A Robert Mapplethorpe movie that will mix together his sexy photos and relationship with punk rocker and artist Patti Smith will feature Zosia Mamet of HBO’s divisive series Girls. Matt Smith, best known for playing Doctor Who, has been cast as Robert, reported Deadline.
Helming the project is Ondi Timoner, a director who has worked almost entirely in documentaries up until the Mapplethorpe film. That shouldn’t ward off Patti and Robert fans, however, as her work in that category is some of the most acclaimed of the 21st century. She won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at Sundance in 2004 for the music doc Dig! Five years later, she won again for We Live In Public, about dot-com entrepreneur Josh Harris. Her newest film, Brand: A Second Coming, recently opened at Austin arts festival South by Southwest.
Warning: The following video contains explicit content.
Those still unsure about the competence of Ondi’s hand on the story of Smith and Mapplethorpe will be relieved to hear that the project has also gotten the approval of the artist’s official foundation. Robert and Patti’s formative career years struggling in New York were beautifully captured in Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, only a few years ago. Released to massive acclaim, the book is sure that have potent influence on the movie.
At the time of Just Kids‘ release, Patti spoke with Interview about her past with Mapplethorpe, who was sometimes her lover and always her friend, an element that is sure to be a central part of the film. Smith remembers him as a “true artist,” with an incredible aptitude for photography. Just like many people at the time, she was often shocked by what Robert would bring home to develop in the dark room. While the explicit gay pictures were jarring for the 1960s and 70s, it was really the sadomasochistic photos that put her on edge.
“S&M is its own world… It’s so specialized. But, yeah, I was really surprised. I was shocked and frightened, because the pictures were frightening. [Mapplethorpe] did shocking work. Those pictures should always be shocking. I shudder to think people could get used to seeing bloody testicles on a wooden board. But I was worried about him getting hurt or killed or something, because it was a world that I didn’t know anything about… I know that if he was taking pictures, he would have to involve himself somehow. He was too honest. I didn’t ask him about all that. It was too much for me. I still don’t know anything about what Robert really did in the ’80s. We never talked about it, and I never read anything, because it didn’t involve me.”
The movie will go beyond Mapplethorpe’s years with Patti all the way to his death due to complications from AIDS in 1989. In between, Robert’s slip into more and more controversial and explicit content will surely be documented, though it’s not sure if the closing down of his posthumous show in Cincinnati will be included. Photos of clothes-pinned mouths, full body latex suits a la American Horror Story, and the exposed genitals of children brought about the first museum obscenity lawsuit in American history, reported Washington Post.
While the biopic is still in the works, it’s not the only Robert Mapplethorpe movie that the public is getting, reported Spin. HBO will release a two-hour documentary on April 4 that will show never-before-seen photographs to document the artist’s life, including his time with Patti Smith in New York City.
[Image via MJ Kim/Getty Images]