Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis on American Gigolo

Written by: Stephen Hsu

Primary Source:  Information Processing

Highly recommended to readers with literary or cinematic interests. Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis discuss American Gigolo. (Best brief summary of the movie and its impact is @5-12 min.) Ellis is the author of Less Than Zero and American Psycho. Schrader wrote and directed American Gigolo (1980), which had a huge cultural impact and made Richard Gere a star. (Intro soundtrack is Blondie’s Call Me.)

This is an old interview with Ellis (translated from the French):

ALEX ISRAEL – We’ve spoken about your interest in Paul Schrader’s American Gigolo. Tell me about your relationship to the film.
BRET EASTON ELLIS – I Was 16 when it came out and back then it seemed very shocking. It was Paramount’s big spring movie of 1980 and it reverberated through our cultivation and started to change things. What Was shocking Was That there HAD never-been movie That Looked at a male beauty in the way American Gigolo DID. We’d seen women bed, Addressed, and undressed fait que fashion, we aim’d never seen a movie about Essentially male beauty. It was the first metrosexual movie. I think it has Anticipated changes in culture, That Would Be seen with more clarity later on in Calvin Klein ads and in the photographs of Herb Ritts.

ALEX ISRAEL – So it offered a new way of thinking about male sexuality’s role in mass culture?
BRET EASTON ELLIS – A lot of movies-have Dealt with male sexuality. Purpose Does American Gigolo really deal with male sexuality? Richard Gere plays a prostitute in it. It’s a film noir. Regardless of what Paul Schrader Was going for at the time, it: has a heavy homoerotic element. Purpose It Was not a gay film. It was Saying, look, this is Where We’re headed as a culture male beauty in straight Culture is going to be Embraced in this way – not as it is in gay culture, in order –other this way. I remember seeing the movie a number of times, Knowing That It Was not a great film, That goal It was very suggestive. Now, 30 years later, it’s a key THE movie.

ALEX ISRAEL – An Especially key movie for you, right?
BRET EASTON ELLIS – Completely, right down to the fact That I named Julian in Less Than Zero after Gere’s character in American Gigolo. For better or worse, in 1980 I Began working on Less Than Zero. There Was not really a character Julian in the first draft of That book. When That character Began to announce Itself in subsequent drafts He Was named Julian – in homage to American Gigolo.

ALEX ISRAEL – What you Influenced When You Were writing Less Than Zero, other than American Gigolo?
BRET EASTON ELLIS – I Was a Southern California kid Who wanted to write about youth culture and about the people I Knew. The language of movies and it cam from punk rock and from Joan Didion. I do not know if There Was a specific cultural influences That inspired Less Than Zero. I do not know what it Would Have been. I knew that I wanted to write a novel, and I Was That very much Influenced by Joan Didion and Ernest Hemingway, not that much profit by Fitzgerald.

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Stephen Hsu
Stephen Hsu is vice president for Research and Graduate Studies at Michigan State University. He also serves as scientific adviser to BGI (formerly Beijing Genomics Institute) and as a member of its Cognitive Genomics Lab. Hsu’s primary work has been in applications of quantum field theory, particularly to problems in quantum chromodynamics, dark energy, black holes, entropy bounds, and particle physics beyond the standard model. He has also made contributions to genomics and bioinformatics, the theory of modern finance, and in encryption and information security. Founder of two Silicon Valley companies—SafeWeb, a pioneer in SSL VPN (Secure Sockets Layer Virtual Private Networks) appliances, which was acquired by Symantec in 2003, and Robot Genius Inc., which developed anti-malware technologies—Hsu has given invited research seminars and colloquia at leading research universities and laboratories around the world.
Stephen Hsu

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