If, five or six years ago, you were to pose the question, “hey, wouldn’t it be great if Bret Easton Ellis and Kanye West were to make a movie together?” you’d probably be gawked at like a crazy person. Today, if you were to do the same, you’d probably be gawked at like a crazy person. But at least you’d have the facts on your side.
Because Kanye West and Bret Easton Ellis are working on some kind of film collaboration. Unfortunately, that’s all we really know for now – it’s a project that will involve the visual medium of film, and will merge the minds of West and Ellis. Pesky details like “story” and “if West will be starring, directing, or just using his likeness as the film’s grand inspiration” are being kept extremely hush-hush. But when pressed about the project in a Vice interview, Ellis could at least admit this:
“It’s in Kanye Land, and that’s subject to a whole other time frame. He came and asked me to write the film. I didn’t want to at first. Then I listened to Yeezus. It was early summer last year and I was driving in my car. He’d given me an advance copy, and I thought, regardless of whether I’m right for this project, I want to work with whoever made this. So fuck it, I said yes. And that’s how it happened. That was seven or eight months ago. We’ll see what happens.”
I won’t blame anyone for reacting to this news like those hypothetical five-or-six-years-ago naysayers. The idea of a feature-length Kanye West movie sounds more than a little frightening, given West’s tendency to let his massive artistic success go to his head. As much as this musician’s known for writing and performing music, he’s also known for making an ass of himself: comparing himself to Jesus and war veterans, insulting Jewish people and roughly six thousand other instances where foot has been inserted into mouth.
But Kanye West has also been edging his way into the film industry for the past few years. 2007 saw the birth (and death) of Untitled Kanye West Comedy Project, a Curb Your Enthusiasm-style series that the rapper pitched to HBO. The pilot was filmed, the pilot was rejected, and that was that. But according to those who saw the pilot, it wasn’t awful; mostly because West had the self-awareness to surround himself with talented improvisers like Wyatt Cenac and J.B. Smoove and let them handle most of the heavy lifting. Decide for yourself after watching one of the rare pieces of UKWCP to make it to the outside world.
Then, in 2010, West directed Runaway, the long-form music video for his album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Like most of the work associated with West, it’s burdened by his 6,000 lb ego- West plays a romantic hero with an unbuttoned shirt who rescues a half-human, half-phoenix hybrid after she crash-lands on Earth. He falls in love with and seduces the picturesque bird-lady, but eventually she proclaims something along the lines of “I have to go now. My planet needs me.” Then she flies away into outer space, prompting Kanye West to run futilely, shirtlessly, after her. Runaway may play a little like a parody of bad arthouse cliches, but it actually looks pretty good (looks = visually, that is). No doubt due in part to the film’s art director, Vanessa Beecroft, but to argue that West had zero involvement in the film’s visuals would a bit of a reach.
Further helping the case of Kanye Land: The Movie is the relationship between West and Ellis. First, they collaborated on a promo for West’s most recent album, Yeezus, that parodied Ellis’ American Psycho. It’s not much; mostly it’s a PSA on why your wife’s friends from Keeping Up With The Kardashians will never be a substitute for real-life film actors. But it’s also the start of a strange and apparently fruitful relationship.
A few months later, West sat down for a spot on Ellis’ podcast, where much time was spent discussing film. Ellis attempted to argue that Yeezus is a more valid piece of art than 12 Years a Slave, and West, to his credit, nipped that idea in the bud. “I don’t think that my skillset is high enough to sonically create something that would be on the textbook level of 12 Years a Slave.” At least where moviemaking is concerned, Kanye West seems like a fairly humble guy.
Now Ellis, whose last film was a vehicle for another tabloid-heavy celebrity (The Canyons and Lindsey Lohan, respectively) is working with Kanye in a big way. Considering the screenplay is still stuck in “Kanye Land,” wherever and whatever that is, it might be a while until this one hits theaters/Youtube/MTV/whatever. But if this Hollywood Kanye is anything like his last few film exploits- less ego-driven and with a reasonably keen visual eye- a screenplay from Ellis could be the missing link that leads to an artistically valid Kanye West movie. Or it could just be the next step to Kanye West crowning himself God-King of the known universe.