See Six Actors Who’ve Played Andy Warhol, From David Bowie to Bill Hader

Tessa Solomon

BY TESSA SOLOMONAugust 11, 2020 12:08pm

Andy Warhol.

On Friday, a day after Andy Warhol’s birthday, actor Jared Leto confirmed that he was cast as the iconic artist in an upcoming biopic. In an Instagram post he wrote, “Yes it’s true I will be playing Andy Warhol in an upcoming film,” adding that he was “so grateful and excited about the opportunity.” The script will be penned by Wolf of Wall Street writer Terence Winter, but further details have yet to be revealed. For now, it’s a mystery what approach Leto will take to Warhol—but he very well may take his cues from others who’ve played the artist over time. Below are a few memorable takes on the Pop art titan.

Crispin Glover

In Oliver Stone’s 1991 film The Doors, hen Val Kilmer’s Jim Morrison saunters through the door of Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable event, the artist is overwhelmed by his excitement. Here, Crispin Glover portrays Warhol as awkward and inaccessible. He sputters strange statements about life and art, causing a sense of discomfort. The movie was not well-received by those familiar with Morrison or Warhol. Eve Babitz, the reclusive writer famous for her dispatches from West Coast bohemia, and for her relationship with Morrison, eviscerated the movie in a piece for Esquire: “The thing is, we in Los Angeles have always been willing to give a lot of slack for looks—for beauty—but Oliver Stone doesn’t have any. He doesn’t even like it. His movies are always about horrible men doing awful stuff, horrible men who are too far from their vileness to look beautiful.”

David Bowie

Reviewers called Julian Schnabel’s 1996 biopic about his friend Jean-Michel Basquiat “a stylish-looking film without the connective tissue to give it real depth,” but David Bowie’s portrayal of Warhol in the film remains one of the best-known takes on the Pop artist. A superstar who was deft at manipulating his own image, Bowie was a good match for Warhol. In Basquiat, Bowie presented Warhol as a caricature of his own making: bemused, nervous, always on the prowl for something shiny. He outshined the cast, which was not an easy feat. A young Jeffrey Wright played Basquiat, while Benicio del Toro and Willam Dafoe made memorable turns in supporting roles.Jared HarrisI Shot Andy Warhol (1996) examines the life of radical, unstable feminist Valerie Solanas, with an emphasis on her brief tenure at the Factory, which famously culminated in her attempted murder of Warhol. The film opens with the shooting on June 3, 1968 before tracing Solanas’ transformation from college student in 1957 working on her nascent gender theories to her introduction to Warhol. Jared Harris’s Warhol is bored and elitist, but also simpering and indulgent. Upon receiving Valerie’s beloved manuscript, he says, “Oh gee, did you type this yourself? I’m so impressed. You should come type for us.” Whether true to life or not, this Warhol is naive to the danger Solanas presented, merely caught up in her whirlwind.

Max Bringelson

The Austin Powers movies may not exactly lend themselves toward art-historical nods, but indeed, Warhol makes a brief appearance in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997). He sits beside the titular spy at the Electric Psychedelic Pussycat Swingers Club looking bored. He clutches a Campbell’s soup can in one hand and a paintbrush in the other. The camera zooms away to reveal Warhol had been painting a woman sprawled on the dance floor. 

Guy PearceIn Factory Girl (2006), a biopic of Bostonian heiress Edie Sedgwick, the most famous face in the Factory, Warhol is at his most vampiric. He’s been made lonely by a willful disinterest in the people around him and determined to sap the life force from Sedgwick. A tryst between Warhol and a stiff Bob Dylan stand-in over Sedgwick dominates the film. (The Dylan character is never named as such because the musician threatened to sue the filmmakers.) By the film’s end, Warhol comes off as cruel to Sedgwick. In the wake of Sedgwick’s overdose at the age of 28, the movie’s Warhol tells reporters, “I didn’t know her very well.” It’s debatable whether Warhol would’ve reacted in that way—many of those in the artist’s circle decried the film, with Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed telling the New York Daily News that the film was “one of the most disgusting, foul things I’ve seen.

Bill Hader

Comedian Bill Hader may be the most unlikely to have ever played Warhol, and his performance came in the most unlikely of movies: Men in Black III (2012), the third film in a franchise about government agents who hunt down aliens. Hader presented an especially cartoonish Warhol, complete with monotone and blank stare. “No questions, no answers, just… being,” he says to the agents who’ve arrived at the Factory to question him. Hader’s Warhol drops the shtick when the Pop artist is revealed to be an undercover agent investigating the Factory denizens—some of whom may not be from this planet.


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