Actor Kelvin Harrison Jr. has been cast to star as Jean-Michel Basquiat in the upcoming biopic Samo Lives. Variety first reported the news. According to the entertainment outlet, the Cyrano star will lead the project directed by Julius Onah. The two have previously worked together on Luce, which earned best male lead and best director nominations at the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards.
Samo Lives is said to “celebrate the life, career and impact of the groundbreaking New York-born, Haitian-Puerto Rican American artist whose seminal paintings and street art defined the Neo-expressionism arts movement of the 1980s.”
In a director’s statement, available on the Samo Lives website, Onah shares why he feels it’s the perfect time for the Basquiat biopic, and how the artist impacted his own creative journey.
“Jean-Michel Basquiat redefined the idea of who ascends to the highest altitudes of the fine art world,” Onah wrote. “But the complexity and richness of his experience as an artist and child of the African diaspora has yet to be dramatized in the manner it deserves.”
“It’s an honor to work with Kelvin and my collaborators, and with Endeavor Content, to celebrate the legacy of an artist who has invited audiences everywhere to be inspired by the transformative power of art.” The director went on to share his thoughts on Harrison Jr. taking on the role.
“Kelvin’s ability to locate and channel the spirit of whoever he inhabits is transcendent,” he wrote. “The sensitivity and soulfulness Kelvin will bring is the reason why I know the story I’m seeking to tell will truly honor Jean-Michel’s legacy.”
Filming for Samo Lives is set to begin this fall.