Canadian writer and director Mary Harron first made an impact on the world of American independent cinema with her 1996 feature directorial debut I Shot Andy Warhol. The widely acclaimed film, which detailed the short, strange life of S.C.U.M Manifesto author Valerie Solanas, earned both an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Film and a Special Jury Award for star Lili Taylor at the 1996 Sundance Festival.
The daughter of celebrated Canadian actor Don Harron, she was educated at Oxford University and began her career as a rock journalist. One of the founders of Punk magazine, the first publication dedicated solely to punk rock, Harron was the first writer to interview the Sex Pistols for an American publication. She also worked for a number of British publications, including New Musical Express, for which she wrote a history of the Velvet Underground, and Melody Maker, for which she wrote a detailed history of Andy Warhol and the Factory.
Harron began her film career as the director of a number of documentaries for BBC TV and Channel Four. She also made six short films about pop culture, including one entitled How to Make an Oliver Stone Movie. Following I Shot Andy Warhol, her acclaimed feature directorial debut, Harron began adapting (along with co-writer Guinevere Turner) Brett Easton Ellis' controversial novel American Psycho for the screen. From the beginning, the production was marked by controversy, due to both the novel's excessively violent content and the decision of Lions Gate Films (the film's studio) to cast Leonardo Di Caprio in the lead role of yuppie serial killer Patrick Bateman, thereby forcing Harron's first choice for the role, British actor Christian Bale, out of the production. Fortunately, the studio eventually backed off and Di Caprio opted not to do the film, allowing Bale to resume his portrayal of the character. However, the film's problems were not over -- shortly before its release it was slapped with a dreaded NC-17 rating by American censors who objected to a sex scene involving Bateman and two prostitutes. Harron was forced to cut the scene in order to secure an R rating, something that was understandably a source of displeasure for the director, as well as another example of the double standards employed by censors in their treatment of cinematic sex and violence.