Is TV ready for Bret Easton Ellis? Ever since the 1985 release of his best-selling tale of L.A. youth-gone-amoral, Less Than Zero, young Hollywood — including television faves like James Van Der Beek, Ian Somerhalder and Austin Nichols — have populated the feature-film adaptations of Ellis' edgy, unsettling novels. Now, with the 25-years-in-the-waiting publication of the engrossing Zero sequel, Imperial Bedrooms, Ellis is gearing up to take on the small screen. If a certain cable network has the guts, that is.
TV Guide Magazine: Congrats on Imperial Bedrooms. It's about time! When Less Than Zero came out to such fanfare, did you ever feel trapped? Like 'Now that you've done it, you have to keep doing it'?
Ellis: I've never felt trapped. Never. If I felt that pressure to produce stuff and placate an audience, I would have done what a lot of authors have done and made a deal with their publisher to have a book out every two years. I just can't work that way.
TV Guide Magazine: Your fans can't love that, though.
Ellis: I think that's part of the problem with their reception of this book. They're like 'Well, Ellis didn't really game up past American Psycho...or Glamorama.' 'Why is this book so short?' 'Why is it so dark?' A book is a reflection of where you are in your life and it's not dependent on the needs of an audience. You're writing it for yourself. I wrote the book I wanted to write.
TV Guide Magazine: What can you tell me about this TV show you're working on?
Ellis: The Follower was something that I developed at HBO, and then the usual problems developed, as they do with any kind of project. Half the people there were really into IT and half the people didn't really understand it. So we moved it over to Starz. That is where we are now and I am writing another episode of it for [network president] Chris Albrecht...we'll see what's going to happen next.
TV Guide Magazine: Since it's based on Jason Starr's stalker novel, is the show being told through the stalker's eyes?
Ellis: No, it's a group show. It's not only about the stalker. I think that would become maddening and monotonous after a while. It's about a group of [twentysomething New Yorkers] and how they, the collective group, are affected by a stalker. That's really how the show operates.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you have a dream cast in mind?
Ellis: I don't. When I am working on something like this, I don't have a cast in mind. Sometimes, when I'm working on a script for a movie, a certain actor or actress will lodge themselves in my mind. But usually with TV shows, I'm not thinking that way. I have a physical idea, but not a particular actor.
TV Guide Magazine: How far along are you with it?
Ellis: We're just figuring out the tone. It's a tricky thing and I don't want to say too much about it, but we've met a lot and they just need to see a second episode to understand the tone and where I'm going with this thing. Regardless of what they know about the entire first season or the second, Starz just needs right now to see how this plays out. Is it going to be darker, lighter, what? When people ask me what novel I'm working on next, this is it. This is the big project I'm most immersed in. And in its own way, it is a novel. But of course, pilots are shot all the time, so you never know.
TV Guide Magazine: Well, you do have some famous fans in Hollywood. James Van Der Beek [who starred in 2002's adaptation of Rules of Attraction] moderated the launch event for Bedrooms, and I hear Joel McHale did a killer reading as Patrick Bateman from American Psycho.
Ellis: Well, James is a friend. I don't know if he would have done the event in L.A. if he hadn't. And Joel McHale is a fan and he came on board when he heard about it. It was fun.
TV Guide Magazine: Thanks to Rules, you are the man who helped Dawson Leery lose his goody-goody image.
Ellis: I know. And that's how we became friends, because James was so happy about that. But it wasn't really me, it was [Rules director] Roger Avary. He saw something darker in James than anyone had ever seen and tapped into that.
TV Guide Magazine: Why has it taken you so long to consider TV?
Ellis: You know what? It hasn't. I have written five or six pilots, and I've been involved with some of these for sometimes a year each. I had a show at Showtime called The Canyons, which was kind of a supernatural soap that seemed to be going somewhere and then abruptly was not. That was about a year of my life. But I have really moved into this idea that "the novel for television" is an exciting idea.
TV Guide Magazine: And what TV shows excite you?
Ellis: Mad Men does. 30 Rock...American Dad. I really love The Hills, although I think it's completely combusted this season. It had about four great seasons and then it kind of began to slip and slide a little bit. I never got into Lost. I tried and tried and tried. [Laughs]
TV Guide Magazine: Do you ever look at shows and see your influence? I don't think we'd have a Gossip Girl, a 90210 or even The O.C. if it hadn't been for Less Than Zero and all those beautiful troubled young people.
Ellis: Well, I'm friends with Darren Star and Josh Schwartz, so I think you'd have to ask them about the influences of those shows [Laughs]. I think I've talked to both of them about that. I mean...maybe? The thing that happens is, if you're first out of the gate, of course people may be influenced by your stuff. It was kind of a freak accident that I was published at 21. The earlier you start, the wider your influence can spread.
Would you watch a show from Bret Easton Ellis? And what young actors would you like to see him work with?
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