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.