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American Psycho: Duncan Sheik didn't see the Bret Easton Ellis novel as a musical at first

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Jeremy Daniel

The new, musical version of American Psycho boasts a slew of songs by Duncan Sheik as well as Sheik-arranged covers of such ’80s pop classics as The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” and Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.” But when the singer-songwriter was first approached about helping adapt Bret Easton Ellis’ infamous 1991 serial-killer novel for the stage he had severe misgivings about the project.

“I had read the book in college and, at first blush, I did not see this as a musical, in any way, shape, or form,” says Sheik, a Tony winner for Spring Awakening, with a laugh. “Fortunately, when I reread the book, I was like, ‘This is so f—ing amazing.’ I really didn’t appreciate it as a 20-year-old. It was so ahead of its time. And Patrick is a music aficionado. So I said, ‘Maybe this would be a great opportunity.'”

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Sheik was also drawn to the project for nostalgic reasons: the ’80s-era New York club scene frequented by the homicidal Bateman in Ellis’ novel was also visited by the then-teenage singer-songwriter. “The first [club] was Area. The first time I went to Area I think I was 16,” Sheik says with a laugh. “It was, like, the greatest moment of my life that I got in through the velvet ropes! Of course, it was completely illegal, but I was thrilled just to be in there. Then it was places like Nell’s. And Tunnel. I was definitely going there. There was Limelight. And that was really my first exposure to house music. Because it had just come from Chicago, and then early techno had come over from Detroit, and it was the very beginning of hearing those sounds and that type of programming, and those types of synthesizers in dance music. And, frankly, it was exciting then and it was really a lot of fun to dig back into that stuff and make some of that music myself.”

You can see the trailer for American Psycho — which opens Thursday at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in N.Y.C. — below.

A version of this story originally appeared in Entertainment Weekly issue #1411-1412, on newsstands now or available here.

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