American filmmaker Gus Van Sant puts Andy Warhol’s youth to music

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Lisbon (AFP)

American filmmaker, writer, painter, photographer and musician Gus Van Sant is now turning to the theater with a new musical in Lisbon about the early career of Pop Art creator Andy Warhol.

Van Sant, best known for films such as “My Own Private Idaho” and “Good Will Hunting,” said he has long wanted to make a movie about Warhol and even wrote a screenplay with American actor River Phoenix, died at 23 in 1993, set for the lead role.

Today, for his very first scenic work, the 69-year-old winner of the Palme d’Or de Cannes has written the musical “Andy”, which will premiere in the Portuguese capital on Thursday as part of the Contemporary Biennale . Arts where Van Sant is one of the artists in residence this year.

“I was trying to put together the biggest hits in Andy’s life to explain his rise in the art world in the ’60s,” the filmmaker said.

With dialogues and songs written by Van Sant himself, the musical – which is staged in English in the prestigious Teatro Nacional D. Maria II in Lisbon, before a European tour that takes him to cities like Rome , Amsterdam, Paris and Athens – – is a collection of anecdotes about Warhol’s encounters with prominent figures in American culture, such as writer Truman Capote, art critic Clement Greenberg and actor Edie Sedgwick.

The image that emerges from the artist is that of a “very strange character who is not really related to Andy Warhol whom we may know. He is sort of a replacement for Andy,” said Van Sant.

Van Sant’s films include biopics of iconic characters such as Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain in “Last Days” and gay rights activist Harvey Milk in “Milk”.

“Very few people knew who Andy Warhol really was,” said Portuguese actor Diogo Fernandes, who plays the artist in the production.

“I think he was someone who was shy, fascinated by American culture and wanted to be a star, but never imagined what impact he would have,” Fernandes told AFP.

For Van Sant’s collaborator on the project, John Romao, Warhol was “someone half-hidden in the shadows, shy, but very energetic at the same time thanks to his ability to turn his ideas into reality. It made him both fascinating and frightening to those around him. ”

Born in Pittsburgh in 1928, Warhol began his career as a commercial illustrator.

But he quickly became one of the main representatives of the Pop Art movement and worked in a wide range of different media, such as painting, photography and film.

His New York studio, The Factory, was a meeting place for intellectuals, drag queens, playwrights, Hollywood celebrities and wealthy patrons.

Best known for his serigraphs of “Campbell’s Soup Cans”, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Mao Zedong, he has also directed and produced the experimental rock group, The Velvet Underground, and founded Interview magazine.

He died in New York at the age of 58 in 1987.


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