Bret Easton Ellis (born March 7, 1964) is an American author, screenwriter, and short story writer. His works have been translated into 27 languages. He was at first regarded as one of the so-called literary Brat Pack, which also included Tama Janowitz and Jay McInerney. He is a self-proclaimed satirist whose trademark technique, as a writer, is the expression of extreme acts and opinions in an affectless style. Ellis employs a technique of linking novels with common, recurring characters.
Ellis made his debut at age 21 with the controversial bestseller Less Than Zero (1985), published by Simon & Schuster, a zeitgeist novel about wealthy amoral young people in Los Angeles. His third novel, American Psycho (1991) was his most successful. On its release, the literary establishment widely condemned the novel as overly violent and misogynistic. Though many petitions to ban the book saw Ellis dropped by Simon & Schuster, the resounding controversy convinced Alfred A. Knopf to release it as a paperback later that year. In later years, Ellis’ novels have become increasingly metafictional. Lunar Park (2005), a pseudo-memoir and ghost story, received positive reviews. Imperial Bedrooms (2010), marketed as a sequel to Less Than Zero, continues in this vein.
Four of Ellis’s works have been made into films. Less Than Zero was rapidly adapted for screen, leading to the release of a starkly different film of the same name in 1987. Mary Harron‘s adaptation of American Psycho was released to generally positive reviews in 2000 and went on to achieve cult status. Roger Avary‘s 2002 adaptation The Rules of Attraction made modest box office returns but went on to attract a cult following. 2008’s The Informers, based on Ellis’s collection of short stories, was critically panned. Ellis also wrote the screenplay for the critically derided 2013 film The Canyons, an original work.
Life and career
Ellis was born in Los Angeles and raised in Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley. His father, Robert Martin Ellis, was a property developer, and his mother, Dale (Dennis) Ellis, was a homemaker. They divorced in 1982. Ellis stated, during the initial release of his third novel American Psycho, that his father was abusive, and he became the basis of that book’s best-known character Patrick Bateman. Later, Ellis claimed the character was not in fact based on his father, but on Ellis himself, saying that all of his work came from a specific place of pain he was going through in his life during the writing of each of his books. Ellis claims that while his family life growing up was somewhat difficult due to the divorce, he mostly had an “idyllic” California childhood.
Ellis was educated at The Buckley School in California; he then attended Bennington College in Vermont, where he originally studied music then gradually gravitated to writing, which had been one of his passions since childhood. There he met and befriended Donna Tartt and Jonathan Lethem, who both would later become published writers. Bennington College was also where Ellis completed a novel he had been working on for many years. That book, Less Than Zero, went on to be published while Ellis was just 21 and still in college, thus propelling him to instant fame.
After the success and controversy of Less Than Zero in 1985, Ellis became closely associated and good friends with fellow Brat Pack writer Jay McInerney: the two became known as the “toxic twins” for their highly publicized late night debauchery.
Ellis became a pariah for a time following the release of American Psycho (1991), which later became a critical and cult hit, more so after its 2000 movie adaptation. It is now regarded as Ellis’ magnum opus and is favorably looked upon by academics. The Informers (1994) was offered to his publisher during Glamorama‘s long writing history. Ellis wrote a screenplay for The Rules of Attraction‘s film adaptation, which was not used. Ellis records a fictionalized version of his life story up until this point in the first chapter of Lunar Park (2005). After the death of his lover Michael Wade Kaplan, Ellis was spurred to finish Lunar Park and inflected it with a new tone of wistfulness.
Ellis was approached by young screenwriter Nicholas Jarecki to adapt The Informers into a film; the script they co-wrote was cut from 150 to 94 pages and taken from Jarecki to give to Australian director Gregor Jordan, whose light-on-humor vision of the film was met with unanimously negative reviews when the filmwas released in 2009.
Despite setbacks as a screenwriter, Ellis teamed up with acclaimed director Gus Van Sant in 2009 to adapt the Vanity Fair article “The Golden Suicides” into a film of the same name, depicting the paranoid final days and suicides of celebrity artists Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake. The film, as of 2014, has never been made. When Van Sant appeared on The Bret Easton Ellis Podcast on February 12, 2014, he stated that he was never attached to the project as a screenwriter or a director, merely a consultant, claiming that the material seemed too tricky for him to properly render on screen. Ellis and Van Sant mentioned that Naomi Watts and Ryan Gosling were approached to star as Duncan and Blake, respectively. Ellis confirmed that he and his producing partner Braxton Pope are still working on the project, with Ellis revisiting the screenplay from time to time. As of April 2014, radical filmmaker Gaspar Noé was officially attached to direct if the film went into production, but he proved troublesome to work with due to his erratic behavior.
In 2010, Ellis released Imperial Bedrooms, the sequel to his début novel. Ellis wrote it following his return to LA and fictionalizes his work on the film adaptation of The Informers, from the perspective of Clay. Positive reviews felt it was a culmination of the themes begun respectively in Less Than Zero, American Psycho and Lunar Park. Negative reviews noted the novel’s rehashed themes and listless writing.
Ellis expressed interest in writing the screenplay for the Fifty Shades of Grey film adaptation. He discussed casting with his followers, and even mentioned meeting with the film’s producers, as well as noting he felt it went well. The job eventually went to Kelly Marcel, Patrick Marber and Mark Bomback.
In 2012, Ellis wrote the screenplay for the independent film The Canyons and helped raise money for its production. The film was released in 2013 and although critically panned, was a small financial success, with the performance of Lindsay Lohan in the lead role earning some positive reviews.
When asked in an interview in 2002 whether he was gay, Ellis explained that he does not identify himself as gay or straight; he is comfortable being thought of as homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual, and enjoys playing with his persona, identifying variously as gay, straight, and bisexual to different people over the years.
In a 1999 interview, the author suggested that his reluctance to definitively label his sexuality is for “artistic reasons”. He commented: “if people knew that I was straight, they’d read [my books] in a different way. If they knew I was gay, ‘Psycho‘ would be read as a different book.” In an interview with Robert F. Coleman, Ellis said his was an “indeterminate sexuality,” that “any other interviewer out there will get a different answer and it just depends on the mood I am in.” In a 2011 interview with James Brown, Ellis again stated that his answers to questions about his sexuality have varied from interviewer to interviewer, and he cited an example where his reluctance to refuse the label “bi” had him labelled as such by a Details interviewer. “I think the last time I slept with a woman was five or six years ago, so the bi thing can only be played out so long,” he clarified. “But I still use it, I still say it.” Responding to Dan Savage‘s It Gets Better campaign, aimed at preventing suicide among LGBT youth, Ellis tweeted: “Not to bum everyone out, but can we get a reality check here? It gets worse.” In a 2012 op-ed for The Daily Beast, while apologizing for a series of controversial tweets, Ellis identified himself as a gay man.
Lunar Park was dedicated to his lover, Michael Wade Kaplan, and Ellis’ father, Robert Ellis, who died in 1992. In one interview, Ellis described feeling a liberation in the completion of the novel that allowed him to come to terms with unresolved issues regarding his father. In the “author Q&A” for Lunar Park on the Random Housewebsite, Ellis comments on his relationship with Robert, and says he feels that his father was a “tough case” who left him damaged. Having grown older and having “mellow[ed] out”, Ellis describes how his opinion of his father changed since 15 years ago when writing Glamorama (in which the central conspiracy concerns the relationship of a father and son). Even earlier in his career, Ellis based the character of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho on his father. In a 2010 interview, however, he claims to have lied about this explanation. Explaining that “Patrick Bateman was about me,” he confesses “I didn’t want to finally own up to the responsibility of being Patrick Bateman, so I laid it on my father, I laid it on Wall Street.” In reality, the book had been “about me at the time, and I wrote about all my rage and feelings.” To James Brown, he clarified Bateman was based on “my father a little bit but I was living that lifestyle; my father wasn’t in New York the same age as Patrick Bateman, living in the same building, going to the same places that Patrick Bateman was going to.”
More at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bret_Easton_Ellis