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Bret Easton Ellis on American Psycho, Hollywood Hypocrisy, and the Excesses of #MeToo

The novelist talks about film, #MeToo, Hollywood hypocrisy, the savviness of Kim Kardashian, and the longevity of American Psycho and Less Than Zero.

In the 1980s and '90s, novelist Bret Easton Ellis captured more fully than anyone the excitement and ennui of a wealthy and smug America that was stumbling without knowing it into a century filled with terror, disruption, and generalized hostility. In the book and movie versions of Less Than Zero, The Rules of Attraction, and American Psycho, Ellis dissected what happens to a society in which depth of feeling is synonymous with failure to thrive. In this century, Ellis is back in his hometown of Los Angeles writing and producing movies like The Canyons with the likes of Lindsay Lohan and porn star James Deen, whose shambled personal lives might as well have been scripted by Ellis in one of his most darkly comic moments.

He's also putting out one of the most engaging and insightful podcasts available on Patreon, in which he talks with guests like Kanye West, Rose McGowan, and veteran writer/director Walter Hill about the ways the entertainment industry is built on an unstable foundation of economic, sexual, and political hypocrisy.

Reason's Nick Gillespie talked with Ellis about the ways Hollywood is failing to come to terms with ever-changing methods of production and distribution, what Ellis sees as the excesses of the #MeToo movement, our rapidly changing and failing public discourse, and the enduring interest and relevance of his work in 2018.

Produced and edited by Paul Detrick. Shot by Detrick and Zach Weissmuller.

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"Shibuya" by Bad Snacks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license. (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/) Source: https://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary_download?vid=bf4634fcab6e0d97

Photos of Bret Easton Ellis, Credit: Marechal Aurore/ABACA/Newscom
Photo of James Deen, Credit: David Tonnessen, PacificCoastNews/Newscom
Photo of Lindsay Lohan, Credit: Anthony Devlin/ZUMA Press/Newscom
Photo of Kanye West, Credit: MEGA / Newscom
Photo of Rose McGowan, Credit: Everett Collection/Newscom
Photos of Harvey Weinstein, Credit: Louis Lanzano/Sipa USA/Newscom
Photos of Aziz Ansari, Credit: Birdie Thompson/AdMedia/Newscom and USA/Newscom
Photo of Walter Hill, Credit: Van Tine Dennis/ABACA/Newscom
Photos of Steven Spielberg, Credit: akg-images/Newscom
Photos of Richard Dreyfuss, Credit: COLUMBIA PICTURES / Album/Newscom
Photo of Close Encounters of the Third Kind Poster, Credit: COLUMBIA PICTURES / Album/Newscom
Photos of Kim Kardashian, Credit: Richard Beetham / SplashNews/Newscom
Photo of Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump, Credit: SMG/ZUMA Press/Newscom
Photo of Kim Kardashian leaving White House, Credit: Carlos Barria/REUTERS/Newscom
Photo of Kim Kardashian leaving White House, Credit: Abaca Press/Douliery Olivier/Abaca/Sipa USA/Newscom
Photos of Kim Kardashian leaving White House, Credit: Douliery Olivier/ABACA/Newscom
Photos of American Psycho, Credit: LIONS GATE FILMS / Album/Newscom
Photo of Mark Duplass, Credit: AXELLE/BAUER-GRIFFIN / Newscom
Photo of Donald Trump, Credit: Xinhua/Sipa USA/Newscom
Photo of Roseanne Barr, Credit: Mario Anzuoni/REUTERS/Newscom

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  • perlchpr||

    Jesus. Maybe this got interesting eventually, but after the first seven minutes were Ellis advertising his podcast, I gave up.

    And honestly, if this is as interesting as his podcast is, no fucking wonder he got pushback from people for trying to charge for it.

  • Sevo||

    This is the reason I don't do vids.
    I can skim written copy and see if there is anything worth attention, and then act appropriately.
    You want me to spend several minutes listening to the jacket being the jacket? Make it worth my while; pay me to watch.

  • Mike Laursen||

    I thought Reason had started to post transcripts of their videos. Guess not.

  • Fancylad||

    Is hypocrisy in Hollywood its natural state of being, or its modus operandi?

    Because actors, directors, producers, agents, screenwriters, etc. are some of the shittiest people alive, I'm just glad that I haven't heard that they're eating babies, yet.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "Producing movies with an eye towards pleasing governments in foreign countries".

    Thanks for this interview Nick, this can't be said enough.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Jaws and Close Encounters are great films, made with great skill and craftsmanship. No, they don't tackle "long overdue cultural conversations", but films that are designed solely to be entertaining are not "bad films" merely because of their aim.

  • SusanM||

    Close Encounters...not so much. For me it was fun to watch once or twice but it is too slow to be rewatched again.

  • Qsl||

    Close Encounters probably relies a bit much on the awe of the technology of the time (as well as context. Seen on the big screen, it is absolutely mesmerizing. On your smartphone, not so much). Ellis gets it right that it feels like the 70s, and will probably never be recreated again.

    Much of the dialogue seems to be old farts lamenting their cultural touchstones not surviving or being appreciated into the new era. Hopefully it will be rediscovered 100 years from now. It was fun while it lasted.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I think its "slowness" is part of its charm. It was really about the slow degradation of Dreyfus's family situation as he became obsessed with his visions. I think that's the problem, we want big action and big thrills now, and CE represents a movie with, yes, groundbreaking cinematic technology, but one that relies on the performances of the actors to really drive the story.

  • SusanM||

    True.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I'm really enjoying the surprising revelations about where American Psycho came from psychologically with Ellis. I really like this guy. Thanks Nick, I knew very little about him.

    I'm getting a kick out of his dismissive attitude towards his Millennial boyfriend and millennials in general.

  • Mongo||

    I thought American Psycho was wickedly funny and brilliant satire.

    Can't translate to film, though Christian Bale was very good in the lead role.

  • librich||

    Jeez, Nick. You've done so many great interviews lately. What possessed you to throw this fop into the mix?

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