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Bret Easton Ellis, the writer behind the polarizing Lindsay Lohan-starring film The Canyons, has had his fair share of criticism over the years.
“I have had a ton of shit thrown at me since I was very young,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The reviews for this movie are actually better than for American Psycho, the book, when it was published. I got no good reviews for that book at the time. So my armor was built a long time ago.”
But Ellis, whose work as an author includes the novels American Psycho and Less Than Zero, has been fascinated with the media frenzy that surrounds Lohan’s every move and every body part.
“I could take people putting down my work and saying they don’t like it, but being made fun of physically is really terrible,” he says. “The amount of attention paid to her physicality and the nastiness — I don’t know what it is. That’s something that would probably get to me. I guess that’s just what it means to be Lindsay in a way.”
In the low-budget The Canyons, Lohan stars as a Los Angeles resident whose boyfriend Christian (porn actor James Deen) is a wealthy twentysomething who spends his time producing movies, doing drugs and having orgies.
STORY: Lindsay Lohan’s ‘The Canyons’ Aims for VOD Success
The film, being distributed by IFC Films on VOD and in one theater in New York, has been buzzed about since it raised funds on Kickstarter in May 2012. Ellis first came up with the idea for the project after his other film, Bait, with director Paul Schrader fell through. They were determined to make a small, micro-budgeted film together.
Ellis tells THR that he was inspired in part by the steamy erotic novel by E.L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey. Before a writer had been announced for the hot film adaptation of that book, Ellis had at one time expressed his interest in penning the script.
Deen’s character is even named after the male love interest.
“I was thinking about James Deen and I was thinking about Fifty Shades of Grey. That’s how James’ character was named,” he says. “It has nothing to do with Christian Bale in American Psycho. I really wasn’t thinking of that at all. I was thinking about Christian Grey.”
Ellis also credits American Gigolo and a modern take on film noir as part of his inspiration for the film but says he had never designed it to be a commentary on millennials or technology.
STORY: ‘The Canyons’ Reviews: the Good, the Bad and the Lohan
As for casting Lohan, an actress whose legal and personal troubles have overshadowed her film career for quite some time now, Ellis insists it was an artistic choice.
“We had seen hundreds of actresses for the part of Tara,” he says. “And then when Lindsay came into it late in the game, she was just better than anyone else.”
Despite casting two very buzzy people as the leads, Ellis says he’s surprised by the wrath that has been unleashed against his film. It grossed a meek $15,200 at the IFC Center in New York City during its opening weekend, and many critics were not gentle in their reviews.
“I think that the hatred for the movie is disproportionate to the movie itself,” he says. “And I don’t know if Lindsay brings something to that. I don’t know if casting James did something, or if I’m such a polarizing figure.”
“We made this movie ourselves with no money; we didn’t take $30 million from a studio. We did this on our own,” he says. “I’m kind of confused by the loudness of the dislike.”
After spending a year in a half in what he calls the “Lindsay world,” Ellis says he’s as curious as everyone else to see where Lohan goes from here.
“It’ll be interesting to see where her narrative goes now,” he says. “Part of the ‘fun’ of her narrative for the public is to hate her and to ridicule her at every turn, and it will be interesting to see if she can move the narrative to a different place and to make a right turn and head off the path of the old Lindsay narrative.”
The Canyons is currently available on VOD.
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