Bret Easton Ellis on American Psycho, Christian Bale, and His Problem with Women Directors

What was that about?

I think Barry Manilow's "Daybreak" was playing, and there's like Patrick Bateman sitting in the park talking to people, and then it ends on the top of the World Trade Center. A big musical number, very elaborate. I'm glad it wasn't shot, but that kind of shows you where I was when I was writing the script. I was bored with the material.

Do you usually get bored with the books after you write them?

Not while I'm finishing them. After the book comes out, I am completely bored with the book.

Even though that's exactly the point at which you have to start talking about it to the press.

[Smiles] A problem! You get better at it as the year of promotion moves along. You get into a groove.


Anyway, Mary Harron eventually got involved with Christian Bale set to star, and then both of them briefly got thrown overboard when Oliver Stone and Leonardo DiCaprio expressed interest. Were you privy to any of that?

I was a bystander. I mean, it was terrible because I knew Mary and I'd met Christian, and yet, I also didn't think Leonardo DiCaprio was a bad idea. I said that a couple of times in interviews, and I'm sure it pissed Christian off and I'm sure Mary wasn't pleased to hear that.

So why did you say it?

Because I didn't really realize what was happening when I said it. I thought Mary was maybe going to direct the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio. I mean, look. She probably made the right choice.

It's interesting that so many good-looking, almost feminine teen idol types wanted to play this role. Even Brad Pitt was involved at one point.

It's the kind of role that an actor wants. You have to be very pretty to play the role, and leading men are often very pretty and not allowed to show a lot of range. You're either put into this action movie role or the romantic lead role, and there are not a lot of projects offered to them that can invert that or twist it up a little bit. I think it was probably very appealing for an actor of a certain age to play crazy like that, and also look really nice. I don't know, it's the best of both worlds.


Gloria Steinem was among those protesting DiCaprio's involvement -- ironic, because she later became Christian Bale's stepmother.

Yeah. I love it. Though, I've always thought that the feminists got it totally wrong on that one. But I can't go there anymore.

When Christian Bale first asked to meet with you to get your approval for the role, he actually showed up at the restaurant in character. Did that freak you out?

That was in 1998, I think, when that happened. I didn't have an issue with Christian Bale doing that at the time, it was just seriously unnerving. You
know, even though the book had done well and it was a popular novel, I had not seen people acting like Patrick Bateman or trying to appear like him. There was actually a period there for four or five years after the movie was released where people would come up to me at book signings, and guys would show me [pictures of] their Halloween costumes, and it was them dressed as Patrick Bateman. All over the world, maybe a thousand times it happened. [The meeting with Bale] was before any of that happened, and I was unnerved that I was in a restaurant with someone pretending to be this monster that I created. I just wanted him to stop. I asked him to stop, and then he did, and it was fine, and then Mary Harron joined us, so it was more comfortable. But he was intense!

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  • Jay says:

    I just read this entire thread and could not stop laughing. The simple fact that so many women find what Mr. Ellis is saying to be demeaning is just another example of people not hearing what they want to hear when they read an article. If this were an article about child birthing, and a woman made a dirogatory remark about male stupidity on the subject, I honestly don't think any man would have something to say. Look at the facts: there isn't one, not one, big name female director in Hollywood right now. Im talking about someone on the level of speilberg or scorsese or Michael Mann. It's just the way it is.

    Now what I find to be truly hilarious, are the women on this thread who found American Psycho to be a misogynist price of trash. It is admittedly a feminist book. The men in the book are patsies; fascinated completely by toys and "hard body's". The more powerful characters in the book are actually female. And if you have a problem with gory violence I suggest you start picketing Thomas Harris' house because last I checked Red Dragon, Hannibal and Silence of the lambs all have some pretty gory scenes in them. Oh wait a minute... The hero of the latter is a woman. Guess we won't hear about that then.

  • Gwen says:

    Oh and comparing a woman calling a man stupid on the subject of childbirth and comparing it to this article is just idiotic. Are you implying that women know nothing about filmmaking? Haha that's just ridiculous. Men CAN'T have children, women can and do make successful films. Clearly. Also, I assure you that some men would have something to say if a woman called all men stupid when it comes to childbirth because...that isn't true at all. A male obstetrician sure knows more about it than I ever will.

    • Tim says:

      Are you kidding me? No, he's not talking about whether or not women can make films. He's just saying that men wouldn't react the same way that women are reacting to this article if there was an idea expressed (in an article or comment on an article) that men are stupid for not knowing something about childbirth. He was just saying there are no big name female directors right now. Its a FACT... not an attack against women.

  • Courtney says:

    I don't think it's fair to say there are no women Spielberg's or Scorsese's. Filmmaking is an art form which is open to interpretation. People attribute success largely in part of the scale and budget of the film, and how much money it gains at the box office. My definition of success in storytelling, is it having a impact on my life as soon as I walk away from it. Not every filmmaker is trying to become Spielberg. Film making is about telling a story, which should be compelling and important to it's creators. I'm sick and tired of hearing these weak comparisons. It's not about being male or female. It's about creating a compelling and intelligent story. This book was written my a male and interpreted to film by a female. Both book and film left a powerful mark in my mind when completed.

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