Is Patrick Bateman Based on a Real Serial Killer?

The 2000 crime thriller ‘American Psycho’ revolves around the life of a Wall Street investment banker named Patrick Bateman, whose internal demons manifest in an uncontrollable bloodlust that he indulges in through a series of brutal murders. As Bateman’s superficial life takes a stranglehold over his psyche, his sanity starts unraveling in a chaotic manner akin to a dam breaking. Drowning in a sea of excess and the facade he has built for himself, his true self emerges over the course of the narrative, offering a glimpse into his terrifying hobbies and the empty shell he inhabits. The layered complexities lurking underneath his skin are authentically portrayed starkly and bleakly, prompting inquiry about his origins!

Bret Easton Ellis Created Patrick Bateman Inspired by His Lifestyle

Patrick Bateman in ‘American Psycho’ is a fictional serial killer without any real-life counterparts. He was conceived by Bret Easton Ellis, the writer behind the novel of the same name, which serves as the source material of the film. Bateman is an out-of-control, unhinged man whose vacuous existence as a member of the Wall Street fraternity has led to deep-seated psychotic tendencies, which compel him to murder people with no just cause. The investment banker is bubble-wrapped in a world of fakeness that has trapped him in its grip and continues to seep its way into his psyche like a poison. As a result of these untreated mental issues and an overall unempathetic demeanor, Bateman engages in the act of serial killing with increasing passion as the story progresses.

Even though Bateman is a fictional character and his crimes never happened in reality, Ellis was inspired by his own life at the time he wrote the novel to craft the character’s internal demons and rage. Initially, he conceived the character by integrating several facets of his father, with whom he had a difficult relationship, into the former. However, in an interview, he clarified that Bateman was mostly based on him. “My father a little bit, but I was living that lifestyle. My father wasn’t in New York the same age as Patrick Bateman, living in the same building, going to the same places that Patrick Bateman was going to – I was, I was doing all of that stuff,” the author said about the similarity between him and his protagonist.

Ellis was deeply dissatisfied with his lifestyle and the emptiness of a materialistic outlook that had become pervasive in his world. These ideas crystallized in Bateman’s character, who is raging against the system but not in a healthy way. Instead, he digs himself deeper into a hole as the narrative progresses. “The impetus to write that book came out of my lifestyle, and how unhappy it made me, and how the idea of becoming an adult seemed frustrating, absurd, disgusting, and I was kind of enraged, and that’s how American Psycho started, that was the genesis of it,” the writer added.

Although not directly linked to any real people, Bateman is a complex amalgamation of several influences. His serial killing spree is not real, but his psyche, empty lifestyle, and raging frustration can be traced back to people who existed or exist, making him a prescient exploration of those who cherish an opulent lifestyle and inflict their pain upon others without any good reason.

The Inspirations Behind Christian Bale’s Interpretation of Patrick Bateman

While preparing for the role, Christian Bale, who plays Patrick Bateman, looked at interviews with Tom Cruise as a means of inhabiting the emptiness pervading the protagonist’s life. He was inspired in particular by one conversation Cruise had with David Letterman on ‘Late Night with David Letterman,’ during which the actor displayed a lack of emotion in his eyes while engaging with the host in a friendly and jovial manner. The film’s director, Mary Harron, said in an interview, “One day he [Christian Bale] called me, and he had been watching Tom Cruise on David Letterman, and he just had this very intense friendliness with nothing behind the eyes, and he was really taken with this energy.”

Patrick embodies a blend of coldness and overexuberance at the same time, a curious mix of qualities that make him an odd personality type. According to Harron, the protagonist was “Martian-like” and “looking at the world like somebody from another planet, watching what people did and trying to work out the right way to behave.” Rather than comfortably inhabiting his own skin, he is uptight and rigid in his positioning in social situations. Often, he seems so enthusiastic about fitting in that he can vanish into the background where his colleagues constantly mistake him for someone else. This results in a tendency to murder with reckless abandon, something that takes over his senses in a primal manner.

Read more: American Psycho Ending, Explained