With his shockingly gory novel American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis examined the decadence and greed of Wall Street workers during the Ronald Reagan era through the eyes of a self-professed homicidal maniac .Now a musical theatre version is to be created for Broadway.
The book, published in 1991, was condemned in some quarters for its shocking levels of violence, particularly a scene in which the main protagonist tortures a woman with a rat. The tale was adapted for a predictably explicit film, released in 2000, starring Christian Bale as the chainsaw-wielding central character who is driven by rampant commercialism to apathy and then inhumanity.
Now a musical theatre version is to be created for Broadway, better known for its wholesome, family-friendly entertainment, such as the stage adaptation of Disney's The Lion King.
Ellis's book, a satire that recounts the story of Patrick Bateman, a high-flyer turned serial killer, aimed to expose New York's set of wealthy but vacuous young socialites.
Three American companies have joined forces to buy the live stage rights to the novel, which has sold more than 1.6 million copies since it was published eight years ago. Audiences will see the end result in 2010. The search for writers for the script and musical score has begun, after which a director will be appointed.
The novel contains a number of lengthy chapters in which the main character waxes lyrical about his favourite musical acts of the era, including Genesis, Whitney Houston and Huey Lewis and the News. The prominence of Eighties music in the book is assumed to have inspired the Broadway version, and will undoubtedly influence its score, although the project will have to secure the rights to any tracks that it wishes to use.
The announcement of the project was reportedly hurried out to coincide with the current economic crisis in the US, which has led to anger over the perceived greed and high living of Wall Street bankers. "Now in particular it seems relevant, especially given what's happening on Wall Street," said David Johnson of Johnson-Roessler, one of the companies to have acquired the rights to the Broadway adaptation.
He added: "Ellis's book contains so many memorable lines and musical references that a live musical is the perfect fit. The character of Patrick Bateman has become an icon for fans of the book and the film adaptation, and now we can bring this dark but comical world of greed to the stage in an entertaining and thought-provoking way."
Ellis appears to be fully on board, and has been confirmed as a consulting producer, as has the Canadian Mary Harron, who directed the film. Ellis said: "American Psycho's essence is the high-flying Eighties, the decadence and the music – together, they are the equivalent of a spectacular train wreck you have to watch."
Strange but true: Bizarre musicals
Stephen King's horror novel about a psychic teenager who decides to wreak bloody revenge after being humiliated on her prom night doesn't seem like an obvious musical. Widely considered one of the biggest Broadway flops of all time, closing after five shows at a cost of $8m.
*Out Of The Blue (1994)
Inspired by the US bombing of Nagasaki in 1945, the plot revolved around an American priest who returned to Japan 25 years after the event to reclaim his daughter. Despite costing £2m to stage, it was panned by the critics and closed after just 17 days at the Shaftesbury Theatre.
This comedy about the dispute between Roy Keane and Ireland manager Mick McCarthy before the 2002 World Cup carried the tagline "He came, he saw, he went home". It was warmly reviewed and is still running in Dublin.