INTERVIEW: 9-Months Pregnant and Delivering "American Psycho," Director Mary Harron
by Anthony Kaufman
(indieWIRE/4.14.2000) -- What a long haul for director Mary Harron -- she gets hired to helm a movie, gets fired after Leonardo DiCaprio jumps on board, then gets rehired after Leo abandons ship. She begins shooting in Canada and is denied locations for fear the film will draw protests and bad publicity. Her movie is called "the most disgusting film of the year" before it's even made and she becomes the brunt of anti-violence outrage and feminist fury. Then she premieres the film at Sundance ("the most anticipated film ever," introduces Geoffrey Gilmore) and afterwards gets lambasted by the critics. Then she submits the film to the MPAA, gets smacked with an "NC17" rating and is forced to cut down a sex scene to garner an "R." And on top of all of that, she's pregnant. Today, the day of the film's release, she is, in fact, about 2 weeks from her delivery date. Talk about stressful premieres. . . Harron's takes the cake.
But the Canadian filmmaker does not fear controversial topics. She tackled "I Shot Andy Warhol" about the controversial feminist and author of the S.C.U.M. Manifesto, Valerie Solanas, in 1996. With their latest film, "American Psycho" which drew the above wrath from all sides of every fence, Mary Harron has trumped herself -- with a biting satirical take on the infamous Bret Easton Ellis novel -- an admittedly "difficult" film that will have audiences alternately revolted and amused. Anthony Kaufman spoke to Harron earlier this week about press reactions, rescuing misunderstood subjects, the casting controversy and delivering a baby at the same time as her movie.
indieWIRE: In approaching this interview, I was trying to think if there's anything that hasn't been said yet about this movie. There's been so much hype, so much press, how are you feeling, finally going into release this week?
Mary Harron: I'm actually feeling much, much better. After it premiered at Sundance, there was this really weird press reaction. There was so many people outside and there was so much hype, and then it's quite a disturbing and bleak movie, and obviously, people didn't stand up and cheer, but I felt like a lot of the audience got it. And obviously, a lot of other people didn't like it. But then it appeared in the press as if it was a disastrous screening. By certain people. Roger Ebert wrote it was the most loathed film at Sundance. But on the whole, I didn't feel like that at all. But since then, Ebert changed his mind about the film; now he's given it a thumbs up. I don't expect everybody to love this movie; but since then, the critical response has been very good, so I'm fine now.
iW: Is that where the main nervousness comes from before releasing a movie, how the press will react and in turn, how the audiences will react?
Harron: A little bit. It's quite a difficult film and you're not sure how it's going to be taken. Obviously, there's a certain part of the audience -- the young male audience -who want to see a horror movie, and is disappointed because it's not. Ain't It Cool News' Harry Knowles, he just hated it, and the people who e-mailed him were all "this sucks, I was expecting some kick-ass violence."
iW: So that must have made you happy. . . ?
Harron: It does actually. Because there was so much pressure before the film was first seen --