The Canyons (film)

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The Canyons
The Canyons.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPaul Schrader
Produced byBraxton Pope
Written byBret Easton Ellis
Music by
CinematographyJohn DeFazio
Edited byTim Silano
  • Post Empire Films
  • Sodium Fox
  • Prettybird Pictures
Distributed byIFC Films
Release date
  • July 29, 2013 (2013-07-29) (Lincoln Center)
  • August 2, 2013 (2013-08-02) (United States)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$265,670

The Canyons is a 2013 American erotic thriller-drama film directed by Paul Schrader and written by Bret Easton Ellis. The film is set in Los Angeles and stars Lindsay Lohan, James Deen, Nolan Funk, Amanda Brooks, and Gus Van Sant. It received a limited release on August 2, 2013 at the IFC Center in New York City, the Bell Lightbox in Toronto, and on video on demand platforms.[2]


When Christian, an L.A. trust-fund kid with casual ties to Hollywood, learns of a secret affair between his girlfriend Tara, a former actress, and the lead of his film project, he spirals out of control, and his cruel mind games escalate into an act of bloody violence.[3]



Production and marketing[edit]

Braxton Pope, Bret Easton Ellis, and Paul Schrader were originally involved in a film project, Bait. When the project lost its financing, Pope, Ellis, and Schrader decided they wanted to make a lower-scale film. Ellis was in charge of writing the script. After it was completed, Pope suggested raising money via Kickstarter.[4] Throughout May–June 2012, the film raised $159,015, with a goal of $100,000 in funding.[5] The budget for the film was $250,000 and the actors were reportedly paid $100 a day.[1]

On July 13, it was announced that Brendan Canning would be scoring the film.[6] On July 18, 2012, the official press release for the movie was published on the Facebook page of The Canyons.[7] On July 24, 2012, it was announced that American Apparel would be supplying the cast with wardrobe and was planning to issue logo T-shirts based on Ellis, The Canyons, and Schrader.[8]

The first teaser was released on YouTube on June 16, 2012.[9] On October 8, a "retro style" teaser trailer was released.[10] IndieWire called The Canyons one of the "50 Indie Films We Want To See In 2013" in January 2013.[11] On August 2, 2013, rapper Kanye West released a new version of the trailer; he worked with Nate Brown on the re-editing and created new music with Noah Goldstein.[12]

Following the film's release, Schrader accused Lohan of not supporting the film, saying she had pulled out of interviews and never showed up for promotional photo sessions.[13]

In the docu-series Lindsay, which chronicles (in eight one-hour episodes) Lohan's return from her sixth stay in rehab for addiction and her attempts to revitalize her career, she claimed that she did not end up promoting The Canyons, specifically its Venice Film Festival screening, because it would have placed her in a situation that compromised her sobriety.[14]


Casting of The Canyons was operated through the casting website Let It Cast by providing all actors interested in auditioning for the five lead roles and one supporting role with download access to the audition scene to film their own video audition and submit themselves. As Pope and Ellis explained in the casting's presentation video on Let It Cast,[15] the motivation to operate the casting in this fashion was to facilitate submissions from talented actors who might not otherwise be seen given the time constraints of the traditional casting process, as well as to open a direct channel to actors whose talent agents might otherwise complicate the process. Paul Schrader wrote a full account[16] on the process of casting the seven actors which were ultimately cast through their Let It Cast audition in this fashion. Actors Lindsay Lohan and James Deen were cast independently of this process.

Although Schrader, Ellis, and Pope initially favored French actress Leslie Coutterand[17] (who auditioned through Let It Cast), the role of Tara ultimately went to Lindsay Lohan. When Pope approached Lohan's manager about the possibility of Lohan playing the role of Cynthia (the yoga instructor), Lohan responded that she wanted to play the lead.[4][18] Two weeks later, she screen tested and was cast. Pope said, "She's very charismatic and she has a lot of acting skills...So for this part, we felt that she was really the right actor for a host of different reasons."[19] Fleur Saville was also considered for the role of Tara.

Early on, the filmmakers considered casting Sean Brosnan as Christian, but later, they wanted to cast somebody "more edgy and unexpected". Ellis had mentioned several times that he had Deen in mind for Christian's role and when he, Pope and Deen met, Deen was promised a screen test. Schrader was reluctant at first, because he thought it was unlikely he would cast him due to his background in porn.[20] After being surprised by Deen's acting abilities and charisma, Schrader was still reluctant to cast him but with Ellis and Pope were collectively intrigued by the idea of casting Lohan and Deen in the leads and ultimately did. Other actors that had been considered for Christian's role were Alex Meraz and Daren Kagasoff among others.[21]

Funk was cast as Ryan. Other actors who had been considered for Ryan's role included gay porn star Sean Paul Lockhart, Alex Ashbaugh, who was cast in a different role, Zach Roerig, and Chris Schellenger, who was also given a different, smaller role in the film.[21]

Gina was cast through Let It Cast. The primary selection criteria were: who would be the best counterpoint to Lohan, in physical appearance and personality. After many auditions, Brooks was cast. Other actresses who had been considered were Spencer Grammer and Jessica Morris, among others.[21]

Cynthia was originally called Lindsay, but her name was changed so she wouldn't be confused with Lohan. She was also cast through Let It Cast, and the primary criterion for the actress was to balance Lohan and Brooks.[21]

Houston's audition was sent in early and remained a favorite. Other actresses who had been considered included Fleur Saville and Cameron Richardson.[21]

In tertiary roles, Boeven was cast as Jon, and Aquitaine was cast as Randall. Philip Pavel, who was cast as Erik, had also been considered, among others.[21]

Caitlin's character was originally supposed to be cast through Let It Cast, but was ultimately cast through mobli, because Pope had wanted to cast Caitlin through mobli. Lauren Schacher was cast.[21][22]

Director Gus Van Sant's casting in the role of Christian's psychotherapist was reported in July 2012.[7][23]

When asked about casting The Canyons, Ellis stated: "Dealing with the casting of The Canyons was a great, liberating process—for both the production team and for actors in general. We used Let It Cast and saw some amazing actors that we will definitely keep in mind for future projects. The way the entire cast came together so quickly was a thrill and everyone who landed their roles deserved them. Using social media as a way to help build a film is really like riding the wave into the future." Pope said, "Nothing about this film was orchestrated in a traditional way. We wanted to actively embrace all the digital and social media tools at our disposal and give the film real cinematic value—The Canyons is the result of a forward thinking experiment with a terrific cast." Schrader said: "Bret Easton Ellis' characters are beautiful people doing bad things in nice rooms. Lindsay Lohan and James Deen not only have the acting talent; they also have that screen quality that keeps you watching their every move."[7]

Filming and editing[edit]

Principal photography began in July 2012 with the shooting of the first six minutes of the film[24] in the bar of the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Los Angeles. Many key scenes were shot at the Malibu home of designer Vitus Mataré. Filming was moved to Westfield Century City mall in Los Angeles after a failed attempt to film at the Santa Monica Promenade.[18] Scenes were also shot in Amoeba Records[4] on Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood and Cafe Med restaurant at Sunset Plaza, West Hollywood, as well as Palihotel Melrose and The Churchill bar of The Orlando Hotel, both in the Beverly Grove neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Schrader says about filming The Canyons: "...we’re making art out of the remains of our empire. The junk that’s left over. And this idea of a film that was crowdfunded, cast online, with one actor from a celebrity culture, one actor from adult-film culture, a writer and director who have gotten beat up in the past—felt like a post-Empire thing. And then everything I was afraid of with Lindsay and James started to become a positive. I was afraid we wouldn’t be taken seriously and people would think it was a joke. My son and daughter didn’t want me to do it. That just shows you how conservative young kids are."[25]

The rough cut of the film was 1 hour 44 minutes long.[26] Initial edits of the film were disappointing; the film was said to "drag".[18] Ellis, Schrader and Pope had a disagreement over the final cut of the film. After Schrader showed Steven Soderbergh the rough cut of the film, Soderbergh offered to cut it within three days. Schrader declined, telling The New York Times: "The idea of 72 hours is a joke, it would take him 72 hours to look at all the footage. And you know what Soderbergh would do if another director offered to cut his film? [Puts up two middle fingers] That’s what Soderbergh would do."[18] Ellis is quoted as saying: "The film is so languorous. It's an hour 30, and it seems like it's three hours long. I saw this as a pranky noirish thriller, but Schrader turned it into, well, a Schrader film."[27]

On Ellis' Podcast, he claims to now have a new appreciation of the film, saying he had trouble at first accepting Schrader's vision of his material, but in the end, has come to an understanding over his reservations during the creative process. He also openly praises Lohan's performance, calling it "searing," and blames the film's perceived 'failures' on Lohan's reputation in the media, which has nothing to do about the film's quality or her performance in the film. He continued with saying he believes The Canyons to have ended up as being a success both creatively and financially for all those involved. He concludes with saying he is very proud of the final product.[28]


The film was not accepted by the Sundance Film Festival, but was scheduled for sale in January 2013 by William Morris Endeavor.[18] It was also publicly rejected by SXSW citing they had "quality issues" with the film, which enraged director Paul Schrader, who was very proud of his final film.[29] IFC Films bought the rights to distribute the film theatrically,[30] accompanied by a special screening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (on July 29, 2013) featuring a conversation session with director Paul Schrader and the film critic/New York Film Festival Program Director Kent Jones.[25] It was released on August 2, 2013 in the United States at the IFC Center in New York City, the Bell Lightbox in Toronto, and on video on demand platforms.[2] It was shown in the out of competition section at the 70th Venice International Film Festival.[31][32] The film was also featured on the cover of the July/August 2013 (Volume 49/Number 4) issue of Film Comment Magazine, featuring a full centerpiece article[33] on the film's production.[34] The issue also featured an article, by Schrader, on the hardships and merits of working with Lindsay Lohan.[35]

The Canyons was given an R rating for "strong sexual content including graphic nudity, language throughout, a bloody crime scene, and brief drug use".[36][citation needed][37]

Critical response[edit]

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 22% approval rating based on 89 reviews, with an average score of 4/10. The site's consensus says the film "serves as a sour footnote in Paul Schrader's career—but it does feature some decent late-period work from Lindsay Lohan".[38] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 36, based on 29 reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[39]

Linda Barnard of the Toronto Star gave the film one out of four stars, calling it "a howlingly bad soap-opera-meets-soft-core-porn mash-up".[40] Writing for The Village Voice, Stephanie Zacharek praised Lohan's performance, likening her Tara character to "a nectarine on the far side of ripening, and this isn't a story about innocence lost—she sold that off long ago. But there's a dreaminess about her that could never crystallize into hardness." Zacharek also wrote that the "nuts and bolts of the plot are the least interesting things" about the film.[41]

While the negative response to the film was overwhelming, The Canyons also received some praise. In a glowing review, Richard Brody wrote in The New Yorker that movie "isn’t a study in character but a view of the world; it’s a masterful setting of mood", praising Deen for doing "terrific job exuding a sense of imperious entitlement" and saying that Lohan's "performance itself is electrifyingly alive".[42] Jason Shawhan's Nashville Scene review claimed "Lohan tears into this role with fierce energy, walking the fine line between dominance and desperation."[43] Kent Jones also highly praised the film in Film Comment as "a visually and tonally precise, acid-etched horror story of souls wandering through a hyper-materialist hell, with a fearless and, I think, stunning performance by Lindsay Lohan at its center. On another level, it’s an inspiration and an example to us all: it’s difficult for me to imagine another filmmaker of Paul Schrader’s stature diving into the world of crowd-sourced moviemaking, let alone with such fervor, dedication and rigor."[25]


The Canyons was screened as a part of the 14th Melbourne Underground Film Festival and won four awards:

  • Best Female Actor for Lindsay Lohan
  • Best Screenplay for Bret Easton Ellis
  • Best Foreign Director for Paul Schrader
  • Best Foreign Film[44]

Home media[edit]

The Canyons made its DVD[45] and Blu-ray[46] debut on November 26, 2013 courtesy of MPI Media Group. The release included a 100-minute 'Unrated Director's Cut' of the film. The new cut of the film only runs about a minute longer than the version that was in theaters and video on demand.[47] During a "live tweet" session of the film on Twitter, where Bret Easton Ellis via his own Twitter account[48] and Paul Schrader using The Canyons' account,[49] discussed their feelings on and experiences with making the film- while viewers watched from home. Here they confessed that a sex scene had to be edited down for the final cut. A sex scene at the beginning of the film, which featured the characters of Tara, Christian and Reid (Danny Wylde), had to have cuts made to meet the content standards of iTunes. Thus the shots of Reid indulging in masturbation had to go, since they were unsimulated, unlike the other sexual content shown in the film. These shots were included in the version of the film shown at the Film Society of Lincoln Center screening but did not appear in the theatrical or video on demand edit. These shots are restored in the 'Unrated Director's Cut' available on Blu-ray and DVD. A DVD has also been made available[50] featuring the edited version, which the MPAA gave an R Rating to in the United States.

Box office[edit]

Debuting only at the IFC Center in the U.S., the film earned $13,351 by the end of its opening weekend.[51] On video on demand and iTunes, the film was said to do "extremely well".[52] The film has grossed a total of $56,825 in United States and $265,670 all around the world.[51] IFC Films has not released the Video on Demand profits of the film, but Bret Easton Ellis, on his Podcast, claimed "The Canyons was, something like, the number one Video on Demand film IFC released last year. The film has made a profit."[28]


The Canyons (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedJuly 30, 2013
GenreElectronic, synthpop, rock
LabelSQE Music
ProducerBrendan Canning with Me&John

The soundtrack was made by Brendan Canning with Me&John and features songs by Gold Zebra, A Place to Bury Strangers, and the Dum Dum Girls. It was released on July 30, 2013.[53]

  1. "Canyons Theme"
  2. "Without the Night" (featuring Adaline)
  3. "No More Sympathy" (featuring Rob James)
  4. "Back Home to Michigan"
  5. "Son of Perdition"
  6. "Teil Cock"
  7. "Love, French, Better" - Gold Zebra
  8. "Soon to Be"
  9. "Fear" - A Place to Bury Strangers
  10. "This Isn't Good for You"
  11. "Driving Sines"
  12. "Goddamn So High" (featuring Adaline)
  13. "My Preacher's Daughter" (featuring Adaline)
  14. "Coming Down" - Dum Dum Girls


  1. ^ a b Welch, Michael Patrick (February 27, 2013). "Living Inside 'The Canyons'". VICE. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Kilday, Gregg (August 2, 2013). "Lindsay Lohan's 'The Canyons' Aims for VOD Success". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 2, 2013.
  3. ^ "The Canyons". Retrieved January 30, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Pope, Braxton (August 1, 2013). "In Lindsay's Stardust Orbit". Vanity Fair. Retrieved August 2, 2013.
  5. ^ "The Canyons on". Retrieved July 7, 2012
  6. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (July 13, 2012). "Exclusive: Broken Social Scene Co-Founder Brendan Canning Scoring Paul Schrader's 'The Canyons'". Indiewire. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
  7. ^ a b c ""The Canyons" Press Release". Retrieved July 20, 2012
  8. ^ "American Apparel, a clothing manufacturer which makes clothes exclusively in the US, has generously supplied us with wardrobe. Saturday Bret, Braxton and I visited their downtown LA factory. Here's Bret on the street outside. They plan to issue logo T-shirts based on BEE, The Canyons and myself. Paul S.". Retrieved July 25, 2012
  9. ^ "The Canyons" on YouTube. Retrieved July 7, 2012
  10. ^ The Canyons – Retro Teaser Trailer on YouTube. Retrieved October 11, 2012
  11. ^ Indiewire (January 4, 2013). "The 50 Indie Films We Want To See In 2013". IndieWire. SnagFilms. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
  12. ^ Vena, Jocelyn (August 5, 2013). "Kanye West Puts Dramatic Twist On 'The Canyons' Trailer: Watch!". MTV. Retrieved August 2, 2013.
  13. ^ The Canyons director slams Lindsay Lohan. 3 News NZ. 26 September 2013.
  14. ^ Lindsay. Retrieved on May 22, 2014.
  15. ^ The Canyons: presentation video Archived September 27, 2013, at, last retrieved October 3, 2013
  16. ^ Behind the scenes: Casting The Canyons Facebook, last retrieved October 3, 2013
  17. ^ "Bret Easton Ellis" Twitter. Retrieved July 18, 2012
  18. ^ a b c d e Stephen Rodrick (January 10, 2013). "Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  19. ^ Vena, Jocelyn (June 14, 2012). "Lindsay Lohan Has 'Real Talent,' 'Canyons' Producer Says". MTV. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  20. ^ Carlson, Erin (May 4, 2012). "Bret Easton Ellis Is Using Kickstarter to Finance 'The Canyons' Indie". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g "Behind The Scenes: Casting The Canyons". Retrieved July 20, 2012
  22. ^ "Check out this sneak preview of an article in GQ on James Deen and The Canyons.". Retrieved July 7, 2012[clarification needed]
  23. ^ "In today's The Canyons shoot Gus Van Sant played James Den's psychiatrist. Read into that what you will.". Facebook. Retrieved August 7, 2012
  24. ^ Johnson, Zach (June 13, 2012). "Lindsay Lohan, Porn Star James Deen Costarring in The Canyons". Us Weekly. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
  25. ^ a b c Film Society to Debut Paul Schrader’s "The Canyons" | | Film Society of Lincoln Center. Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  26. ^ "Rough Cut.". Facebook. Retrieved August 29, 2012
  27. ^ Child, Ben (January 24, 2013). "SXSW follows Sundance in rejecting Lindsay Lohan's The Canyons". London: Guardian News and Media. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
  28. ^ a b Bret Easton Ellis Podcast. Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  29. ^ Ginsberg, Merle; Baum, Gary (January 23, 2013). "SXSW Rejected Lindsay Lohan's 'Canyons' Over 'Quality Issues'". The Hollywood Reporter. Lynne Segall. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
  30. ^ Lindsay Lohan's The Canyons Finally Finds Distributor Cinema Blend. 15 February 2013
  31. ^ "Out of Competition". labiennale. Archived from the original on July 28, 2013. Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  32. ^ "Venice film festival 2013: the full line-up". The Guardian. London. July 25, 2013. Retrieved July 25, 2013.
  33. ^ "The Noise Factor". Film Comment. Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  34. ^ Film Comment. Film Comment. Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  35. ^ "Shooting Stars". Film Comment. Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  36. ^ The Canyons Trailer, News, Videos, and Reviews. Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  37. ^ "The Canyon (2013) Parents Guide". IMDb. IMDb. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  38. ^ "The Canyons (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
  39. ^ "The Canyons". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 2, 2013.
  40. ^ Barnard, Linda (August 1, 2013). "Lindsay Lohan's The Canyons a career-killing dive: review". Toronto Star. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  41. ^ "The Canyons Is Vital, Messy, and Alive With Regret" The Village Voice, July 31, 2013. Retrieved on August 2, 2013
  42. ^ Paul Schrader's "The Canyons". The New Yorker. Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  43. ^ Why the Lindsay Lohan VOD vehicle The Canyons is the most interesting American movie of the moment | Reviews. Nashville Scene. Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  44. ^ The 14th Melbourne Underground Film Festival Awards. (2013-09-14). Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  45. ^ The Canyons (Unrated Director's Cut): Lindsay Lohan, James Deen, Nolan Funk, Amanda Brooks, Tenille Houston, Gus Van Sant, Paul Schrader, Braxton Pope, Bret Easton Ellis: Movies & TV. Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  46. ^ The Canyons (Unrated Director's Cut) [Blu-ray]: Lindsay Lohan, James Deen, Nolan Funk, Amanda Brooks, Tenille Houston, Gus Van Sant, Paul Schrader, Braxton Pope, Bret Easton Ellis: Movies & TV. Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  47. ^ Film Aficionado. Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  48. ^ Bret Easton Ellis (@BretEastonEllis) op Twitter. Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  49. ^ The Canyons (@TheCanyonsFilm) op Twitter. Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  50. ^ The Canyons (Theatrical Cut): Lindsay Lohan, James Deen, Nolan Funk, Amanda Brooks, Tenille Houston, Gus Van Sant, Paul Schrader, Braxton Pope, Bret Easton Ellis: Movies & TV. Retrieved on 2014-05-22.
  51. ^ a b "The Canyons (2013)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  52. ^ Kaufman, Amy (August 4, 2013). "Lindsay Lohan's 'Canyons' tanks at New York City theater". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 5, 2013.
  53. ^ The Canyons (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack): Various artists: MP3 Downloads. (2013-07-30). Retrieved on 2014-05-22.

External links[edit]