Bret Easton Ellis on How The Informers Went Wrong

Bret Easton Ellis has written six books (his seventh, Imperial Bedrooms, comes out next month), and all six have been optioned by Hollywood. Of those six, four were made into movies, and they run the gamut from iconic to underseen, acclaimed to lambasted. Each day this week, Ellis will tackle a different adaptation of his books for Movieline, giving his take on what worked, what didn't, and what went on behind the scenes.

Gregor Jordan's The Informers begins with a quick, abrupt car accident, but to hear Bret Easton Ellis tell it, the production was something like a car crash in slow motion. Though it's the only adaptation of Ellis's novels where he actually served as a producer and co-writer on the film, he's not happy with how it turned out, and he's hardly alone. When The Informers was released last year, audiences stayed away and critics were scathing (pundit Devin Faraci, unwilling to review the film according to a normal ratings system, scored it a "F**k God out of 10").

The film can boast a lot of intriguing elements: an impressive cast of veterans (Billy Bob Thornton, Winona Ryder, Mickey Rourke) and attractive up-and-comers (Jon Foster, Amber Heard), a sleek look, and an intriguing director (Gregor Jordan, an Australian director who'd made an early Heath Ledger film called Two Hands). Still, this adaptation of Ellis's 1994 collection of short stories never comes together.

This week, we've already spoken to Ellis about the films made from Less Than Zero, American Psycho, and The Rules of Attraction. Here are his candid thoughts on why things went awry with The Informers.

The Informers may not work as a movie, but for once, the cast actually seems to nail the aesthetic you describe. Finally, the tanned, blond characters are being played by tanned blondes.

I know.

And it's a strong cast...

It is.

...so where did things go wrong?

An Australian director and a German producer.

Before they came on board, you were writing this film with Nicholas Jarecki for him to direct it. Then he brought on Marco Weber to finance it, and Weber threw him overboard for Gregor Jordan, right?

Yes. A very stressful period. Nicholas was a very, very good friend of mine, and then... He now is a very good friend of mine [again]. We resolved our differences. But yeah: Australian director and German producer.

informers-drink.jpg

Are you saying they were too foreign to understand the material?

You need someone who understood that milieu. You need a Breck Eisner [the son of Michael Eisner, who was originally attached to direct The Rules of Attraction], you need someone who grew up around here. You also need someone with an Altman-esque sense of humor, because the script is really funny. The movie is not funny at all, and there are scenes in the movie that should be funny that we wrote as funny, and they're played as we wrote them, but they're directed in a way that they're not funny. It was very distressing to see the cuts of this movie and realize that all the laughs were gone.

Did he just want it to be more serious?

I think Gregor was looking at it as something else. I think we had this miscommunication during pre-production that it's not supposed to be played like an Australian soap opera.

But you were involved with it the whole time, weren't you? You were a producer on the film.

I was involved until the writer's strike hit, and that banned any writers from visiting the set. Everyone followed that rule because everyone was really scared about what might happen. So, I was involved with The Informers until about a week or two after filming [began], because I was on set rewriting scenes. Then when the writer's strike hit, I was told I could not go back on that set or I would be...whatever. Whatever happens to writers when they do that.

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