If you’ve worked in an office, you know… the business card means everything. In a world dominated by cell phones, tech, and social media, the business card closes the deal. No one knows this more than Patrick Bateman. Of all the business cards in history, one card reigns supreme — Paul Allen’s card from the American Psycho Business Card Scene. Today, you’ll learn all about it. What makes the scene so iconic? What’s the font? Was that typo intentional? Let’s head into the conference room to find out.
Watch: American Psycho Business Card Scene — Directing Breakdown
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Let’s See Paul Allen’s Card
Context for the business card scene
For those of you a little late to the party, the American Psycho Business card scene takes place about 30 pages into the script. It takes place during some nondescript meeting at the Pierce & Pierce conference room. The characters gather and begin a round of "one-upmanship" using the aforementioned business cards. Here's the scene as it was written in the script.
If you need to catch up we imported the American Psycho business card scene into StudioBinder's screenwriting software. Follow the image link below to read the entire scene for yourself. You can also find the entire script by Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner in our script database.
To this point, we’ve been introduced to Patrick Bateman, his posh, egomaniacal world, and met many of the characters in this scene already.
Yet, after re-reading the script, it surprised me that this is our formal character introduction to Paul Allen. We heard his name in passing earlier… but this is Paul Allen’s grand entrance.
He’s only in one-third of the scene… but this sequence is about Paul Allen's reputation and influence over the entire group. Watch the scene below.
Paul Allen is the guy Patrick Bateman wants to be. He’s got the best job, the best style, the best card, and Bateman simply can’t handle it. In Bateman’s eyes, Paul Allen is the villain. But if there is a villain in this story… it has to be Patrick Bateman. Click here to see if he made our best villains list!
Directing the American Psycho Card Scene
Directing the scene
Within the scene, director Mary Harron does a tremendous job of displaying Patrick Bateman’s anger and anxiety.
She uses claustrophobic close-up shots, tactical placement of sound design, and many other techniques detailed in her interview below where she calls Patrick Bateman’s anxiety the “engine of this scene.”
Here's a shot-by-shot breakdown of the business card scene using a storyboard created with StudioBinder's storyboard software. Follow the image link to download a copy of the storyboard PDF.
The clip below provides a roundtable conversation with director Mary Harron, actor Christian Bale, and novelist Bret Easton Ellis about the business card scene and film as a whole. In the conversation, they address how it changed from a novel to the movie we love today.
But don’t take it from me! Our video essay at the top of this article goes into deep detail on how this scene was written, shot, and directed.
Let’s see Paul Allen’s Card
How business cards work as symbols
So we’ve seen this scene, we know a little about how the director made it… but what do the business cards mean in American Psycho? What's the symbolism?
Earlier, I said this scene is about Paul Allen. Yet, Paul Allen’s importance is illustrated through the immense competition at play.
These men aren’t professional athletes, they aren’t gladiators, they’re businessmen. And as Adam Sandler’s character from the Uncut Gems script said best, “This is how I win.”
These men win with business cards, suits, reservations, deals, anyway they can. Yet, what’s funny is the suits, cards, and appearances are all the same.
And that’s the point.
American Psycho is a satire that points out the ridiculous narcissism and hyper-masculinity of these Wall Street men. No scene encapsulates that more than the business card scene, which is a huge reason why these business cards have become some of the most iconic movie props ever.
In fact, the scene is so important to Patrick Bateman that, spoiler alert, here’s that payoff I mentioned.
Be wary, folks. If you haven’t been to Dorsia… you just don’t get it.
What’s your favorite American Psycho Card?
American Psycho business card design
It’s no secret that side-by-side, these cards basically look the same. But there are differences. Even if it's not “Bone with Silian Rail,” what can we unpack about these cards? Specifically Paul Allen’s card.
The cards have the same:
- Job title
- Phone Number
That’s right. If you look close enough you might notice the word “acquisitions” misspelled in all of the cards. According to Harron, this was not intentional.
However, each card is subtly distinct. I prefer Timothy Bryce’s card. AKA “Raised lettering, pale nimbus white... “ I like the texture, to me it's the classiest of the four.
Paul Allen’s card might be my least favorite. It’s too flat. Too manufactured, but it’s also the card closest in style to Patrick Bateman’s… perhaps implying some secondary meaning to the style of these cards?
The video below breaks down the production design of the business cards getting down to the real fonts used!
Apparently, the Patrick Bateman business card is not “Silian Rail” but instead a type of Garamond font. His card also happens to be missing a space in between Pierce & Pierce.
Van Patten’s is not “Romalian” but instead a type of Bodoni which is often used in fashion. Timothy Bryce’s card (my favorite) doesn’t have raised lettering but does seem to use Helvetica font.
Perhaps most notable, Paul Allen’s card doesn't have a watermark! His card uses Copperplate Gothic font, the same font used for the film's opening credits. A surprising choice when you consider Patrick Bateman is the film's clear main character or perhaps it's a bit of foreshadowing.
Legacy of the Business Card Scene
Why we're still talking business cards
20 years later and we’re still talking about them. Or at least I am. It’s very rare for a specific scene to reach this level of memorability and fame. The type of scene that automatically comes to mind when the film is mentioned.
Part of that longevity comes from how well the scene lends itself to satire. This is interesting as the business cards in American Psycho have become such a perfect vehicle for parody. What this points to is the ability of Ellis' novel, Harron and Guinevere Turner's screenplay, and the film itself to pinpoint some sort of universal truth.
Competition, jealousy, trying to define ourselves through external objects — these are things many of us encounter within or without a corporate job.
I watched quite a few re-creations of the American Psycho Business Card scenes in preparation for this article but I think this one focusing on Silicon Valley programmers is the best.
And the longevity of American Psycho doesn’t end with the iconic slow-motion reveal of Paul Allen’s Business card. The film is filled with memorable musical moments, shocking images, and a great mystery.
The above serves as a reminder of some of the horror in American Psycho. It’s a satire, but it’s a satire that takes the serious parts very seriously and never forgets story or direction. Oh, it’s also filled with amazing performances.
I don’t have a great segue to the video below… but it’s my favorite American Psycho video on Youtube. Enjoy.
Not related to the Patrick Batman business card incident but still a masterpiece and a great representation of American Psycho’s tone.
Best Dark Comedy Movies
Now that you know all about the American Psycho business card scene, it’s time to learn about some of the other dark comedies out there. Check out our article breaking down what makes a dark comedy and giving you a TON of great new material for your watchlist. Plus, see where American Psycho ranks!