Here’s everything we know about the profound new Basquiat biopic

Here’s everything we know about the profound new Basquiat biopic


Written by Morgan Cormack

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s life and career will be the focus of an extraordinary upcoming biopic film, Samo Lives. Here’s everything we know about it so far. 

Whether you’re familiar with modern art or not, chances are, you’ve most likely heard of Jean-Michel Basquiat. The young artist took the art world by storm in the 80s as part of the neo-expressionism movement, but his lasting impact is still felt not only in the art world but also throughout fashion and culture today.

Now, the New York-born, Haitian-Puerto Rican American visual artist is the focus of upcoming biopic Samo Lives. The film will chronicle Basquiat’s short life and impressive rise to become one of the world’s most groundbreaking artists.

Cyrano and Waves star Kelvin Harrison Jr will take the lead as Basquiat in the new film, which will be directed by Julius Onah.

Harrison and Onah have previously collaborated on the critically acclaimed drama Luce, which saw them both nab nominations for best male lead and best director nominations at the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards. 

Kelvin Harrison Jr. will star as Basquiat in the new biopic.

While Samo Lives is not the first time Basquiat’s life has been the focus of a movie, the film does mark the first occasion that his story has been told on screen by a Black filmmaker.

At just 22, Basquiat was featured in the prestigious Whitney Biennial and, in doing so, became the youngest artist to ever represent the US in an international contemporary art exhibition. A protégé of Andy Warhol’s, Basquiat also became synonymous with the New York art scene and his strained relationship with Warhol fascinated many.

Basquiat died aged 27 in 1988, but nowadays, his artwork is coveted and collected by many – Alicia Keys, Beyoncé and Jay Z are all owners of Basquiat’s work – and in 2017, an Untitled canvas from 1982 sold for $110.5 million (£80.7m), becoming the most expensive work by an American artist.

Jean-Michel Basquiat will be the focus of upcoming biopic Samo Lives.

In a director’s statement – which can be read in full on the Samo Lives website – Onah describes how Basquiat’s life and work has been an “absolute inspiration”. 

“When I began to learn about him from the age of 14 it was incredible to discover someone who forged their own path in a world where most who didn’t fit the expected profile of a fine artist had been unable to (ie white and male).”

He adds: “There was also sharing the same struggle of wrestling with one’s Black identity. All of this intertwined with a fierce determination to succeed at all costs. 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 earth to tell as a filmmaker.”

He goes on to describe that the title of the film is a “very deliberate choice” most likely because SAMO (which stands for Same Old Crap) was the name of the graffiti duo Basquiat found fame in alongside Al Diaz. It already sounds like a poignant watch and one we can’t wait to see on the big screen.

Filming for Samo Lives is set to commence this autumn and a release date is yet to be announced. 

Watch this space for updates. 

Image: Getty

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