It’s fascinating to listen to an author, writer, director or any creative person discuss their work. I find it so fascinating because the “work”, whether it be a novel, a film, a song, always takes on a different meaning to different people. As consumers of culture, we pick and choose moments in the work that speak to us. We assign our own meaning. It might be the polar opposite of what the artist intended.
The Patrick Bateman character in American Psycho is just that — a fucking psycho — but there is an almost endearing quality about his lust for murder. The murders seem to have a purpose. Bateman is reacting to the things in his life that he deems fake. In his world of money, power, high priced toys and well off people, the only thing that’s real is chopping a person up in his living to Genesis songs.
Bret Easton Ellis, the creator of Patrick Bateman and countless other amazing novels, was a guest on WTF With Marc Maron. Maron brought up American Psycho, specifically the movie adaptation of the novel.
Ellis discussed the early ideas for the film, the directors and stars attached (Oliver Stone and Leonardo DiCaprio the most interesting) and his trepidation in turning the book into a film. Here are his thoughts about the project from the initial talks with directors.
Bret Easton Ellis: How are they going to do this with this book? Why are they going to do this with this book? I mean the book was conceived as a piece of…as a novel. It was conceived as a novel. It wasn’t conceived as a script, it wasn’t conceived as a movie, it was a novel thing. It was 400 pages in the mind of this guy and he’s a completely unreliable narrator. You don’t know if some of these things happen or not. You don’t even know if the murders happen or not. Which to me is interesting. To me it’s much more interesting not to know than to definitely know.
Marc Maron: Do you know it?
Bret Easton Ellis: I don’t know it. No. I don’t know it. But, so, what the movie is going to do, regardless, is going to answer it. He’s going to have done them because we’re watching it happen.
So Bateman didn’t really commit those brutal and sadistic murders, he didn’t tarp his living room and Paul Allen might still walk the Earth? Damn.
…not so much? Damn. That’s a lot for a fan to digest.
These sentiments are also much different than Ellis’s answers to the murder question in other interviews. In this Shortlist piece, Ellis says “Regarding the murders, I was always on the fence about whether they were fantasy or real. I don’t know and I prefer it that way.”
Much like consumers of culture put their own slant on art, music and literature, so do the artists. Even artists sometimes can’t decide. It’s probably better that way.