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Upon its debut, both as a novel by Bret Easton Ellis in 1991 and as director Mary Harron’s sophomore directorial effort in 2000, American Psycho has always been a lightning rod of controversy. But the true mark of the film’s legacy is the fact that, upon his initial viewing of it, the film turned Kevin Smith off so much he actually canceled dinner with the film’s co-writer, Guinevere Turner.
When interviewed for a recent oral history on American Psycho’s production, put together by MovieMaker, Guinevere Turner recounted that happening, as well as an interesting follow-up, in a rather musing story:
I was supposed to have dinner that night with Kevin Smith. And I was listening to a message from him—he’d gone to the screening—and he said, ‘I don’t feel well, I’m not going to be able to make dinner.’ And I was like, oh, that’s weird. And years later he told me, ‘I hated that movie so much that I couldn’t have dinner with you. I didn’t know what I was going to say. And then I saw it on cable and I realized it’s actually genius.
Just to cement the novelty of this story, Kevin Smith, the man who even in that early era was famous for controversial, edgy humor, hated American Psycho. It’s not that surprising, as when the film was first released, audiences at large really didn’t get the darkly humorous tone that was baked in the story from its inception.
Much like the audience that eventually found American Psycho to be an edgy satire in its own right, all it took was another viewing of the film to convince Smith that the film was so firm in its execution that it was actually a confident comedy. Which, as Guinevere Turner said, lead to a long overdue apology by Kevin Smith further down the line.
One person that did seem to get what American Psycho was going for was its star, former Bateman turned Batman Christian Bale. In the same oral history that contained Turner’s anecdote about her eventual apology from Smith, Bale admitted that his hiring for the role that almost went to the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt hinged on his understanding of the film’s comedic tone. Once Bale had confirmed with director Mary Harron that his explosive laughter while reading Guinevere Turner’s script was well placed, the rest was celebrity inspired history.
It’s amazing to see where people’s personal limits end up taking them in terms of what they like and don’t like. So reading that initially even Kevin Smith didn’t know how to read American Psycho should make anyone who was initially disgusted by the film, but came around to its side of things in the end, a little more comfortable with their sense of humor. If only we had a time machine to travel back to 1994, and see how Bret Easton Ellis felt about Smith’s classic debut film, Clerks, before it took off.
American Psycho is available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD, as well as Digital HD; but if you’ve got a Netflix account, this indie classic is also available on their streaming library. Copy of Huey Lewis and The News’ “Fore!” not included.