American Psycho: how Tom Cruise inspired Christian Bale’s performance

Tom Cruise was the perfect inspiration for Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman performance in American Psycho, and it’s even more meaningful because of a shared connection between the movie, Patrick Bateman, and the Mission: Impossible series actor. American Psycho is a film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ 1991 novel of the same name. While American Psycho has always been a cult classic, it has been especially popular in recent years thanks to its vast treasure trove of meme-worthy content. A lot of the credit for that has to go to Christian Bale and his iconic performance as Patrick Bateman.

Patrick Bateman is a Wall Street investment banker who invests a lot in being young, handsome, and fit. The Upper West Side resident obsesses over modern trends in art and music, and he is known for his sweaty passion for Paul Allen’s business card, melancholy thoughts about Whitney Houston’s debut LP, and a propensity for having to “return some videotapes.” However, he is also notorious for being a serial killer, although American Psycho‘s ending is noncommittal about what Patrick Bateman actually did versus what he fantasized.

Regardless, Patrick Bateman’s journey in American Psycho is remarkable thanks to Christian Bale’s performance. According to American Psycho co-writer and director Mary Harron, Christian Bale saw Tom Cruise on David Letterman’s show and observed how “[Tom Cruise] just had this very intense friendliness with nothing behind the eyes.” Christian Bale drew inspiration from that interview, and his ensuing performance as Patrick Bateman would prove to be vital in highlighting American Psycho‘s running theme of identity.

Why Christian Bale’s Tom Cruise Inspiration Was Perfect For American Psycho

Identity is a key theme in American Psycho. There are even instances of literal mistaken identity, like Paul Allen confusing Patrick Bateman with Marcus Halberstram. However, the protagonist with “killer looks” struggles with self-identity as Bateman consciously recognizes he’s not all there. Christian Bale leverages the power of deceptive appearances by letting Bateman’s exterior façade crack almost imperceptibly during certain moments; when he runs into an acquaintance at the dry cleaners, his face is pleasant during the interaction but turns into pure hatred when he goes through the door and looks back for half a second. Christian Bale’s American Psycho performance is remembered mostly for the kinetic moments, but it’s those kinds of little details that make Bale’s performance so great and the onscreen Patrick Bateman so terrifying. It’s this duplicity, as identified and suggested by Bale on the part of Cruise in the Letterman interview, that made the Mission: Impossible actor an interesting inspiration.

Of course, there is nothing to suggest that Cruise has ever experienced anything close to Bateman’s extreme psychological problems. However, there remains a surprising and intriguing connection between the two that goes beyond Bale’s comments. In the American Psycho source material, Bateman actually shares an apartment block with Cruise, inviting a direct comparison between the fictional and non-fictional figures, even before Bale used Cruise to inspire his own performance. This complex relationship further ties into American Psycho’s theme of identity in a way that perhaps not even Bret Easton Ellis could have known when he made Patrick Bateman and Tom Cruise neighbors in his novel nine years before the film adaptation.