"American Psycho" Slapped with NC-17

Controversial serial-killer flick receives dreaded rating for sex scene

By Emily Farache Jan 18, 2000 7:45 PMTags
American Psycho has been fending off controversy ever since the project was announced two years ago, so it only figures that, just days before its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, the film is embroiled in yet another.

The Motion Picture Association of America has given the movie version of Brett Easton Ellis' 1991 bestseller the dreaded NC-17 rating, which amounts to certain box-office poison.

Considering the graphic violence in the Lions Gate film--Christian Bale stars as a yuppie who enjoys dismembering women and decorating his apartment with their body parts--the NC-17 rating seems hardly surprising.

Except the MPAA didn't give American Psycho the adults-only rating because of its violence. According to Lions Gate, the NC-17 was the result of a single sex scene featuring Bale (who was recently seen as Jesus in the TV-movie Mary, Mother of Jesus) in a ménage à trois with two prostitutes.

"To cut it would cause serious damage," director Mary Harron said. "We were trying to make the scene as un-erotic as possible to underscore that these women were being paid for sex, which their facial expressions make clear. The scene is not about sex, but about sex as a transaction."

Lions Gate plans to appeal the rating, which is the latest hurdle for a movie that has been dogged by controversy.

Prior to shooting, Bale was pulled from the project and Leonardo DiCaprio brought in--for about $20 million. After the National Organization for Women condemned his choice, the Titanic star bailed, citing scheduling conflicts. When shooting finally began in Toronto, there were several local protests objecting to the film's subject matter.

Executives at Lions Gate say Ellis' story has been radically altered to emphasize its "wit and irony."

In any case, the film will be shown intact this coming weekend at Sundance. The film opens nationwide in April.

Meanwhile, in other rating news, the upcoming Sandra Bullock film Fire in the Amazon has also been slapped with an NC-17 for a sex scene. The film features Bullock and Craig Sheffer downing a hallucinogenic-laced cocktail then ripping off their clothes and going at it. The Amazon filmmakers are also appealing the decision.