American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis reveals he was groomed as a teenager; praises Morrissey, Elon Musk and Kanye
American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis has revealed he was groomed as a teenager by a movie producer who said he would help to launch the author’s film career.
Speaking at a book reading and interview at the Southbank Centre, the 58-year-old said the experience “toughened” him and that he never considered reporting the incident to the police.
“I realised that this was a growing-up experience,” he said. “He wasn’t really interested in the movie, he was interested in something else… But I did go into the room and I did take off my underwear and I did go through with it, thinking I was going to get something out of it, and I was disappointed and a little embarrassed and a little ashamed but you know what? I grew up. It toughened me.
I did go into the room and I did take off my underwear and I did go through with it, thinking I was going to get something out of it
“Would I ever have called the police? No! Would I have ever lodged a sexual assault claim against this person? No! It was something that happened to me that reminded me that this is the way the world works. It isn’t fair but I don’t think it really hurt me that much. I get taken to task by younger readers who say I’m minimising something but I’m not – it was a different time and a different place.
“I was talking to a woman my age who was an actress who admitted to me: ‘If only I had known about the casting couch – I would rather have given one blow job to a producer than go through two months of auditions and not get the part.”
The author was at the Southbank Centre to promote his new novel The Shards, a fictionalised version of his own teenage years – the main character is called Bret Easton Ellis – spliced with a serial killer story. The book includes a fictionalised version of the encounter with a predatory movie producer.
During the interview with journalist and author Erica Wagner, Ellis also praised the controversial singer Morrissey, who once branded the Chinese a “subspecies” over their treatment of animals.
Morrissey is the latest in a line of questionable celebrities backed by Ellis. The author last week saw audience members walk out of a book signing event at Westminster’s UnHerd Club after he defended Kanye – now known as Ye – over the rapper’s anti-semitic comments.
Ellis said: “Morrissey is shunned by the mainstream media. I don’t agree with him all the time but I love that he is free enough to talk about things. I don’t like the reaction to it. I don’t like the shutting down of the conversation, the idea that Morrisey is just an old man on a porch pointing his fingers – mostly he’s not if you listen to him.
“He has very interesting and nuanced takes on things that we might not agree with but that’s his take on it, it doesn’t mean you have to cancel him and throw him in cancel-jail. I have a problem with the way everybody has to be on the same page or you’re thrown into a kind of jail.”
Ellis recently said in an interview with the “i” newspaper that he was a fan of controversial Twitter owner Elon Musk, saying “I love disruptors”.
Ellis also addressed the recurring themes of violence in his novels. “It’s very simple: growing up in California in the 70s and 80s, serial killers were ubiquitous, there were dozens of them criss-crossing the landscape. Every day you would read about them in the papers… They got away with everything.
“I was talking to Querntin Tarantino about this – he had read The Shards and said he loved it and he said: ‘You wanted to go back to your childhood, just like I did in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. That’s my The Shards. It was 1969, I was eight or nine, and the Manson Family freaked me out for the rest of my life’.
“I get that, the Manson Family murders are something you never forget and Tarantino found a way to process it through rewriting it, which I know some people applauded and some people including the victims’ families did not like… But he was saying ‘You and I are the same age and we wanted to go back to that point like a lot of people of a certain age in order to understand it’.
He also said that some criticism of The Shards – which has been released to overwhelmingly positive reviews – revolved the book being “too filled with spunk”.
“I always thought sex scenes needed to be part of the dramatic storytelling… I never felt I wrote a purely gratuitous sex scene. I felt the sex scenes in The Shards helped move the action and clarify what’s going on with the characters. I don’t just throw a sex scene into a book because I felt the book needs a sex scene. Sex is an incredibly important part of our lives, especially for a 17-year-old boy who’s so horny he’s shooting into the stratosphere of horniness.
“The problem with a lot of sex scenes is they rely a lot on metaphor. A lot of writers like to dress it up and make it decorative. They are embarrassed about writing about sex so they use terms like “love purse” or “his purple sword”. The best sex scenes are the ones that are like, ‘this is what happened’.
• The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis is out now