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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

Kelvin Harrison Jr. to Star in Basquiat Biopic Samo Lives

Kelvin Harrison Jr. reunites with director Julius Onah for Jean-Michel Basquiat biopic Samo Lives.

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LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07: Kelvin Harrison Jr attends the UK Premiere of “CYRANO” at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square on December 07, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures & Universal Pictures )
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07: Kelvin Harrison Jr attends the UK Premiere of “CYRANO” at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square on December 07, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures & Universal Pictures )
Photo: Jeff Spicer (Getty Images)

Famed artist Jean-Michel Basquiat is getting another biopic made about his life. Per Variety, Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Cyrano, The Trial of the Chicago 7) is set to star, with Julius Onah producing/directing, and co-writing alongside Peter Glanz (The Longest Week).

Samo Lives “will 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.”

On the film’s website samolives.com, Onah published a statement describing Basquiat’s impact, and how the director plans to honor the artist’s legacy through the film

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“Jean-Michel Basquiat redefined the idea of who ascends to the highest altitudes of the fine art world. 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,” Onah wrote. “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.”

Basquiat is one of the most influential artists of our time, and holds a very special place for Black art enthusiasts. Onah is making a lot of bold promises for how the movie will be approached, and we hope the director is able to live up to all of them.

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The artist’s life was previously portrayed in the 1996 film Basquiat, which stars a young Jeffrey Wright, and is directed by Julian Schnabel. While Onah cites the movie as an inspiration, the filmmaker also knows how important it is for this story to be told by a Black director.

“It was a gateway for a kid desperate to find artists he could see himself in. But the older I got and the more I learned about Jean-Michel, the more I began to feel his story hadn’t fully been told in cinema,” Onah wrote. “Never have we seen the full spectrum of Basquiat’s incredible life as a Black artist and a child of the immigrant African diaspora. And the richness and nuance of his journey is a story worthy of celebration.”

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Harrison and Onah previously worked together on the critically acclaimed Luce, which saw both nominated at the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards.

“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,” Onah continued.

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For his part, Harrison has a jam-packed schedule. Next up, Harrison can be seen co-starring with Peter Dinklage in the musical Cyrano, which is scheduled for wide release Feb. 4. He is also set to voice Scar in Barry Jenkins’ The Lion King prequel, portray B.B. King in the upcoming Elvis Presley biopic and star as Chevalier de Saint-Georges in Chevalier.

Are you interested in a Basquiat biopic starring Kelvin Harrison Jr.?