About The Production
Bret Easton Ellis' "American
Psycho" was perhaps the most controversial and hotly-debated novel of the
last decade. Inciting all manner of protests for its graphic violence, its
intensely dark tone made both the book and its author the subject of intense
criticism. But the novel was not without its defenders. Christopher
Lehmann-Haupt of The New York Times noted that "it's as if 'American
Psycho' had returned us to some bygone age when books were still a matter of
life and death instead of something to distract us on a flight between JFK and
LAX." And, Lehmann-Haupt may have best conveyed the essence of the book in
his description of its central character: "Patrick Bateman lives in a
morally flat world in which clothes have more value than skin, objects are worth
more than bones, and the human soul is something to be sought with knives and
hatchets and drills."
Few characters have personified an era
as disturbingly as Patrick Bateman. In the same way that FRANKENSTEIN gave us a
monster for its time, AMERICAN PSYCHO gives us a monster for the late 20th
century. Showing contemporary urban life through the eyes of a serial killer --
forcing readers to enter his mind and understand his motives -- the book sets
forth a vision that is both terrifying and chilling.
Now, nearly a decade after the book's
publication, benefiting from the distance and sharpened perspective that come
with time, "American Psycho's" provocative social commentary can be
re-evaluated and appreciated. Looking back from the cusp of the new millennium,
we realize it operates metaphorically and that its content is not as emotionally
charged nor as literal as it once seemed. It can finally be confronted -- this
time in the form of a stunning social satire for the screen.
Unfazed by the controversy that
AMERICAN PSYCHO stirred up, director/screenwriter Mary Harron looked past the
book's graphic violence and recognized a valid vision of our culture. She also
saw that the intervening years would allow a new perspective on the material.
When both the era and the book are viewed from the distance of nearly a decade,
she explains, AMERICAN PSYCHO comes into focus as "a brilliant social
satire and a devastating portrait of the 1980s. The book captures the insanity
of that period like nothing else."
In the hands of Harron and co-writer
Guinevere Turner, the story was transformed into a screenplay that Harron
describes as "a kind of fable rather than a realistic drama, because on a
literal level, Bateman would never have gotten away with it. But that is
precisely the point of the novel -- and the film -- that might have become lost
in the controversy. The fact is, no one suspects Bateman of being a monster
because his externals fit so perfectly into his social landscape. 'AMERICAN
PSYCHO' is not a 'message' movie -- we're not preaching -- but I hope that the
film does reveal something about our society," Harron says.
While the book's notoriety sprang from
its depictions of violence, the film has taken a different tack. To draw out the
tale's satirical essence, Harron and Turner pared down the original story and
selected pivotal moments, capitalizing on the humor in characters' behavior and
retaining key elements of Ellis' "brilliant and very funny dialogue,"
says Turner. In addition, most of the violence takes place off-screen. "We
knew from the start," Turner continues, "that if done incorrectly,
this screenplay could translate into an exploitative slasher film. That was the
last thing we wanted. Instead, what isn't seen is far more terrifying."
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