Kanye West brings Yeezus tour to AustraliaFull movies coverage
Already a man with a musical empire, a fashion business and an ego the size of Microsoft and Apple put together, Kanye West is set to become a film mogul.
The musician who is long past the simple description of “hip-hop star” has inveigled celebrated author Bret Easton Ellis to write the screenplay for a film based on West’s chart topping 2013 album, Yeezus.
The pair began work seven or eight months ago, said Ellis, who told an American website that his initial reluctance evaporated when West gave him an early copy of the album “and I thought, regardless of whether I’m right for this project, I want to work with whoever made this”.
While something of a concept album, being semi-autobiographical and examining West’s pressures, fears and (inevitable) triumphs, Yeezus is not strictly speaking a narrative album with an obvious story within its “three act” structure.
However, as Fairfax Media critic Craig Mathieson put it: “Given [West] is a fashion designer, he knows how to extrapolate small tendencies into big things.” Mathieson said Yeezus was “a fascinating album that is critically focused on remaking both pop music and hip-hop even as it wallows in narcissism”.
If West is new to the film world, Ellis isn’t a stranger to the idea of books and music converted to film, or vice versa. Several of his novels – American Psycho, Less Than Zero and Rules Of Attraction – have been made into feature films while he wrote the screenplay for last year’s Paul Schrader film The Canyons.
Furthermore, not only does music feature heavily through most of his books, as character pointers as much as scene-setters, both Less Than Zero and its “sequel”, Imperial Bedroom, were named after Elvis Costello songs.
It may disappoint West to hear that he is not the first to go this route as films inspired by or made from songs make up a small but surprisingly vibrant sub-genre.
Sean Penn’s directorial debut, The Indian Runner, was based on the characters in Bruce Springsteen’s song Highway Patrolman while Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant Massacree inspired the film Alice’s Restaurant (which could also inspire Kanye West as Guthrie had a role in the film).
Country music’s fondness for stories-in-song helped turn hits such as Harper Valley PTA and The Gambler into big screen efforts; Pink Floyd’s tale of rock’n’roll ennui The Wall was made into a film, starring musician Bob Geldof; and more recently playwright Tom Stoppard adapted Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon for a radio play called Darkside.
Meanwhile, West will tour Australia in May performing songs from Yeezus.