Hollywood has been fascinated by the world of art for decades, and there is a new project on the horizon focused on Jean-Michel Basquiat, the young Black American artist who took the world by storm and brought New York City graffiti and street art to the global high-end art collecting scene.
According to Variety, “Samo Lives” comes from filmmaker Julius Onah, and he’ll write, direct, and produce the biopic with “Cyrano” star Kelvin Harrison Jr. set to star as Basquiat. It’ll be a reunion of sorts as the pair previously worked together on the film “Luce” (our review), which saw their careers skyrocket after its Sundance premiere in 2019. Onah co-wrote the “Samo Lives” script with Peter Glanz (“The Longest Week,” “Polite Society”).
The new film will “celebrate” the life and career of the New York-born, Haitian-Puerto Rican American artist.
“In Jean-Michel, I saw inspiration not just as an artist but over time I also saw the very kind of story I feel I was put on the earth to tell as a filmmaker,” Julius Onah said in a statement on the film’s official website. “Samo Lives” takes its name from the SAMO (pronounced Same-Oh) graffiti tag initially used on the streets of New York City from 1978 to 1980, developed as a collaboration between Basquiat and Al Diaz.
Basquiat’s profile has risen in recent years thanks to patrons like Jay-Z and the increased popularity of British street artist Banksy reintroducing the famed artist to new generations. A Sotheby’s auction in 2017 led to Basquiat’s painting “Untitled” selling for $110.5 million, becoming one of the most expensive paintings ever sold.
Many folks will remember the fantastic 1996 film “Basquiat” from Julian Schnabel that starred an impressive cast that included Jeffrey Wright as Basquiat, David Bowie, Gary Oldman, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Claire Forlani, Michael Wincott, Parker Posey, and a baby-faced Benecio Del Toro playing a composite character of John Lurie and Vincent Gallo, both friends of Basquiat in real life.
It’ll be interesting to see who Onah assembles for the supporting cast considering all the artists that surrounded themselves to Basquiat’s orbit, such as Andy Warhol, a key figure in Basquait’s mainstream rise in the 1980s.