Magazine article The New Yorker

The Real Bret Easton Ellis

Magazine article The New Yorker

The Real Bret Easton Ellis

Article excerpt

"The Informers," an ensemble film set in nineteen-eighties L.A.--Ray-Bans, chopper soundtrack, drugs, rock, vodka in the tub, spiritual alienation rendered as standing on the sidelines of a foursome, clothed--maintains a certain fidelity to that world as it is witnessed by Bret Easton Ellis, the postmodern pastiche author who wrote the short stories on which the film was based. Ellis wrote the stories during long winter breaks from Bennington College, while back home in his childhood bedroom in Sherman Oaks. They came out as a book in 1994, after his best-known novels, "Less Than Zero" and "American Psycho," had already been published; he wrote the screenplay with Nicholas Jarecki several years ago, and both writers are credited as executive producers on the film.

"Canter's represents a place where one would go out to eat at four in the morning after being at clubs," Ellis said the other day, referring to the all-night delicatessen on Fairfax where the nervous television anchorwoman played by Winona Ryder goes for a pack of cigarettes and a garden salad. "It was one of the very few places open where you could get a sandwich and hang out." Spago, painstakingly re-created, down to the white wire-basket chairs, for an awkward family-dinner scene (with Billy Bob Thornton as the cheating, narcissistic studio-executive dad and Kim Basinger as the unglued mom), was, Ellis said, "a place my family went to dinner a lot, not to sound too gross." In the film, a debauched rock star has a gig at the Greek, where as a teen-ager Ellis would go to hear his favorite bands: the Go-Go's, Split Enz, Squeeze. The Ellis family vacationed in Hawaii--the locus of strained recreation for a bullying father (Chris Isaak) and his huffy son (Lou Taylor Pucci). In 1983, the year in which the film is set, Ellis was driving a cherry-red BMW; the next year, he was given his father's hand-me-down Mercedes 450SL. Needless to say, the cars of "The Informers" are German-made.

Ellis, who is forty-five, has reddish-brown hair, a cleft chin, and a soft gaze, was sitting before a computer at a glass-topped desk in a small apartment in West Hollywood, which he bought in 2006, after leaving New York, where he had lived since the late eighties. The few furnishings--a sleek fawn-colored sofa, an ottoman with Lucite legs--came with the unit. …

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