Bret Easton Ellis is an acclaimed American author and screenwriter best known for controversial novels such as ‘Less Than Zero’, ‘American Psycho’ and ‘The Rules of Attraction’. He has a unique writing style that features unlikable characters and graphic depictions of violence and sex. Over his decades-long career, Ellis has achieved both critical and commercial success.
|Bret Easton Ellis
|$1 Million +
|6′ (1.83 m)
|Date Of Birth:
According to multiple sources, Bret Easton Ellis’ net worth is estimated to be around $10 million as of 2023. The bulk of his wealth has come from book sales and film/TV adaptations of his novels. Some of his most popular works like ‘American Psycho’, ‘Less Than Zero’ and ‘The Rules of Attraction’ were adapted into major motion pictures which added to his fortune. Ellis also makes income from speaking fees, teaching positions and writing/producing for film/TV projects. With several books still left in his career, his net worth will likely keep rising in coming years.
Bret Easton Ellis was born on March 7, 1964 in Los Angeles, California. As of 2023, he is 59 years old. Ellis showed early promise and ambition, selling a short story to a national magazine at the age of 16. He went on to attend Bennington College in Vermont where he honed his craft and found the inspiration for early novels like ‘Less Than Zero’ which he published at 21 years old. Ellis was heralded as part of the ‘literary Brat Pack’ in the 1980s along with Jay McInerney and Tama Janowitz.
In regards to physical appearance, Bret Easton Ellis is considered tall for the average man. Multiple online sources list his height as 6 feet or 183 cm. Photos of Ellis with other celebrities help to confirm his tall stature. His height also plays into an aura of aloofness or unease that sometimes comes across in his prose writing and public persona. Though not remarkably tall, his above average height still makes him stand out in a crowd.
Early Life & Background
Bret Easton Ellis was born to an affluent family – his father Robert Ellis was a wealthy property developer and his mother Dale was a homemaker. He grew up living in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles. Ellis remarks that he had a pretty normal, suburban upbringing despite the graphic content of novels like ‘American Psycho’.
Ellis attended Buckley School where he explored his interest in writing and music but felt alienated from most of his peers. He was also developing his sexuality at the time and struggled with being gay. Ellis’ father was emotionally remote and created additional turmoil during his childhood. The dark subject matter of his books clearly arise from these early personal struggles.
Ellis started taking writing courses at UC Santa Barbara but transferred to Bennington College in 1982 which opened up his talents as an author. Classmates like future novelist Jonathan Lethem helped to sharpen his skills. After graduation, Ellis achieved overnight, controversial success with ‘Less Than Zero’ about disaffected, drug-addled rich kids in Los Angeles. The phrase “young, drunk and full of cum” on the book’s opening page set the tone for his trademark frank, abrasive writing style.
Writing Style & Themes
Ellis is known for creating antiheroes and exploring the dark side of human nature. His writing style is described as “transgressive fiction” – gritty stories about troubled characters that cross social boundaries and contain disturbing subject matter like rape, drug use, pornography, sex work and torture.
Ellis’ influences include the modernists like Hemingway, naturalist authors such as Emile Zola and Henry Miller as well as Postmodern writers like Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon and Joan Didion. He is credited along with Irvine Welsh (‘Trainspotting’) and Dennis Cooper for expanding transgressive fiction into the mainstream during the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Major themes in Ellis’ works include materialism and consumerism of modern society especially in high school and college social circles. His characters seek bodily pleasures through promiscuity, alcohol/drugs and violence as a way to mask inner sadness and ennui about their purposeless lives. Toxic masculinity, misogyny, homophobia also permeate many relationships portrayed in the books.
Despite these dark themes, Ellis displays penetrating insight about celebrity-obsessed culture and moral decay of institutions like Wall Street, politics and higher education fraternities. Redemption is possible but very rare in his fictional universes.
Some of Bret Easton Ellis’ most famous novels include:
Less Than Zero (1985)
Ellis’ sensational debut about wealthy, apathetic college students doing drugs and having copious sex in Los Angeles. Its protagonist, Clay, returns home from college to see old friends now involved with prostitution, crime and extreme debauchery. More introspective than later works, ‘Less Than Zero’ cemented Ellis’ inactive antihero archetype.
The Rules of Attraction (1987)
Set at the fictional Camden College on the East Coast during the 1980s, this novel revolves around three sexually-entangled students named Lauren, Paul and Sean. They recklessly indulge in drugs, alcohol and affairs while battling their inner loneliness and dissatisfaction with forced success. Their lack of empathy and morals drives pain and disaster.
American Psycho (1991)
Ellis’ most famous yet polarizing work, ‘American Psycho’ focuses on wealthy 26-year old Wall Street banker and serial killer Patrick Bateman living in 1980s Manhattan. Obsessed with status, style and wealth, Bateman also commits brutal acts of murder, rape, torture, cannibalism and necrophilia mostly on women. The novel provoked a firestorm upon release for its graphic violence.
Imperial Bedrooms (2010)
Written as a sequel to ‘Less Than Zero’, protagonist Clay is now a middle-aged Hollywood screenwriter still dealing with existential dread. He becomes embroiled in a dangerous situation after getting involved with a young actress with a sordid past. As Clay reconnects with old friends in hedonistic environments, more violence gets unleashed.
Ellis frequently stirs outraged debate with his profane subject matter and opining on political or cultural issues:
- ‘American Psycho’ faced threats of boycotts over concerns it promoted misogyny and violence. Feminists like Gloria Steinem condemned the book. It was later published with significant edits.
- Ellis faced backlash over graphic scenes in ‘The Rules of Attraction’ involving Lauren’s history with sexual assault.
- In 2022, Ellis drew criticism after saying he now identified as “anti-woke” and provocatively attacking political correctness and cancel culture.
Despite angering critics, Ellis’ unique brand of confronting, amoral fiction still garners a loyal audience after 40 years. His first anthology of personal essays called ‘White’ will arrive in 2023 to further discussion and debate.
Impact on Literature
Bret Easton Ellis cemented his place among America’s modern great novelists in the late 20th century. He won critical acclaim for his unflinching, morally ambiguous examinations of privileged classes. Along with his ’80s Brat Pack’ peers, Ellis expanded the scope and topics for serious fiction, delving into graphic sexuality, violence and existentialism.
He made unlikeable, superficial characters somehow compelling in their reckless, hedonistic pursuits. Ellis gave penetrating insight into the unseen sociopathy and emptiness pervading moneyed communities often considered glamorous in Reagan/Bush-era America.
Works like ‘American Psycho’ parallel and satirize the ruthless ambition and greedy excesses in Wall Street finance, echoing Tom Wolfe’s ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’. Patrick Bateman became the poster antihero for corporate yuppie culture spinning out of control.
Ellis also foreshadowed several technological impacts on social behavior which millennials now take for granted – constant connectivity breeding isolation, cyberbullying and personality fragmentation. Much 1990s transgressive fiction now seems prophetic as mass shootings, date rapes and celeb scandals dominate news cycles.
While some critics dismiss his prose as vulgar shock value without subtext, Ellis helped stretch the boundaries of fictional subject matter. He clearly articulated nihilism, numbness and rage stemming from malaise born of limitless pleasure and prosperity. His influence looms over contemporary authors depicting dystopian worlds like Brett Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk and Dennis Lehane.
Ellis remains an active novelist, screenwriter, commentator and podcaster in recent years across various media formats:
- Ellis hosts a popular podcast called ‘The Brett Easton Ellis Podcast’ featuring chats with fellow authors, actors and musicians.
- He wrote a original screenplay called ‘The Golden Suicides’ about the bizarre deaths of artists Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake. The script caught the interest of major studios in 2016 but remains unproduced.
- Ellis wrote for TV series like Netflix’s ‘The Politician’ from longtime collaborator producer Ryan Murphy.
- He occasionally still pens essays and reporting pieces critiquing cancel culture, political correctness and liberal bias in Hollywood for Substack and other outlets.