Ellis' 'Canyons' earns place on Showtime map


NEW YORK -- Showtime is headed for "The Canyons," a horror-tinged soap opera being developed by Bret Easton Ellis and Dave Kalstein.

The pay cable network has ordered a script from the project, about a group twenty- and thirtysomethings in Los Angeles. It centers on a 29-year-old magazine editor who escapes his hard-partying New York life by following his best friend and a new girlfriend across the country, only to find himself virtually isolated when his friend is killed in a mysterious accident.

The six main characters -- including an art gallery owner, lawyer, event planner and a closeted bartender -- deal with career and relationship issues. They encounter violent situations and anxieties that are briefly manifested as monsters and other apparitions that may or may not be real.

Despite the surreal touches, Ellis says he doesn't want the series to venture into David Lynch territory. "There are no midgets walking backwards," he said, laughing. "We want something much more naturalistic -- a very realistic soap."

Ellis said he developed the idea during one of his "dark periods" living in a Los Angeles hotel while looking for a home. "I had a feeling that the world was coming to an end, which I still think it is, and was making fear-based decisions, which were getting me into worse situations. I wanted to write a soap based on fear and anxiety in L.A."

After having problems developing the script, Ellis brought in former New York-based magazine editor Kalstein, who worked with him on an action drama that networks were hesitant about developing.

"It's very much like Michael Mann's L.A.," Kalstein said of the project, adding that the title is not only a reference to Los Angeles but also a "metaphor for the chasm people have in relating to each other."

Ellis is best known for three novels made into films -- "Less Than Zero," "The Rules of Attraction" and "American Psycho" -- and his latest book, "Lunar Park." Intrepid Pictures bought the rights to former GQ staffer Kalstein's sci-fi novel "Prodigy" in the summer, hiring the writer to adapt it for the big screen with an eye to develop it through the company's deal with Rogue Pictures.

Ellis is repped by ICM. Kalstein is repped by Paradigm.