Bret Easton Ellis Takes New York
PHOTO BY CRAIG MCDEAN
Last night, at the Union Square Barnes & Noble, Bret Easton Ellis (profiled in our June/July issue) added another chapter to his mythologized meta-fictional world with a standing-room-only reading and discussion from his seventh book, Imperial Bedrooms. To follow up his L.A. reading, which was hosted by James van der Beek (who played Sean Bateman in the film adaptation of Ellis’s 1987 novel The Rules of Attraction), the enigmatic author was introduced by Andrew McCarthy at last night’s New York event. The reading consisted of a portion of the new novel’s opening chapter, which focuses on the misguided movie adaptation of Ellis’s 1985 debut Less Than Zero, in which McCarthy plays the novel’s anti-hero, Clay. While the actor and author only met each other recently, shortly after McCarthy was called to narrate the audio book, the actor was recently quoted as saying he’d love to reprise the role of Clay for the big screen. The consummate entertainer, Ellis kept his “old friend” and the 200+ crowd on their toes throughout the evening. Here are some highlights:
On being called “Mr. Ellison” with the first audience question: Mr. Ellison? It’s Mr. Ellis. Not that I really care. Just call me whatever you want.
On his writing routine: I like to make my bed before I write. I know that’s odd. I have a feeling people here are like: He makes his bed? But I do. I like things clean.
On the movie adaptation of Less Than Zero: I was 22, I really wasn’t paying attention. I knew a couple girls who had slept with the director and that’s the only thing I knew about the movie. I had no idea what was going on on-set. I had two friends of mine that had slept with Marek Kanievska. I was like really? You did? But I was lost in my own world, going to parties, I really wasn’t that interested. Before it came out I got a call from Marek and his assistant said, “Marek wants to meet you for a drink because he knows Fox is showing you the movie tonight.” I said okay. Sure. I’m gonna meet Marek and go to another party or something. He asked to meet at Nell’s at like five in the afternoon, which is not a good sign. So I walked in to Nell’s at five in the afternoon and there’s Marek, really, really drunk. He’s the only person in the place, slumped over the bar.
McCarthy interjects: You should have seen him on the set.
Ellis continues: Well, that might have been why when I stood over the table and he looked up at me, he said, “I’m so sorry. So sorry.” I said, “What are you sorry about, dude?” He said, “No, the movie didn’t work out, I just want you to be prepared when you see it later tonight.” And I said, “Oh. Oh.” I remember [the orignal] script opening with a bunch of parachuters dressed like Santa Claus’ jumping out of a plane and parachuting into L.A. That gave me pause. But it was more faithful to the book than the ultimate screenplay that was used.
On the worst thing he’s ever done: It would be to answer that question, probably.
On how his writing gets so dark: Maybe I do have a darker view of the world than most people, I don’t know. I honestly don’t think I do. But it’s not that I tap into a dark place when I sit down at nine or 10 in the morning and go okay, “I’m willing the darkness,” and I put on the cape in front of the computer. It doesn’t work like that.
On what’s next: There was this idea I had, very briefly, where after I moved to West Hollywood I wanted to revisit Sean Bateman. I wanted to write a novel about Sean as like this wild gay novel about what a crazy, gay sexpot he is. To the point where it’s almost a really pornographic gay novel about Sean. I was thinking about it a lot, but I don’t know what I’m going to do. That can mean anything to anybody.