Fast Chat: Bret Easton Ellis

"The Informers," a new movie based on novelist Bret Easton Ellis's 1994 story collection, takes us back to the dawn of the '80s: Wayfarer sunglasses, neon blazers, Betamax. Ellis ("Less Than Zero") co-wrote the script, tracing multiple characters, including a philandering film producer (Billy Bob Thornton) and an ex-con (Mickey Rourke), through a tale of excess and moral decay. NEWSWEEK's Eliza Gray spoke with Ellis.

The film's themes are timely.
The timing is interesting because things are falling apart now; this [movie] is about another time where things are about to fall apart. I always saw it as a movie about the end of the '70s and the beginning of the '80s, the end of one era and the beginning of another.

It seems as if there's a cultural fascination with the '80s.
Last night I saw "Adventureland," which takes place in 1987, with three other people, and two were saying, "Damn, the music was so good during that period." I guess there is a longing for that period. Things seemed simpler.

The film's unifying character seems a bit like you.
Yes, he was basically me, I guess. I wanted to be a writer from a very early age, and that alienates you from the world—so, yes, I would say I was that guy to a degree, but then I accepted it. I went to parties, I had a girlfriend, I went to the beach. I wasn't holed up in my room listening to the Cure and being incredibly morose—so I was alienated and at the same time caught up in the scene.

What did you think of "the scene" back then?
I was very critical of a lot of the values. My books were written with a lot of anger and frustration about everyone being so preoccupied with themselves. But then you get older and you realize every generation is pre-occupied with themselves.