Development[ edit ] Author Bret Easton Ellis initially imagined a disillusioned but nonviolent protagonist. After a dinner with friends who worked on Wall Street , he decided to make him a serial killer. His first draft of American Psycho left out all the grisly scenes, which were to be added in later. In , in conversation with journalist Jeff Baker, Ellis commented: [Bateman] was crazy the same way [I was].
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I am sure that 99 percent of writers wish their work was more influential than it ultimately was. I have written books that have disappeared. Has the way that Patrick Bateman has become a cult character surprised you? What if I said, no? Of course, it was surprising to me. American Psycho was an experimental novel. Why is that? That was Patrick Bateman to me.
Certainly the movie helped move it into a higher plane of consciousness for a lot of people. But it is surprising. Long before the movie, though, the book was controversial. I mean, what novels are controversial anymore? That world is gone. I mean, who was a serial killer before him who was that well-groomed or dressed?
I think about 16 years ago when I was working on Lunar Park. With any book, I want to rewrite things and wish things had been done differently. So no surprise there. But in a weird way, it is serial killer chic, I guess. Maybe Hannibal Lecter. Yeah, but just not quite sexy in that way. What is the book about in your opinion? It was really about the dandification of the American male. It was really about what is going on with men now, in terms of surface narcissism. What do you mean? And they were taking on a lot of the tropes of gay male culture and bringing it into straight male culture — in terms of grooming, looking a certain way, going to the gym, waxing, and being almost the gay porn ideals.
All of these things really informed American Psycho when I was writing it. So that seemed to me much more interesting than whether he is or is not a serial killer, because that really is a small section of the book. In Lunar Park, you wrote about another inspiration for Bateman: your dad.
How did he play into the character? I used him as a scapegoat, in some ways. The character was much more about me. Why get into that now, since that book [was] so misunderstood?
And in some ways, my father had traits similar to Patrick Bateman. I saw him being affected by the new Eighties, male cosmetic overhaul. I was an artist, more liberal than he was, and certainly an outsider in terms of being gay.
I was more interested in the metaphor and how it connected to me. How did the turmoil surrounding the American Psycho book release affect you? Well, you have to understand that I was not ever popular with critics or the press before American Psycho … or since [laughs]. I never felt like I was part of the literary establishment. This is corporations owning publishing houses. I was personally affected by it for a couple of days, but then I was vindicated by [Vintage Books publisher] Sonny Mehta picking it up for Random House.
It softened the blow. I kept it together. I was working on my next book and I was in a relationship, and I was hanging out with friends. I think it was going to be a much more earnest and straightforward novel, like Less Than Zero set in Wall Street. What happened was the longer I hung out with these guys that I was researching to write the book, the more the aspect of the serial killer came into view.
No one saw it as a movie. Look, you write a book, it goes out into the world, what do you do? In the Nineties, no one wanted to turn this book into a movie. Or they think the corruption of the literary experience is complete now with a Broadway musical?
How did Bret Ellis let this happen? American Psycho was conceived as a completely literary experience. No one saw it as a movie, including myself and my representatives. But there was an enterprising producer, Ed Pressman, and a couple of filmmakers who did think it could be done, and it happened. Were you happy with the way the film turned out?
It was a very well done adaptation. But the meaning is different, as is the meaning of the play from the movie is going to be very different. So what [actor] Benjamin Walker is going to be doing is going to be much different than what Christian Bale was allowed to do in the film.
You were writing a script for David Cronenberg at one point. Yes, in the early Nineties with a young actor attached named Brad Pitt. He hated shooting restaurant scenes, and he hated shooting nightclub scenes. I ignored everything he said. So of course he was disappointed with it and he hired his own writer; that script was worse for him and he dropped out.
I did another pass on the script for Rob Weiss in That really was what you could take from the book. Bateman made a cameo in Glamorama, and he was a big part of Lunar Park. Why did you keep going back to him? When I wrote that little cameo, I just thought it was funny. Much of Glamorama was about the idea of your real self being replaced by a fake self. It had happened to me around when I was beginning that book.
I had made millions of dollars off the profit of victims. And none of this was true. This is not me. And then in Lunar Park, which started out as just an homage to Stephen King, it became increasingly more and more and more about myself and where I was in that moment. You are always haunted in some way by the characters you create, and especially by the ones who are incredibly popular.
So I will always be defined by Patrick Bateman. Do you not think he would have survived the Wall Street crash of the Eighties and the housing collapse of the s? I really did think about him during the dot-com bubble, when I was living through that in Manhattan. That really amped up the decadence of that city tenfold from Like, bottle service as a concept? A thousand dollars for a bottle? I mean, are you kidding me? Then I thought about him in Silicon Valley, obviously.
Again, you have to understand I saw him very much as a literary idea, a metaphor for my own life, my own pain and an overall criticism of the culture. Even as a metaphor, Patrick Bateman, who was obsessed with Donald Trump, would likely be pretty happy with his campaign. Or would he be embarrassed? Now he seems to be giving a voice to white, angry, blue-collar voters. The way Patrick Bateman reviews music comprise some of the most compelling chapters in the book.
He hated all of them, but he also hated the book. The music he listened to in American Psycho was stuff that was extremely commercial and popular, stuff to help him fit in.
What would he listen to in ? What is anyone listening to these days? This is the question. There just does not seem to be this consolidation of popularity that there was in the Eighties. What would they be? Taylor Swift? It all seems so niche. One of my publicists said, Do you wanna meet him? I know, I know.
‘American Psycho’ at 25: Bret Easton Ellis on Patrick Bateman’s Legacy
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. 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.
Bret Easton Ellis