Bret Easton Ellis on The Golden Suicides, His New True Story of Love and Death

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 has tackled a different adaptation of his books for Movieline, giving his take on what worked, what didn't, and what went on behind the scenes.

So far this week, Movieline's talked to Bret Easton Ellis about movies made from his own books -- movies he often didn't script himself. His upcoming screenplay, The Golden Suicides, is for a very different film entirely. Adapted by Ellis from a Nancy Jo Sales article for Vanity Fair and written for producer Gus Van Sant, it's based on the true story of artists Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan (pictured above), a glamorous couple who eventually secluded themselves in a cocoon of paranoia when they believed that government organizations and Scientologists were out to get them. Duncan killed herself in July 2007, and a week later, the despondent Blake walked into the Atlantic and drowned.

Did you just finish the screenplay for The Golden Suicides?

I did.

Your first draft of it?

Sort of first draft, with a brief second pass on it.

What was being in that headspace like for you?

I connected with the two of them, and I connected with the story a lot, so it was really exciting and emotional to write it. I didn't find it depressing. I thought it was the most difficult thing I've had to write.

How so?

Because I didn't want to make up anything. I wanted the script to really follow what happened. There were three or four scenes where the two of them are alone and no one really knows what they said. You have to take liberties during those scenes, but more or less, everything that's in the script can be verified by things they said or things they did out there in the public. I didn't want to veer away from that.

It surprises me that there would be so few scenes of them alone together. Didn't they isolate themselves near the end of their lives?

Yes, they did. Well, she isolates herself and draws him in, and he becomes isolated as well. It's really his story, it's not her story. We meet him when he's a kid and so we kind of follow him all the way to the end. He meets her maybe 15, 20 pages into the script.

Were you familiar with him before you read the article in Vanity Fair?

No, I was not.

I remember reading it. It's a very gripping piece.

It's haunting, yeah. It hit me at just the right time. I'd had my own problems with the movie business at the time; The Informers was slowly becoming this car crash, and it was very shocking and upsetting to see that happen. I'd also been involved with someone who was unbalanced, and I understood what Jeremy was going through. Like, I got it. You fall in love with someone who's crazy and you become crazy. You do things that you would never do if you weren't with that person -- it kind of rubs off. Now, most people get to the point where they go, "Wait a minute. I'm acting crazy, I have to put an end to this." This is the extreme conclusion, but what happens if you're in love with someone for so long and their world has become your world and suddenly, they're gone? I don't know. I kept thinking that could have been me. It could have been me.

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