Bret Easton Ellis has told The Hollywood Reporter he was left "confused" by the level of hatred unleashed by critics of The Canyons, the Lindsay Lohan-starring "modern day film noir" he wrote for director Paul Schrader.
Schrader's film, which also features porn star James Deen in a leading role, was turned down by both Sundance and SXSW film festivals and widely rubbished by reviewers upon its eventual low-key release in one New York cinema and via on-demand. It currently maintains a paltry 23% rating on the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. Ellis, writer of the novels American Psycho and Less Than Zero, said he was surprised by the "the loudness of the dislike" for the film, but did not regret its controversial castings.
"We had seen hundreds of actresses for the part of Tara," he said. "And then when Lindsay came into it late in the game, she was just better than anyone else."
Ellis said he was disappointed at the nature of some of the attacks on Lohan. He said: "I could take people putting down my work and saying they don't like it, but being made fun of physically is really terrible. 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."
Set in Los Angeles, The Canyons stars Deen as a calculating young movie producer, Christian, who discovers his actor girlfriend Tara (Lohan) has hidden an affair in her past. On Deen's casting, Ellis said he was inspired by "mommy porn" literary sensation Fifty Shades of Grey, which is itself being made into a high-profile film. "I was thinking about James Deen and I was thinking about Fifty Shades of Grey," said the writer. "That's how James's character was named. It has nothing to do with Christian Bale in [the film version of] American Psycho. I really wasn't thinking of that at all. I was thinking about Christian Grey."
Ellis said he was used to his work being vilified by the critics, and pointed out that his most celebrated work was dismissed upon its initial publication. "I have had a ton of shit thrown at me since I was very young," he said. "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 armour was built a long time ago."
He added: "I think that the hatred for the movie is disproportionate to the movie itself. 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 polarising figure."