Christian Bale Barely Got Paid For His Best Role

Christian Bale was paid the legal minimum possible to star in American Psycho.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

Christian Bale is one of the biggest stars in the world these days, with equal amounts commercial appeal due to his roles as Batman and Gorr the God-Butcher and critical acclaim for American Hustle and The Fighter. However, that was not always the case, despite the fact that he has been acting in Hollywood since he was a child. According to a new interview in GQ, at one point Christian Bale was such a decidedly minor figure that he was paid the bare legal minimum to star as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho

christian bale

Christian Bale portrayed yuppie serial killer Patrick Bateman in the 2000 adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s controversial novel American Psycho, directed by Mary Harron, who co-wrote the screenplay with Guinevere Turner (who also appears in the movie). Christian Bale was acclaimed for his portrayal of the seemingly soulless and malevolent, yet strangely pathetic Bateman, but according to him, he was paid less than the makeup artists.

Christian Bale says:

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.

Christian Bale goes on to say that, at the time, the house that he shared with his father, entrepreneur David Bale, and his sister, Sharon, was in danger of being repossessed and he basically was determined to not let that happen. He also points out that he has been supporting his family since he was thirteen and was cast as the lead of Steven Spielberg’s 1987 World War II drama Empire of the Sun. However, by 2000, Christian Bale was still a comparatively unknown actor and apparently paid as such even as the lead of a film. 

However, it is worth noting that American Psycho director Mary Harron was determined to cast him, and in Christian Bale’s words, “Nobody wanted me to do it except the director. So they said they would only make it if they could pay me that amount.” Basically, him earning anything at all for the film was contingent on him earning as little as (presumably) the Screen Actors Guild would allow. 

Prior to Christian Bale being cast in American Psycho, Lions Gate Films heavily pushed for Leonardo DiCaprio for the role, even being willing to pay DiCaprio more than three times that film’s entire $6 million budget. However, Mary Harron was firmly against the casting, in part because of Leonardo DiCaprio’s star status after the enormous success of Titanic in 1997 and she felt he was too “boyish.” For his part, Christian Bale claims that essentially all roles in Hollywood are offered to DiCaprio before anyone else and applauds him for it.

American Psycho did moderately well at the box office, grossing $34 million on its small budget. It received mixed reviews, with critics both praising its acidic, violent satire of yuppie culture and consumerism and fretting that it somehow supported it. However, Christian Bale was roundly applauded for the part, which has now come to be considered one of the finest performances in his entire career. Hopefully, now that he has that Dark Knight money, the paycheck stings a little bit less.