Writer, producer, director and all-round Renaissance woman Ondi Timoner wil helm a biopic of American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Former “Doctor Who” star Matt Smith will take on the role of the pioneering artist while Zosia Mamet (“Girls”) has been cast as his closest friend and kindred spirit, the equally legendary Patti Smith.
Timoner is something of a trailblazer in her own right: She is the only two-time recipient of Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize for Documentary Feature. The founder of production company Interloper Films won for the 2004 doc “Dig!” and 2009’s “We Live in Public.”
Of her choice of stars for this, her first narrative feature, Timoner said, “After several years of developing this script and searching across the globe for the perfect talent to embody the rich and layered roles of visionary artists Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith, I am ecstatic to have found Matt Smith and Zosia Mamet. They will bring indelible passion, raw humanity, and authenticity to this timeless, inspiring story.”
It has been over 25 years since Mapplethorpe tragically died of AIDS, aged just 42. During his lifetime, Mapplethorpe’s work became a lightning rod for controversy surrounding issues such as arts’ public funding and censorship, but with the success of Patti Smith’s 2010 memoir of her and Mapplethorpe’s life together, “Just Kids” (which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction), a more nuanced portrait of the groundbreaking photographer was brought to wider public consciousness.
The Mapplethorpe Foundation has lent its support to the Timoner biopic, and as casting was announced, the producer-director stated her intention to “honor” Mapplethorpe “by bringing him to life on screen.”
Timoner most recently directed “Brand: A Second Coming,” a documentary about comedian Russel Brand.