by Danny Boyle to hold the title role of his next huge hit, The beach. His departure is followed by that of Oliver Stone. “When it all fell apart and they didn’t have anyone to lead, they were like, ‘Oh, it would be easier to rehire Mary’.”remembers the director.

However, all is not won. If the production puts the film in the hands of Mary Harron, the producers still refuse to hire Christian Bale, not well known enough for their taste. “They absolutely wanted a big starshe recalls. So I went to five or six actors who I was sure would say no.”. Harron first offered the role to Matt Damon then to his sidekick Ben Affleck. Both refuse almost immediately. Ewan McGregor also refuses. “I was talking with Christian during all this, he was pissed that I was offering the role to these other actors. I was like, ‘No! They will say no, you have to be patient. I would have been screwed if they had said yes.” Mary Harron says Christian Bale wanted the role so badly that he called McGregor to ask him not to accept the offer. Finally, producers are turning to Vince Vaughn and Edward Norton. “Ed Norton was the only one who worried meshe says. I had already thought of him and the producers said they would finance the film immediately if he accepted the role.” But he also refuses.

Finally, the role goes to Christian Bale, who will be paid 50,000 dollars by Lionsgate, responsible for distributing the feature film. “At this point, we had already cast Willem Dafoe, Reese Witherspoon, Jared Leto and Chloë Sevigny.”, remembers the director. Proof that she was right to trust her instincts, the film, despite a rather mixed reception by critics upon its release, will bring in 34.3 million dollars at the worldwide box office for a budget of 7 million.

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