Andy Warhol is not only one of the most famous Pop Artists in the world; he is one of the most famous artists of all-time.
His vast oeuvre of work – inspired by celebrity and the commercialism of everyday life – became his life. Hosting elaborate parties, that he would often photograph or record, at his studio, The Factory. Factory party guests included some of the greatest actors, artists, writers and socialites of the time, from: Bob Dylan, Grace Jones, Allen Ginsberg and Salvador Dalí; to Mick Jagger, Robert Indiana and Madonna.
Warhol, who himself was a filmmaker, has been played by numerous actors in biopics or as cameo appearances over the 30 years since his death (the role of Warhol may soon have the same merit as playing Hamlet). Now, it has just been announced that Jared Leto (who won an Oscar for his role in Dallas Buyers Club) will be the next actor in line to take the Warhol crown – or, rather, the white wig.
The upcoming film will be based on Victor Bockris’s book Warhol: The Biography, and will chronicle Warhol’s years in New York. The screenplay is being written by Terrence Winter, who has written such notable films and television series as Wolf of Wall Street, The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire. Details as to when production will begin are imminent; so in honour of this exciting news, we take a look at some of the best (and worst) performances over the years since Andy stopped appearing in his own films.
1. Crispin Glover in The Doors
In The Doors Warhol is played by Crispin Glover (who you’ll have seen being the baddy in numerous Hollywood films; and was, interestingly enough, George McFly in the original Back To The Future, but fell out with the film’s directors and producers as he felt the ending of the film implied money equals happiness, which he profoundly disagreed with and refused to take part in the sequel).
The Doors, depicts the life of The Doors front man Jim Morrison’s life before his untimely death aged 27. In the film Morrison encounters Warhol at one of his parties at The Factory. The encounter on film is probably as trippy as it was in real life: Warhol offers Morrison a gold phone with which to “speak to God”.
Glover’s cameo would have been good enough for a Warhol biopic – I would have been just as happy to follow Glover playing Warhol, as I was to follow Val Kilmer playing Jim Morrison – which is not as bad as it sounds (he’s actually rather good).
2. Jarred Harris in I Shot Andy Warhol
This film regards the true story of the radical feminist writer Valerie Solanas; who, after years of physical abuse and prostitution in New York, became known for her anti-male propaganda and her extreme manifesto SCUM which insisted women “overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and eliminate the male sex.” (if only she’d stopped at ‘money system’). Unfortunately for Andy Warhol, Solanas decided to eliminate the male sex, starting with Andy Warhol – and she soon became better known for that (shooting him three times, but missing twice; shooting also art critic Mario Amaya in the hip; and attempting to shoot Fred Hughes, Warhol’s manager, in the head at point blank range but her gun jammed) rather than her writing; a piece of which she had been trying to get Warhol to produce.
In the film, the wonderful Lilly Taylor as Solanas steals the show – which is not too hard as Jarred Harris’ (Mad Men, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) performance is not the finest. Harris’ Warhol appears something approaching dumb and vacant, which Warhol was certainly anything but. The film however, thanks to Solanas’ life and Taylor’s performance is definitely still worth a watch.
3. Guy Pierce in Factory Girl
One of the most convincing Warhol performances is that of Guy Pierce in Factory Girl. Factory Girl is a portrait of the life of Warhol’s infamous muse and ‘it girl’, Edie Sedgwick (played incredibly skillfully by Sienna Miller) and her rise to and sad decline from celebrity; as well as her numerous addiction problems – as Warhol says of her in the film, “I’ve never met a girl with so many problems.” Though Pierce initially appears a little Hollywood-pretty to be Warhol, his performance is fantastic. His accent, the way he intones his voice and his body language are enough to distract from the pretty face and convince you Warhol is in the room. The relationship Pierce and Miller imitate in the film is portrayed with touching, and callous realism.
4. David Bowie in Basquiat
In my humble opinion the best-ever imitator of Andy Warhol was the androgynous wizard of pop, David Bowie in Basquiat – he even got to wear Andy’s real, white wig for the performance. Where Pierce is convincing, Bowie is practically channeling Warhol.
The film recounts the relationship between Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol: from their chance meeting in a café to their unique and delicate collaboratory friendship. Warhol’s death had a profound impact on Basquiat, and many cite it as the major influence on his eventual overdose two years later aged just 27. Bowie’s impeccable performance may have been aided by the fact he actually met Warhol on several occasions.
5. Bill Hader in Men in Black 3
Our first comedic Warhol cameo is from Men In Black 3. As the two Men In Black agents are transported back to the swinging sixties they drop by a Factory party where they encounter Andy Warhol, played by Bill Hader – who is not only a surprisingly good imitator of Warhol, but is also rather amusing:
A sixth and silent but amusing cameo you may not remember, is Andy Warhol in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Mark Bingleson does not speak for Warhol, but impersonates his physicality well as he dances about with a can of soup. (Something to look out for when it comes on at Christmas, no doubt)