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Jim Jarmusch Explains Why He Refuses To Watch Julian Schanbel’s ‘Basquiat’

Jim Jarmusch Explains Why He Refuses To Watch Julian Schanbel's 'Basquiat'

There are a few reasons why Julian Schnabel‘s 1996 biopic “Basquiat” is notable. Aside from being a solid film, it’s the casting that really makes it sing, from the inspired choice of David Bowie to play Andy Warhol, to a number of ringers amongst the ensemble including Gary Oldman, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Hopper, Courtney Love, Parker Posey, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Walken and more. But at the center of it all is Jeffrey Wright, who gives a pretty blazing turn as the artist himself, in a role that put him on the map. So you might think that Jim Jarmusch, who cast the actor in his latest “Only Lovers Left Alive,” might’ve seen the film. You’d be wrong.

The director has long been fixture of the New York City art and music scene, so you won’t be surprised to learn that he knew Basquiat. However, he has some very personal reasons why, to this day, he’s never watched Schnabel’s film. “I refuse to see that film. I knew Jean-Michel and he was not friends with Julian. I like Julian very much, he’s a very generous guy, even if he is an egotistical character,” he told THR. “And his films… ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly‘ is one of the masterworks of recent cinema. Once a year, he’ll ask me, ‘So are you ever going to see Basquiat?’ And I’d say, ‘Never.’ I refused to talk to Schnabel about Jean-Michel when he was making the film.  But Jean-Michel was not a fan of Schnabel as a person back then. And I would not betray him in that way. I’ve seen a few clips, though, and Jeffrey Wright is f—in’ amazing in it.”

So, it seems like he’s got some personal reasons, and if not beef with Schnabel, then a respectful disagreement. Looks like loyalty runs deep for Jarmusch. So with that trivia aside, if you want more on Basquiat, be sure to read this recent Vanity Fair piece about the artist’s longtime supporters and collectors, Lenore and Herbert Schorr.

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PIKO–I’ve seen the movie several times. After seeing it, I started researching JMB, because I had never heard of him before seeing the movie. The one thing I remember coming across a couple of years ago is someone that was personally there saying the same exact thing that you did: That it seemed like the movie was more about Schnabel…& that he seemed to overinflate his own importance.

Chris Marlton

This kind of comment along with the insane quotes about "copy and steal everything" <sic> from Jarmusch make him seem like such a chump sometimes.
If he hasn’t seen the film, how on earth could he know if it was a good or bad representation? The film clearly shows Basquiat being at odds with Schnabel (Milo) during the film, and I doubt Jarmusch could categorically claim that none of the encounters, whether generalised or literal, between Schnabel and Basquiat happened that way or didn’t.


honestly that movie seems to me it was more about schnabel than jmb

Will Avery

"Julian Schanbel" – You shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a keyboard, should you, on account of your laziness and stupidity.

tyrannosaurus max

great post! Typo spotted: "than" in the first sentence of the final paragraph should be "then."


Jarmusch sounds like a jealous, uptight artiste…


Total respect for Jim's honest response.

Pig Bodine

He "new" Basquiat, did he? Dudes, hire me as your proofreader. I'm a prince.

The Gary Oldman character is clearly a Schnabel surrogate. The movie makes it seem like Basquiat looked up to him, was friends with him and ultimately rejected help from him.


So you have to be personal friends with someone in order to make a movie about them? Who cares if Basquiat didn't like Schnabel as a person. He's an artist and he made a good film and tribute to Basquiat! Jeez Jarmusch, let it go. Sounds like he's just bitter, he'd have rather made the film instead. Like, I was BETTER friends with Basquiat, so it should have been my story to tell. Whatev.


    Why did he have to turn himself into a fictious character. He had Andy Warhol, Bruno. But changed himself into someone he was not. Which was his friend. I frankly think he was jealous of Basquiat and wanted to white wash his life story.


      Exactly. I felt like something was wrong in the way he depicted JMB in his movie and only after I watched The Radiant Child that I could realized that Schnabel had to be jealous of Basquiat to portray him the way he did in his movie. I started researching “schnabel basquiat not friends” and bam…found this article. It confirms everything i suspected after being introduced to JMB by Schnabel’s movie.

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