Huey Lewis and 'American Psycho': An unlikely connection that led to a movie boycott and a Weird Al parody
Lewis boycotted the movie due to its underhanded marketing that threw him and his band under the bus. He later starred in a Funny Or Die parody of the original scene alongside Weird Al Yankovic
'American Psycho' is a classic. Who could forget the pompous monologues from Patrick Bateman on the musical genius of various 80s artists, including Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, Huey Lewis and the News who were a part of one of the movie's most iconic scenes where Christian Bale's Bateman educates Jared Leto's unsuspecting and heavily intoxicated Allan on the importance of listening to lyrics and understanding a band's musical journey before bludgeoning him to death with an ax as Huey Lewis and the News's 'Hip to be Square' plays in the background.
In the original novel by Bret Easton Ellis, the monologue appeared in a different part of the story. But ever since the movie put the two scenes together, 'Hip to be Square' has become inseparable from Bateman. And the connection is something Ellis actually regrets.
Lewis's music is old-school rock 'n roll. Bateman, for all his talk, is really just a capitalist who pours out highly scripted vapid monologues that keep up the facade he so carefully crafts. Bateman and several other characters in 'American Psycho' are designed to show us how society puts more effort into keeping up appearances than having any real passion for the things they talk about. And by connecting Lewis to Bateman, Ellis believes he did the band a disservice.
"I was staying true to the time, 1986 or 1987, and I thought that those three pop acts would be in Bateman's headspace," says Ellis. "So it was in my headspace but I was not necessarily a big Huey Lewis fan. And I really did have to inform myself. I remember that month of listening to the Huey Lewis records and making notes for this kind of pompous, pseudo-intellectual term paper review that Patrick Bateman had in his head." He continues, "In a lot of ways, it wasn't fun because I was getting to a point where being with Bateman wasn't fun. And you know, I ended up feeling bad for Batemen's loving attention toward the band, which, in itself is this kind of criticism of the culture. They weren't a favorite band -- I was much more a Bruce Springsteen person than a Huey Lewis person -- but I didn't think they deserved it. I liked them more than the implied criticism of them that's in the text. But by then, you know, the [plot] was in motion, things were set and away we go."
But what did Lewis himself think of the connection? If his 2013 'Funny Or Die' video with 'Weird Al' Yankovic is anything to go by, he either found it insulting or hilarious.
When the Funny Or Die staff listed out their ideas to Lewis, Lewis had eyes only for the 'American Psycho' parody. And if his comedic genius is not evident enough in the parody itself, the musician had some funny ideas to add to the bit, including having "55-gallon buckets of blood" fall on the scene at the end as he murders 'Weird Al' with an ax. But why exactly was Lewis so eager to parody the original scene?
Lewis initially read 'American Psycho' when he heard his band had been mentioned in it and he was later contacted for permission to use his music in the film, which he agreed to. But when he was asked for permission to include the song on the film's soundtrack, he declined.
Prior to the film's premiere, a press release went out claiming Lewis took offense to the film's violence and therefore pulled his song from the soundtrack. Speaking about the incident Lewis said, "That was just a made-up story they used to gin up enthusiasm for the premiere, which was kind of Hollywood and below the belt. So I boycotted the film...I don't hate the film or anything I just thought they promoted in an underhanded way."
He continued, "When the opportunity came up to poke fun at it, I thought, 'Finally.'" And thus, the iconic parody of an iconic scene was born.