Born August, 6, 1928, as Andrew Warhola, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Warhol became one of the leading figures in Pop Culture, and remains as such, years after his death, from post-operative cardiac arrhythmia, in 1987 . Most remembered for creating the expression “15 minutes of fame”, Andy also was a pioneer in the art world. Andy started out as a commercial illustrator and went on to turning the world of avant-garde art on its ear. Andy worked in many mediums, from painting to film making, as an author and record producer. One of Andy’s paintings, “Eight Elvises”, sold at auction, for $100 Million. In social circles Andy paid little attention to the social rank of the people he chose to befriend. He seemed to only care if they were amusing to him. Because of this Andy became known as a user of people, in the sense that when he would grow tired of people, he did not have the time of day for them. Make no mistake about it, people tried to use Andy, as well. This trait in Andy has made its way into a few films. These films show how that trait had an effect of the life of Andy, and those fortunate enough or unfortunate enough, to become his friend, or acquaintance. Andy left enough film and video record, of himself, to allow actors portraying him, to give an accurate performance. The films listed below have actors who have most effectively made Andy come back to life on the screen.
Crispin Glover as Andy in The Doors
In Oliver Stone’s, 1991 biopic, The Doors, Glover plays a vampiric, Warhol. His portrayal reminds me of the title character in, the German Expressionist film, Nosferatu. The role is a minor one, involving only one scene where, Doors front man Jim Morrison, played by Val Kilmer, is introduced to Warhol. This scene has a slithering, but awkward Warhol, seeming to fiend for Morrison’s life force. This feeling is put into words, moments later by Doors’ Keyboardist, Ray Manzarek, played by Kyle MacLachlan, when he says “Let’s get out of here, Jim. These people are vampires.” Glover was the best choice to express this side of Warhol.
David Bowie as Andy in Basquiat
In this 1996, biopic of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, played by Jeffery Wright, David Bowie plays an ailing Warhol, who is both friend and mentor to the title character. Bowie’s portrayal is accurate and sensitive to Warhol. This is most likely due to the long time admiration of Warhol, by Bowie, and their friendship. The time period this film is set in is just prior to Warhol’s death, when he was having gallbladder problems. Bowie does a superb job, of conveying this sense forthcoming demise, in his portrayal. The rest of the film is pretty good too, even if you are like me and do not like the art of Basquiat.
Jared Harris as Andy in I Shot Andy Warhol
To me, this film comes across as a story of one user trying to use another user, and not liking the way it turned out, on their side. Released, as an independent film, in 1996, it tells the life story of Valerie Solanas, played by Lili Taylor. Although the film attempts to be sympathetic to Solanas, it fails. Harris portrays Warhol, as both, victimizer and victim, as Solanas attempts to gain fame from an association with Warhol, and when that does not happen, she shots him. The only character in the film that I personally felt any type of compassion for, was, Warhol Superstar, Candy Darling, played by Stephen Dorff. In spite of this, the film is an interesting look into the events surrounding the attempted murder of Andy Warhol.
I Shot Andy Warhol-Promo
Guy Pearce as Andy in Factory Girl
I feel that Pearce’s performance as Warhol, is the best of the four. One feels both sympathy for, and anger at Andy in this portrayal. The film is foremost about the life of heiress Edie Sedgwick, played by Sienna Miller. This 2006 film, chronicles Sedgwick’s tragic life. The film shows the beginning and the collapse of her friendship with Warhol. We see a great warmth between Edie and Andy, however Sedgwick becomes romantically involved with singer Bob Dylan, which causes Warhol great pain. This pain then sours their friendship and Andy stops being nice to Edie, which causes her great pain. Pearce displays his wide range in this role. It is a very sensitive portrayal of someone, who was really sensitive, but came across as being totally insensitive. Brilliant acting in a well crafted film.
Factory Girl- Trailer
Other people portraying Warhol in film, included Mark Bringleson, in the 1997 film, Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery, Sean Gregory Sullivan, in the 1998 film, 54, and Greg Travis, in the 2009 film, Watchmen. Before his death, in 1993 River Phoenix, was scheduled to play Warhol in a biopic Gus Van Sant was trying to produce. In 1979, Warhol appeared as himself in the film Cocaine Cowboys.
Andy Warhol may have not been one of the best examples of a human being, however his impact on Pop Culture and Avant-garde Art can not be denied. His trait of surrounding himself with people who amused him and then cutting them lose when he lost interest may have been a bad one. This trait may have been more extreme within Andy, however it is a trait that many, if not all of us have displayed in our lives, at one time or another. If you watch any of these films keep that in mind.
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