A Hollywood producer friend of mine captained the Bret Easton Ellis-written, Lindsay Lohan vehicle, The Canyons, directed by Paul Schrader (who wrote Taxi Driver, and co-wrote Raging Bull). BEE’s second movie script ever produced, The Canyons came out to near unanimous booos. Following poor Sundance reviews, the producer put me in touch with Bret Eaton Ellis for a Vice interview.
The American Psycho and Less than Zero author called me at home one night, and we talked about nothing to do with popular culture, or politics, or millenials — all topics he now fixates on (more on that below). He and I talked only about making art, which was killer fun.
My producer buddy and the wealthy author had run a controversial Kickstarter campaign to fund The Canyons, with prizes including BEE critiquing your novel or movie: “In our Kickstarter doctrine, under that prize, we made it very clear that you would be running a risk,” BEE laughed to me. “It said: ‘[The producer] and Bret are particularly honest about what they like and what they dislike, so beware.’ We watched two of the films submitted, and there really wasn’t anything good about either of them. It’s just a fact, I’m sorry… [We] gave the filmmakers the choice: I can just tweet about the availability of your film online, about where to find it, who’s in it. Or we will post [our negative] reviews. Same with the novels I agreed to review for some backers… It was never going to be just jacking off whoever chipped in to the Kickstarter fund.”
Near the interview’s end, we discussed a horror script he’d written, called Bait. He’d found support for the flick, but then on the eve of filming, that funding fell through — a real shame, because the script, which he emailed to me later, was really fun: A disaffected, unpopular teen working as a deckhand at a snooty, high-end marina, is hired to pilot a party boat full of the tanned, popular teens who’d been bullying him. Out in open water, the popular teens all jump off the boat for a swim — at which point their bitter teen captain pulls all of the ladders up, and begins throwing bloody chum into the water.
I loved that script, and I loved several of his books. But since our interview, BEE has, in my opinion, fallen victim to a boring fixation with today’s (admittedly annoying at times) “social justice warriors.” His bypassing the interesting cultural/racial/gender/etc shifts going on in America in order to focus on the small over-corrections that inevitably come with such a social upheaval, makes him sound like a bourgeois old man. His pop cultural observations are equally tired: His idea of important American culture today includes Taylor Swift which, to me, makes him solidly part of the problem. He even published a book of his short get-off-my-lawn essays and tweets (called White, which is a damned funny title, but otherwise…blech).
But yeah, interviewing him was great. Ellis was totally gracious and fun to talk to. I’m just an opinionated fan who thinks he shouldn’t critique millenial culture — unless maybe it’s via fiction, the way he once so successfully skewered yuppies.
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