Kelvin Harrison Jr. is Set to Star as Jean-Michael Basquiat in Samo Lives

samo lives

2022 is already looking amazing for Kelvin Harrison Jr.’s acting resume.

The Cyrano star is set to embody American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat in a biopic titled Samo Lives, directed by Julius Onah. Onah will also produce the film based on a script he co-wrote with Peter Glanz.

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Samo Lives celebrates 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 1983, Basquiat became the youngest artist to exhibit at the Whitney Biennial in New York, at just 22 years old. The acclaimed artist died on August 12, 1988 at the age of 27, but his work continues to make a great impact on the art world. At a Sotheby’s auction in 2017, Basquiat’s painting “Untitled” sold for $110.5 million, becoming one of the most expensive paintings ever purchased and subsequently raising the bar for an American artist at auction.

Developed and financed by Endeavor Content, the biographical film Samo Lives will be the first movie about the artist to be made by a Black filmmaker.

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On the official website for the film, Onah goes into detail the importance of telling the story.

“It is time to tell the story of Jean-Michel Basquiat –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. It’s an honor to work with [Harrison Jr.] 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.”

In regards to his upcoming role, Harrison Jr. says the chance to portray the late artist is a “dream come true” for him, and Onah praised the young actor for his “ability to locate and channel the spirit of whoever he inhabits.”

“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,” the filmmaker wrote.

Samo Lives is the second project Harrison and Onah team up for. The pair previously worked together on the film Luce, which was nominated for best male lead and best director at the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards.

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