February 21, 2014
Kanye West and Bret Easton Ellis are working on a movie and it is going to be great (if it actually happens, which it probably won’t)
by Alex Shephard
Kanye West, a talented narcissist, and Bret Easton Ellis, a less talented narcissist, are currently working on a film together, according to Ellis, who is not a genius, like Kanye West, though he is a narcissist, like Kanye West.
Ellis first reported that he and West were working together last year, after the rapper remade a scene from Ellis’s American Psycho to promote his album Yeezus. Earlier this week, Ellis let Vice know a little bit more about the project in a wide-ranging interview:
“He came and asked me to write the film. I didn’t want to at first. Then I listened to Yeezus. It was early summer last year and I was driving in my car. He’d given me an advance copy, and I thought, regardless of whether I’m right for this project, I want to work with whoever made this. So fuck it, I said yes. And that’s how it happened. That was seven or eight months ago. We’ll see what happens.”
Of course, that’s far from a guarantee that anything will happen, but considering that West put one of 2013’s best albums together in, like, a couple of hours, anything is possible. According to Ellis, West is appealing to work with because he is also a narcissist and also because he and Ellis are both well known for speaking their mind: “I really like him as a person,” Ellis told Vice. “I know he comes off in this performance-art way in the press, but if you’re just alone with him in a room talking for three hours, it’s kind of mind-blowing.”
Unsurprisingly, the conversation about West quickly turned into a conversation about narcissism, which is perhaps the most interesting and revealing part of the entire interview:
“[Kanye is] one of the few people who will admit it, and I like him for that and I wish more people would follow suit. I think that’s what makes Jennifer Lawrence so appealing. She’s the future of Hollywood personas. I don’t know where the “old rules” of the empire—about showing your best self on the red carpet—gets anyone. It suggests an unfree society.”
Here, Ellis appears to be attempting to reframe some of his more controversial moments—shittalking Kathryn Bigelow, shittalking Alice Munro, the whole “Generation Wuss” thing he also discusses in the Kanye interview, his presence on Twitter—as a statement about showing something real about yourself to the public and the press, rather than “your best self.” At his best, Ellis is, as Gawker‘s Rich Juzwiak put it, “angry, self-serving, contradictory, justified, and human,” but it’s been a long time since he’s been at his best.
Combined with his recent work—The Canyons and Lunar Park are two low points in a mixed career—Ellis’s attention-grabbing should diminish expectations for whatever it is he and West are working on (if, in fact, it ever actually happens, which is doubtful). But I think that West is exactly what Ellis needs. West has made some of the best art of the past decade and he always gets the best out of his collaborators—just listen to Watch The Throne and Magna Carta Holy Grail back-to-back. Regardless, this project has to be good because Kanye is involved; his involvement trumps Ellis’s.
But don’t take my word for it. I reached out to former Melville House intern/Kanye West expert Jean-Patrick Grillet for his thoughts. Here’s what he had to say:
“I know BEE gets a bad wrap with the kids for what he’s said about us and technology or whatever, but like, I don’t even know exactly what he’s said about us. I DO know that he’s written some badass books that us kids love. I also know that before meeting Kanye, Bret did not believe in God, but after meeting God, Bret believed in Kanye. Hence his openness to [work with West.] These guys are controversial and known for being ahead of their time or something. Kanye premiered that G.O.O.D. film at Cannes and blew people’s minds. Did you know he also wrote the original draft of American Psycho and BEE found it folded into some Gap jeans he tried on while in Chicago? The fact that Ye could forgive him for taking that should say something. But anyway, back to the movie. Kanye started off as a visual artist. It’s why his videos are awesome, and why he blew people’s minds at Cannes. When you finally get around to convincing people that Kanye West is a great artist, they can’t argue anything but his lyricism. For whatever reason, people continue to give Ye flack for brilliant lines like “But far as handlin’ all that ass, I think you gon’ need some help/ Let me remind you, you got a, you got a great future behind you.” I won’t begin to deconstruct that, but his power lies in packing meaning into seemingly meaningless lines. Whatever, the ones who blindly criticize his lyrics are the ones who would have scoffed at Shakespeare. But Ye knows that’s the case, and that critics would tear a film apart just because it was written by Kanye. Like with his music, I see Ye taking whatever raw material Ellis gave him in that script, and reworking the hell out of it. He’ll put something out that will get robbed of an Oscar only to go down in history as the greatest movie ever (and the greatest movie ever to be robbed of an Oscar).”
Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.