Bowie as Basquiat!

A Definitive, Scholarly Ranking of Warhol Portrayals in Film

GARAGE puts the many cinematic representations of cinematic Andy Warhol in their correct order.

by Emma Specter
Nov 9 2018, 10:11pm

Bowie as Basquiat!

Andy Warhol famously claimed that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” (or did he?). This estimate proves somewhat conservative when it comes to Warhol himself. Over three decades after his death, the defining Pop artist is still being brought to life in TV and film, but which pop culture representation of Warhol reigns supreme? Not to worry: GARAGE has provided an unequivocally correct ranking.

1. Warhol as himself in Cocaine Cowboys (1979). Who does Warhol better than Warhol?

2. David Bowie as Warhol in Julian Schnabel’s Basquiat (1996). Bowie’s portrayal of Warhol in Julian Schnabel’s directorial debut is just one wonder among many (Benicio del Toro! Dennis Hopper! Parker Posey as Mary Boone!). Roger Ebert raved about Bowie’s performance, writing that his Warhol impersonation “comes across as preternaturally detached (that’s not news) but also as gentle, open, accepting, and instinctively perceptive about new directions in art.” Bowie’s portrayal of Warhol is particularly great because he’s not exactly some unknown face who can fade into the character—he’s freaking Bowie!—but he manages to conjure the artist nonetheless. To quote my esteemed colleague Rachel Tashjian, “It’s like if Timothée Chalamet played Leonardo DiCaprio!!!! Wow, I’m crying.”

3. Bill Hader as Warhol in Men in Black III (2012). Okay, fine, Men in Black III might hold a paltry 68% rating on RottenTomates, but a nearly unrecognizable Bill Hader’s performance as Warhol more than pulls its weight. “No questions, no answers, just...being,” he drawls slowly to the FBI agents seeking to interrogate him at a "happening,” before he’s—spoiler!—revealed to be an undercover agent in his own right.

4. Max Bringelson as Warhol in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997). Warhol’s cameo in the 1997 classic is brief but beautiful: he appears at the Electric Psychedelic Pussycat Swingers Club alongside Austin, clutching (what else?) a can of Campbell’s soup.

5. Jared Harris as Warhol in I Shot Andy Warhol (1996). The real star of this film is Lili Taylor as Valerie Solanas, the titular person who shot Andy Warhol (and SCUM manifesto scribe!), but Harris’s performance as Warhol is decent enough.

6. Guy Pearce as Warhol in Factory Girl (2007). Remember when Sienna Miller had to be in all movies, by law? Bonus: there’s an amazing scene in Factory Girl where they walk the red carpet and Pearce’s Warhol photographs the photographers. Meta!

7. Sean Gregory Sullivan as Warhol in 54 (1998).This movie sucks, but in a fun, lighthearted, “stream it on Amazon when you’re hungover and you’ve already finished all the prestige TV” way.

8. Crispin Glover as Warhol in The Doors (1991). Legendarily reclusive writer Eve Babitz, who chronicled the vicissitudes of LA life and famously slept with Jim Morrison, absolutely shredded this film in 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.” She’s not wrong. This thing is...not good, folks. Real “community theater” hours.

andy warhol day
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