Basquiat script
Basquiat (1996)
Synopsis: Despite living a life of extreme poverty in Brooklyn, graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (Jeffrey Wright) strives to rise up through the heady New York art scene of the 1970s and 1980s. He becomes the brightest star of neo-Expressionist painting and one of the most successful painters of his time, and even develops a friendship with Andy Warhol (David Bowie). But Basquiat's tumultuous life, specifically his addiction to heroin, overshadows his rise to fame, threatening all.

BLACK:

We HEAR "Waltzing Matilde," by Tom Waits.

INT. MUSEUM OF MODERN ARTDAY (DREAM SEQUENCE IN GRAINY BLACK

AND WHITE)

Fade out music.

Silence.

A well-dressed black BOY and his MOTHER walk through several

galleries.

They stand before Picasso's "Guernica," holding hands.

The mother is disturbed. Crying.

The boy looks up, confused and frightened, concerned to see his

mother crying in public. She looks at him tenderly.

Her brow furrows. She stops crying. She stares just above his

eyes.

Something's happening: she looks with wonder at the top of his

head... his eyes roll upward, trying to see – it's a crown!

He raises his hands. He touches it.

A beam of light illuminates the crown, casting its glow on his

mother's face.

The beam gets whiter, the rest of the screen gets black.

INT. CARDBOARD BOX

Silence. In darkness, we hear a VOICEimbued with a sense of its

own history:

VOICE (O.S.)

Everybody wants to get on the Van Gogh

boat. There's no trip so horrible that

someone won't take it. The idea of the

unrecognized genius slaving away in a

garret is a deliciously foolish one. We

must credit the life of Vincent Van Gogh

for really sending this myth into orbit.

How many pictures did he sell? One? He

couldn't give them away. We are so ashamed

of his life that the rest of art history

will be retribution for Van Gogh's

neglect. No one wants to be part of a

generation that ignores another Van Gogh.

The beam of light shines through a small hole. It falls upon a

sleeping, dreaming, delighted face. It belongs to JEAN MICHEL

BASQUIAT.

OUTDOOR, DAYTIME SOUNDS filter in.

Hearing the voice, Jean frowns at being woken up.

EXT. TOMPKINS SQUARE PARK – DAY

A long, rectangular cardboard box.

SUPER:
"NEW YORK CITY"

ANGLE ON:

RENE RICARD (early 30's), seated at a park bench, hunched over a

notebook. He's a raggedy dandy: A poet in a hooded sweatshirt and

white hightops.

As he writes, he reads aloud, as if addressing Posterity.

RENE (CONT'D)

(sighing theatrically)

In this town one is at the mercy of the

recognition factor. One's public

appearance is absolute.

Beyond him, a HAND gropes its way out of the box. It tosses a can

of YOOHOO chocolate drink.

RENE (CONT'D)

I consider myself a metaphor of the

public. I am a public eye. I am a witness.

A HEAD appears from the box. It's Jean's.

Jean sees the start of a crisp, colorful autumn day. The urban

park around him is alive with a typically full range of the good

and bad in life. He eases himself out of the oversize box in which

he has spent the night. There's something about the way that he

stands while waking up that suggests he's almost surprised at his

own body, the adultness of his limbs – just a subtle hint of him

coming out of a dream.

He squints in the sunlight. He has a soft, gentle, Haitian face.

His hair is pulled tight to his head. He wears two pairs of blue

jeans (one cut like chaps over the other) a paint-covered Wesleyan

University T-shirt, and the inside lining of an overcoat. His

appearance is unruly, but it's deliberate. He's stylish.

He shakes himself off and collects his stuff, which includes: a

small book of Pontormo drawings, a can of black spray paint. and a

cigar box made into a loudspeaker with pencil holes and masking

tape.

Jean walks out of the park and looks up past the buildings at the

sky:

SUPERIMPOSED IN THE SKYSTOCK FOOTAGE OF A HAWAIIAN SURFER

Jean sees the surfer, 'riding the nose' in glistening, shimmering

sunlight.

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Julian Schnabel

ulian Schnabel (born October 26, 1951) is an American painter and filmmaker. In the 1980s, Schnabel received international media attention for his "plate paintings"—large-scale paintings set on broken ceramic plates. Schnabel directed Before Night Falls, which became Javier Bardem's breakthrough Academy Award-nominated role, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which was nominated for four Academy Awards. more…

All Julian Schnabel scripts | Julian Schnabel Books

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