September 11, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

By now, everyone knows that the casting of American Psycho, based on Bret Easton Ellis’ controversial novel, got about as gruesome as the serial-killer thriller itself. The whole bloody mess came to a head Aug. 21, when Lions Gate Films decided that the film would go on without proposed megastar Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead. The official reason? Scheduling conflicts. (Negotiations fell apart after an Aug. 12 reading with DiCaprio, possible costars Cameron Diaz and James Woods, and director Oliver Stone. DiCaprio’s spokeswoman has no comment.) But there’s still one body unaccounted for.

According to a source at Lions Gate, the film will revert to coscreenwriter-director Mary Harron. But where is Harron’s choice for the lead, Little Women heartthrob Christian Bale? ”He intentionally kept a window open to make this film,” says the actor’s attorney, Jeremy Barber, who adds that Bale is still interested. ”He would be 100 percent committed to doing the project with her.” But things don’t look good: Harron’s deal gives Lions Gate shared control over casting, and as one insider there sniffs, ”Lions Gate never approved of making an offer to Bale.” Since the company has upped Psycho‘s budget by $5 million (to as high as $15 million), it would seem Lions Gate is still hoping to ink an A-list star. ”I guess you could argue that they had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to hire DiCaprio, says Barber, ”but it really is too bad all this happened.”

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