Christian Bale Got His Best Role By Warning Off Ewan McGregor

Christian Bale warned both Ewan McGregor and Leonardo DiCaprio not to take the part of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.

By Matthew Creith | Published

In the lengthy career of Christian Bale’s work on films, many of the English method actor’s projects stand out as remarkable performances that many actors dream of one day achieving. His true breakout role as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho alongside Reese Witherspoon and Jared Leto is considered his best role to date by many moviegoers, as the 2000 film based on Bret Easton Ellis’s novel of the same name is still highly regarded two decades after its release in theaters. However, it appears that other actors were up for the role that Christian Bale eventually played, including Ewan McGregor and Leonardo DiCaprio, two performers that Bale apparently warned not to take the part.

According to an interview that Christian Bale gave to GQ, the Batman Begins actor confirmed that while Ewan McGregor and Leonardo DiCaprio were both offered the part of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, Bale convinced producers and those involved with making casting decisions that he was the only man for the job. Speaking candidly during the interview, Bale notes that he called several high-profile individuals up and detailed his commitment to the part in an effort to scare them off from taking on the project while simultaneously reflecting on how much he was still preparing for the role physically. Specifically, Bale stated to some of them, “Don’t touch. Step away. Or if you’re not going to step away, understand what you’re up against.”

christian bale american psycho

As much as Christian Bale’s demands to producers and other actors like Ewan McGregor and Leonardo DiCaprio were at the time of casting decisions on American Psycho, it seemed that his plan of intimidation and dedication to his acting craft worked in his favor. Bale would go on to play Patrick Bateman in what became a role marketed to international audiences, giving the performer a wider legion of fans that preceded his work for David O. Russell as well as Christopher Nolan and their Batman trilogy. However, the character of Patrick Bateman is not often an easy one for some audiences to digest, as the character transitions from a successful investment banker into a serial killer in the 1980s, but Bale seemed to make the transformation believable to audiences in the long run.

Directed by Mary Harron who co-wrote the script with Guinevere Turner, American Psycho proved to be a financial success and developed a cult following since it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2000, much to the probable chagrin of Ewan McGregor and the other actors that didn’t accept the lead role. The film went on to gross over $34 million at the box office against a budget of $7 million, spawning a direct-to-video sequel starring a young Mila Kunis. American Psycho was well-received by critics and audiences at the time as well, as Rotten Tomatoes currently ranks the film with 69% on its Tomatometer based on 150 critics’ reviews and an Audience Score of 85% based on over 250,000 ratings from users to the site.

But fear not for many of the actors that Christian Bale seemed to scare off from playing Patrick Bateman, as the careers of some like Ewan McGregor and Leonardo DiCaprio have flourished in the years since American Psycho was released. McGregor specifically was filming Moulin Rouge for director Baz Luhrmann at the time while also entrenched in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, portraying the role of young Obi-Wan Kenobi which he has since reprised for Disney+. As for DiCaprio, the megawatt movie star has been the lead in various films for high-profile directors, including Martin Scorsese’s Gang of New York, The Departed, Shutter Island, and The Wolf of Wall Street.

However, American Psycho will always belong to Christian Bale as he apparently convinced other actors like Ewan McGregor to back down and let him have the role of Patrick Bateman. Costarring Willem Dafoe, Josh Lucas, Samantha Mathis, Matt Ross, Chloe Sevigny, Justin Theroux, and the aforementioned Reese Witherspoon and Jared Leto, the film is currently available to stream on HBO Max for anyone up for revisiting the black comedy. American Psycho helped propel Christian Bale into a well-established acting career that has seen him become an Academy Award winner for movies like The Fighter, as well as headlining David O. Russell’s upcoming epic Amsterdam, costarring Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Chris Rock, and Anya Taylor-Joy.