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Bret Easton Ellis
Ellis in 2010
Ellis in 2010
Born (1964-03-07) March 7, 1964 (age 59)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Occupation Writer, novelist, screenwriter
Alma mater The Buckley School
Bennington College
Period 1985–present
Genre Satire, black comedy, Transgressive fiction
Literary movement Postmodernism
Notable works American Psycho (1991)
Less than Zero (1985)

Bret Easton Ellis (born March 7, 1964) is an American author, screenwriter, short-story writer, and director. Ellis was first regarded as one of the so-called literary Brat Pack and is a self-proclaimed satirist whose trademark technique, as a writer, is the expression of extreme acts and opinions in an affectless style. His novels commonly share recurring characters.

When Ellis was 21, his first novel, the controversial bestseller Less than Zero (1985), was published by Simon & Schuster. His third novel, American Psycho (1991), was his most successful. Upon its release the literary establishment widely condemned it as overly violent and misogynistic. Though many petitions to ban the book saw Ellis dropped by Simon & Schuster, the resounding controversy convinced Alfred A. Knopf to release it as a paperback later that year. Ellis's novels have become increasingly metafictional. Lunar Park (2005), a pseudo-memoir and ghost story, received positive reviews. Imperial Bedrooms (2010), marketed as a sequel to Less than Zero, continues in this vein.

Four of Ellis's works have been made into films. Less than Zero was adapted in 1987 as a film of the same name, but the film bore little resemblance to the novel. Mary Harron's adaptation of American Psycho was released in 2000. Roger Avary's adaptation of The Rules of Attraction was released in 2002. The Informers, co-written by Ellis and based on his collection of short stories, was released in 2008. Ellis also wrote the screenplay for the 2013 film The Canyons.

Life and career

Ellis was born in Los Angeles in 1964, and raised in Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley. His father, Robert Martin Ellis, was a property developer, and his mother, Dale Ellis (nee Dennis), was a homemaker. They divorced in 1982. During the initial release of his third novel, American Psycho, Ellis said that his father was the basis of the book's best-known character, Patrick Bateman. Later Ellis claimed the character was not in fact based on his father, but on Ellis himself, saying that all of his work came from a specific place of pain he was going through in his life during the writing of each of his books. Ellis claims that while his family life growing up was somewhat difficult due to the divorce, he mostly had an "idyllic" California childhood.

Ellis was educated at The Buckley School in California; he then attended Bennington College in Vermont, where he originally studied music then gradually gravitated to writing, which had been one of his passions since childhood. There he met and befriended Donna Tartt and Jonathan Lethem, who both later became published writers.

Bennington College was also where Ellis completed a novel he had been working on for many years. That book, Less than Zero, was published while Ellis was 21 and still in college, and propelled him to instant fame. Ellis is represented by literary agent Amanda Urban. After the success and controversy of Less than Zero in 1985, Ellis became closely associated and good friends with fellow Brat Pack writer Jay McInerney: the two became known as the "toxic twins" for their highly publicized late-night debauchery.

Ellis became a pariah for a time following the release of American Psycho (1991), which later became a critical and cult hit, more so after its 2000 movie adaptation. It is now regarded as Ellis's magnum opus, garnering acknowledgement from a number of academics. The Informers (1994) was offered to his publisher during Glamorama's long writing history. Ellis wrote a screenplay for The Rules of Attraction's film adaptation, which was not used. He records a fictionalized version of his life story up until this point in the first chapter of Lunar Park (2005). After the death of his lover Michael Wade Kaplan, Ellis was spurred to finish Lunar Park and inflected it with a new tone of wistfulness. Ellis was approached by young screenwriter Nicholas Jarecki to adapt The Informers into a film; the script they co-wrote was cut from 150 to 94 pages and taken from Jarecki to give to Australian director Gregor Jordan, whose light-on-humor vision of the film met with negative reviews when it was released in 2009.

In 2010, Ellis released Imperial Bedrooms, the sequel to his début novel. Ellis wrote it following his return to LA and fictionalizes his work on the film adaptation of The Informers, from the perspective of Clay. Publishers Weekly gave the book a positive review, saying, "Ellis fans will delight in the characters and Ellis's easy hand in manipulating their fates, and though the novel's synchronicity with Zero is sublime, this also works as a stellar stand-alone." Ellis expressed interest in writing the screenplay for the Fifty Shades of Grey film adaptation. He discussed casting with his followers, and even mentioned meeting with the film's producers, as well as noting he felt it went well. The job eventually went to Kelly Marcel, Patrick Marber and Mark Bomback. In 2012 Ellis wrote the screenplay for the independent film The Canyons and helped raise money for its production. The film was released in 2013 and critically panned, but was a modest financial success, with Lindsay Lohan's performance in the lead role earning some positive reviews.

Personal life

In a 1999 interview, Ellis suggested that his reluctance to definitively identify as gay or straight was for "artistic reasons".

Lunar Park was dedicated to Ellis's lover, Michael Wade Kaplan, who died shortly before he finished the book and to Ellis's father, Robert Ellis, who died in 1992. In one interview Ellis described feeling a liberation in the completion of the novel that allowed him to come to terms with unresolved issues about his father. In the "author Q&A" for Lunar Park on the Random House website, Ellis comments on his relationship with Robert, and says he feels that his father was a "tough case" who left him damaged. Having grown older and "mellow[ed] out", Ellis describes how his opinion of his father changed since 15 years ago when writing Glamorama (in which the central conspiracy concerns the relationship of a father and son). Earlier in his career, Ellis said he based the character Patrick Bateman in American Psycho on his father, but in a 2010 interview he claimed to have lied about this explanation. Explaining that "Patrick Bateman was about me," he said, "I didn't want to finally own up to the responsibility of being Patrick Bateman, so I laid it on my father, I laid it on Wall Street." In reality, the book was "about me at the time, and I wrote about all my rage and feelings." To James Brown, he clarified that Bateman was based on "my father a little bit but I was living that lifestyle; my father wasn't in New York the same age as Patrick Bateman, living in the same building, going to the same places that Patrick Bateman was going to."

Ellis named his first novel and his latest after two Elvis Costello references: "Less than Zero" and Imperial Bedroom, respectively. Ellis called Bruce Springsteen his "musical hero" in a 2010 interview with NME.


Bret Easton Ellis, The Arches, Glasgow
Bret Easton Ellis at The Arches, Glasgow in 1998.

Ellis's first novel, Less than Zero, is a tale of disaffected, rich teenagers of Los Angeles written and rewritten over a five-year period from Ellis's second year in high school, earlier drafts being "... more autobiographical and read like teen diaries or journal entries—lots of stuff about the bands I liked, the beach, the Galleria, clubs, driving around, partying", according to Ellis. The novel was praised by critics and sold well (50,000 copies in its first year). He moved back to New York City in 1987 for the publication of his second novel, The Rules of Attraction, described by Ellis as "an attempt to write the kind of college novel I had always wanted to read and could never find. Influenced heavily by James Joyce's Ulysses and its stream-of-consciousness narrative technique, the book sold fairly well, though Ellis admits he felt he had "fallen off" after the novel failed to match the success of his debut effort, saying in 2012, "I was very obsessive, very protective about that book, perhaps overly so." His most controversial work is the graphically violent American Psycho (1991) which Ellis has said "came out of a place of severe alienation and loneliness and self-loathing." The book was intended to be published by Simon & Schuster, but they withdrew after external protests from groups such as the National Organization for Women (NOW) and many others due to its alleged misogyny. It was later published by Vintage.

Ellis's collection of short stories The Informers was published in 1994. It contains vignettes of wayward Los Angeles characters ranging from rock stars to vampires, mostly written while Ellis was in college, and so has more in common with the style of Less than Zero. Ellis has said that the stories in The Informers were collected and released only to fulfill a contractual obligation after discovering that it would take far longer to complete his next novel than he'd intended. After years of struggling with it, he released his fourth novel, Glamorama, in 1998. Glamorama is set in the world of high fashion, following a male model who becomes entangled in a bizarre terrorist organization composed entirely of other models. The book plays with themes of media, celebrity, and political violence, and like its predecessor American Psycho it uses surrealism to convey a sense of postmodern dread. Although reactions to the novel were mixed, Ellis holds it in high esteem among his own works: "it's probably the best novel I've written and the one that means the most to me. And when I say "best"—the wrong word, I suppose, but I'm not sure what else to replace it with—I mean that I'll never have that energy again, that kind of focus sustained for eight years on a single project. I'll never spend that amount of time crafting a book that means that much to me. And I think people who have read all of my work and are fans understand that about Glamorama—it's the one book out of the seven I've published that matters the most." Ellis's novel Lunar Park (2005) uses the form of a celebrity memoir to tell a ghost story about the novelist "Bret Easton Ellis" and his chilling experiences in the apparently haunted home he shares with his wife and son. In keeping with his usual style, Ellis mixes absurd comedy with a bleak and violent vision.

In 2010, Ellis released a follow-up to Less than Zero, Imperial Bedrooms. Taking place 25 years after the events of Less than Zero, it combines that book's ennui with the postmodernism of Lunar Park. It met with disappointing sales.

For his original screenplay for the Paul Schrader-directed film The Canyons, Ellis won Best Screenplay at the 14th Melbourne Underground Film Festival, with the film also winning Best Foreign Film, Best Foreign Director and Best Female Actor, for Lindsay Lohan.

Ellis released his first work of non-fiction, White, a collection of essays on contemporary political culture, in 2019.

In late 2020, Ellis began to read his latest work, a memoir called The Shards, on his podcast. On December 1, 2021, he announced on Instagram that the manuscript of The Shards had just arrived for him to look over. On May 20, 2022, he announced that the book could be preordered.


In May 2014 Bravo announced that it had teamed up with The Rules of Attraction feature film adaptation writer/director Roger Avary and producer Greg Shapiro to develop a limited-run series based on the novel. The plot will stray from the source material and is described as follows: "Inspired by the book and film of the same name, the high-concept series takes the students and faculty at the fictional Camden College and unravels a murder mystery by telling the same story through 12 different points of view. Children of the 1%-ers live as unhinged and wild adults in a Bret Easton Ellis world with seemingly no rules to hold these privileged few down." Titled Rules of Attraction, the series will be written by Roger Avary (The Rules of Attraction, Beowulf) for Lionsgate TV with Greg Shapiro (Zero Dark Thirty) serving as an executive producer.

In a 2013 interview with Film School Rejects, Ellis said the original American Psycho "doesn't really work as a movie."


Year Title Director Writer Producer Actor Notes
1999 This Is Not An Exit: The Fictional World of Bret Easton Ellis Yes Appeared as himself
2001 Fernanda Pivano: A Farewell to Beat Yes Appeared as himself
2008 The Informers Yes Yes Co-written with Nicholas Jarecki
2013 The Canyons Yes Yes
2016 The Curse of Downers Grove Yes
The Deleted Yes Yes Webseries
2020 Smiley Face Killers Yes


On November 18, 2013, Ellis launched a podcast with PodcastOne Studios. The aim of the show, which comes in 1-hour segments, is to have Ellis engage in open and honest conversation with his guests about their work, inspirations, and life experiences, as well as music and movies. Ellis, who has always been averse to publicity, has been using the platform to engage in intellectual conversation and debate about his own observations on the media, the film industry, the music scene and the analog vs. digital age in a generational context. Notable guests have included Kanye West, Marilyn Manson, Judd Apatow, Chuck Klosterman, Kevin Smith, Michael Ian Black, Matt Berninger, Brandon Boyd, B. J. Novak, Gus Van Sant, Joe Swanberg, Ezra Koenig, Ryan Leone, Stephen Malkmus, John Densmore, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, Ivan Reitman, and Adam Carolla. In April 2018 the Bret Easton Ellis Podcast began a Patreon for instant access to new episodes. $2.00+ is charged per episode, with isolated excerpts occasionally made available to non-patrons.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Bret Easton Ellis para niños

  • List of novelists from the United States
  • Transgressional fiction
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