American Psycho | 2000
Bret Easton Ellis’ notorious Eighties-set slasher satire gets a stylish and ambiguous treatment from director Mary Harron.
It's set in New York, but if you’re looking to follow the ultimate yuppie narcissist Patrick Bateman on a tour of Manhattan’s chi-chi nitespots, you’re in for a disappointment.
The movie was shot almost entirely in Toronto, Ontario, with the real New York featured only in a sprinkling of establishing shots, and the address of Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), 11th Floor of the "American Gardens Building on West 81st Street' is fictitious.
The office of ‘Pierce & Pierce’, supposedly '358 Exchange Place', where Bateman works in ‘mergers and acquisitions’ (or, according to everybody's expensive but badly proofed business cards, "Mergers and Aquisitions') is the Toronto-Dominion Bank Tower, 66 Wellington Street West, part of the Dominion Centre, a couple of blocks north of Union Station, Downtown.
This is a reasonable enough substitute for Manhattan, since the complex was designed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, responsible for New York’s iconic Seagram Building.
The ATM from which Bateman withdraws cash is one of the few shots of the real New York, though the money dispenser itself is a film prop added alongside the door of of the Arader Gallery, 1016 Madison Avenue at East 78th Street on the East Side.
We're immediately back in Toronto for the dry cleaners where Bateman explodes with fury at their inability to deal with – um – 'cranberry juice' stains on his expensive sheets. You can see the distinctive arched frontage of Valet Cleaners at 38 Church Street, just north of Wellington Street East.
When Bateman fails to get a table at the fabled ‘Dorsia’ (this restaurant was no more than the invention of author Bret Easton Ellis), he takes the whacked-out Courtney (Samantha Mathis) to ‘Barcadia’ instead.
It’s not only Courtney who’s being fobbed off. The slightly kitschy Pacific Rim restaurant was actually Monsoon, 100 Simcoe Street at Adelaide Street West in Toronto. The premises now houses Michael's On Simcoe steak house. In fact, since many of the bars and restaurants were necessarily cutting-edge, it's not surprising that since 2000, several have closed or moved on.
There's another glimpse of New York as Bateman leaves his place of work, walking past the statue of George Washington in front of Federal Hall, Wall Street at Nassau Street in the Financial District. You'll recognise this as the spot where Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg) donated four million dollars to “a bunch o'nuns” in 1990's Ghost.
Bateman tries, and fails, to impress Paul Allen (Jared Leto) by getting a seat at the near-empty ‘Texarkana’. The wood-beamed, Western-themed restaurant was Montana, which stood at 145 John Street at Richmond Street West. It’s now part of The Ballroom, a bowling alley-leisure-bar complex.
There's a quick Second Unit shot of the exterior of Paul Allen's apartment block – which Bateman enviously notes has a park view – which is 2 East 88th Street at Fifth Avenue, alongside the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan.
The comfortable-looking gentlemen’s club, where Bateman’s quote from Ed Gein goes unrecognised (“Isn’t he maitre d’ at Canal Bar?”), and Luis Carruthers (Matt Ross) comes close to extinction when he flashes his unmatchable new business card, is the Consort Bar of the prestigious 1903 Omni King Edward Hotel, 37 King Street East. This elegant bar has barely changed, apart from being dominated by a huge portrait of Queen Alexandra (wife of King Edward VII, and hence Consort).
Serial killer aficionados will recognise that the quote attributed to the notorious Ed Gein (inspiration for both Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) was actually from the slightly less-famous 'Co-ed Killer' Ed Kemper.
Up toward Cabbagetown is the Phoenix Concert Theatre, 410 Sherbourne Street, now a nightclub and live music venue, which was used as the ‘Studio 54’-style dance club, where the none-too-bright yuppies consider, between nosefuls of coke, whether dyslexia may be caused by a virus.
‘Smith and Wollensky’ is a real enough New York restaurant – you can see it on-screen in The Devil Wears Prada, but the restaurant where Bateman squirms through an edgy lunch with Det Kimball (Willem Dafoe) was Toronto's Savoy Restaurant. This is now virtually unrecognisable after being converted into Jazz Bistro, 251 Victoria Street, off Dundas Street West, almost facing the Ed Mirvish Theatre.
Shark City seems the perfect name for one of the film’s locations. It’s closed now, but it was used as the restaurant in which Bateman’s girlfriend Evelyn (Reese Witherspoon) doesn’t notice he’s doodling chainsaws and hookers on the napkin, or realise how lucky she is he’s breaking up with her. It stood at 117 Eglinton Avenue East, a couple of miles north of downtown Toronto in Mt Pleasant West. There's no trace of it today.
Probably the longest sequence filmed in New York is that of Bateman trying to obey the ATM's mysterious command 'Feed me a stray cat'. The little covered arcade runs along the north side of Rector Street, between Trinity Place and Greenwich Street, just west of Wall Street and Federal Hall.
When his shooting of a woman, who has the temerity to question his treatment of a kitten, attracts the attention of a passing police car, Bateman sprints off past Rector Street Station north up Greenwich Street to... Toronto.
The subsequent shoot-out with the police was filmed on Pearl Street between Simcoe and Duncan Streets, just around the corner from Monsoon / Michael's On Simcoe. There's another hint that what we're seeing might not be literal truth when even Bateman seems surprised that his gunshots can blow up the cop car in a spectacular ball of fire.
Rattled, Bateman races back to the security of his office at the Dominion Centre, where there's a dark little joke about Rohe's two original high-rise towers appearing identical – resulting in the casual death of an unfortunate security guard in the wrong building.
Finally locating the correct office, Bateman phones his lawyer and leaves a frantic phone message confessing everything and offering to meet the following day in 'Harry's Bar'.
This upscale bar, where the final scene takes an unnerving twist as Bateman is denied either justice or catharsis, was the upper crust Boston Club. It's changed little over the years, though is now Biff's Bistro, 4 Front Street East, a block south of the Omni King Edward Hotel.