So-called Brat Pack author Bret Easton Ellis is one of those rare writers whose early promise (he wrote his first novel, Less than Zero, before his 20th birthday) didn't quickly fizzle amid all the hoopla and expectation of being his generation's Henry Miller. More than half of his books have been adapted into films, the latest being a big-screen version of his 1994 story collection of West Coast debauchery, The Informers. Ellis overcame his wariness of "The Hot Seat" (he told us that "I've always avoided doing this last page. It's one of my favorite parts of the magazine to read, but I also know that I would never want to be interviewed for it") and talked about the new film and his forthcoming book.
RECOMMENDED: Full list of Hot Seat interviews
Time Out New York: Is it my imagination, or are spoiled rich kids, like the ones in this movie, always portrayed as being really, really blond?
Bret Easton Ellis: There's something about that. The dichotomy is interesting: the angelic blond girl who is really kind of a murderous whore, or the really preppy blond guy who is a total dick. I don't know. It really works in movies, though. I'm thinking back to the John Hughes films of that period. I guess it was known as the James Spader role, the rich preppy asshole who all the girls really like and is BMOC.
These kids could've all been in the Hitler Youth.
I don't know what it is about that that seems so ominous to people, that makes it so effective. You know, I live out [in L.A.] now, and there are a lot of them. And they're frightening. I will admit it. In fact, now that I'm thinking about it, it's not ironic. They're using them because they're scary.
Scarier than the vampires from the book, maybe, who don't actually make an appearance in the film.
Yeah, that's true. There was a story in the book that had vampires in it, and that was a big part of the script that [screenwriter] Nick [Jarecki] and I put together, and they are no longer in the film. This is true. So you have done your homework.
I associate vampires with those ridiculous Stephenie Meyer books now anyway. Are vampires pass?
Yeah, people have kind of OD'd on the whole vampire thing. I thought we had made them really cool for this movie, but apparently not cool enough.
I'm over these touchy-feely denizens of the night.
I know. They're so tortured, aren't they? I kind of wanted to go a different way with them.
I'd like to ask you about your new book, if I may. It's a sequel to Less than Zero, correct?
Yes, that is correct.
How difficult is it to restart material that you wrote when you were basically a kid?
It was difficult to get back into this guy's voice, even though he's my age. He's in his forties, and it has been 20-some years since the events of that book took place. And now we meet this narrator again at another point in his life. Of course, he's older and wiser and maybe a little bit creepier than he was in the original. It's still essentially the same guy. I had to go back and do a variation on that voice and style of writing. It was a strange position to be in. Can't say it was totally pleasurable, but it was interesting to see how this works.
Has everyone moved to the suburbs?
Once I really committed myself to the idea of thinking that I'm going to do this book, I realized that everyone who I grew up with out here eventually went into the film industry. Everyone is going to be either like a screenwriter or a manager or an agent or an executive at a studio. Which is eventually what happened to all of my friends who I based characters in Less than Zero on. I said, "Oh, I don't really want to write a Hollywood novel," but I guess it ended up being one anyway.
So is Julian going to Little League games and doing yoga now?
[Laughs] The past haunts.
It haunts us all.
Yes, it does. No, no one has become that reformed.
That's a relief. It's good to be able to believe in something.
You're very optimistic, aren't you?
The Informers opens Fri 24.