Bale’s iconic role as yuppie-turned-serial-killer Patrick Bateman came to be only due to director Mary Harron’s vision for Bale in the role — after Leonardo DiCaprio turned it down.
“Nobody wanted me to do it except the director. So they said they would only make it if they could pay me that amount,” Bale said in a GQ cover story. “I was prepping for it when other people were playing the part. I was still prepping for it. And, you know, it moved on. I lost my mind. But I won it back.”
Bale continued, “In honesty, the first thing was that I’d taken so long trying to do it, and they had paid me the absolute minimum they were legally allowed to pay me. And I had a house that I was sharing with my dad and my sister and that was getting repossessed. So the first thing was, ‘Holy crap. I’ve got to get a bit of money,’ because I’ve got ‘American Psycho’ done, but 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. And so that was my motivation after that, was just, ‘I got to get enough that the house doesn’t get repossessed.'”
Bale joked that many rising stars from the 1990s and early 2000s have DiCaprio to thank for their respective careers, as the “Titanic” actor was originally eyed for Bateman in “American Psycho.”
“It’s not just me. Look, to this day, any role that anybody gets, it’s only because [Leo] passed on it beforehand,” Bale said. “It doesn’t matter what anyone tells you. It doesn’t matter how friendly you are with the directors. All those people that I’ve worked with multiple times, they all offered every one of those roles to him first. Right? I had one of those people actually tell me that. So, thank you, Leo, because literally, he gets to choose everything he does. And good for him, he’s phenomenal.”
The “Amsterdam” actor and four-time Academy Award nominee said, “Do you know how grateful I am to get any damn thing? I mean, I can’t do what he does. I wouldn’t want the exposure that he has either. And he does it magnificently. But I would suspect that almost everybody of similar age to him in Hollywood owes their careers to him passing on whatever project it is.”
In fact, it was actually Bale’s stepmother Gloria Steinem (prior to her marrying Bale’s father in September 2000) who allegedly encouraged DiCaprio to turn down “American Psycho.” The film’s co-writer Guinevere Turner revealed during an oral history for the 20th anniversary of the feature that Steinem said DiCaprio should not follow up his “Titanic” heartthrob role for a film that has “horrible violence toward women.”