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Jared Leto Apparently Had No Idea His ‘American Psycho’ Axe Murder Scene Was Coming

American Psycho is one of Christian Bale’s best works, and two decades later it’s still a fascinating and brutal movie that’s style has impacted countless films. Some of its scenes have endured as memes even today, and it’s easy to say it’s made a big impact on the business card industry. But the 20-year anniversary of its release has brought to light new details about its crucial death scene. Namely, that Jared Leto had no idea what was coming, which is why his reaction to his impending brutal axe death at the hands of Bale looks so realistic.

The story comes via Entertainment Weekly, which spoke to American Psycho director Mary Harron. In the piece, the director revealed that Leto’s Paul Allen, who (spoilers?) is murdered by Christin Bale’s Patrick Bateman, didn’t know Bale’s violent and abrupt killing blow was coming when they finally set down to film the real thing.

“We decided to shoot the rehearsal of the actual murder without telling Jared,” reveals director Mary Harron. “Christian held back his performance until then so that it would be a real surprise. When he screams ‘Hey Paul’ and Jared turns around and sees Christian running towards him with the axe, he looks genuinely shocked.”

The shoot was an all-night affair, a lot of which involved Leto laying in a pool of fake blood while Bale does his thing and celebrates his personal victory. But the last look Leto’s Paul Allen gives the camera while he’s alive certainly had a lasting effect, while some cinema magic did the rest.

“It was one of those scenes where everything does fall into place,” says Harron. “By accident, the blood spray only hit one side of Christian’s face. When you look at him head-on, his face seems covered in blood. But when you look at him from the side, his face looks quite clean. It was a perfect metaphor for the Jekyll-and-Hyde aspect of Bateman: pristine on the outside, bloody and psychotic on the inside. And it all happened by chance.”

The rest of the interview is fascinating, as Harron described the grueling session that followed (and can be seen above) by simply saying “it’s not easy to do an ax murder.” That’s a funny enough line to have made it into the satirical work in the first place, honestly.

It’s important to note this is not the most recent thing to surprise Leto, however, as he may have been the last person in the world to know a global pandemic was in the process of killing hundreds of thousands of people because he was on a silent retreat earlier this year as things were getting worse. So perhaps a bit of a surprise while filming a movie is the least notable thing that’s happened to him recently, but it did make for a good scene at the time.