Paul Bettany and Jeremy Pope will reprise their roles in the play The Collaboration, which shows how artists Andy Warhol and Basquiat worked together in the 1980s in New York. Two of the greatest artists of the 20th century are the source of inspiration for staging an imaginary conversation in Young Vic's hit play, The Collaboration, written by four-time Oscar nominee Anthony McCarten. Now the drama about Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat is about to be transferred to Broadway and has also been adapted into a feature film that will begin filming next month.
Award-winning actors Paul Bettany and Jeremy Pope received rave reviews for their portrayals of the artists on Young Vic. They will reprise these roles in future stage and screen productions, each directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, Young Vic's artistic director, which will make its film debut.
The director stated that many other film adaptations of plays abandon the original cast. "It's a great comfort to me and I'm excited to be working again with the same actors: script is a little different."The play imagines the conversations and conflicts of Andy Warhol, who gained fame with his depictions of movie stars, soup cans, and Brillo boxes, and Basquiat, a rising star of the graffiti scene, as they collaborate on an exhibition.Neither of them could have imagined the prices their works would one day fetch. In 2017, the untitled depiction of a skull of Basquiat sold for $110.5 million, beating the record $105 million for an American artist at auction set by Warhol's Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) in 2013.
The play was a critical and box office success. Critics wrote: “Pieces about artists are generally soft on talent and poor in reproduction of work. Not in the vibrant production of Kwame Kwei-Armah.” Another critic wrote: "Paul Bettany and Jeremy Pope are simply made for each other." For the original staging, Young Vic contacted the artists' estates. Such was the concern with the works of art created for the play appearing on the free market and being mistaken for genuine examples that they had to destroy them every night – recreating them again for the next show. Kwei-Armah stated: “We separated them… Every night we had to destroy anything that was painted. We had an outside artist during rehearsals to talk about recreating the art. Jeremy [Pope] is a really proficient performer and he did it live every night on stage.” The director added: "Even when we recreated some Warhol pieces, these had to be a smaller percentage and look different than the original... Certainly there are regulations that we have to follow once we get permission."
Finally, Kwei-Armah stated that the film differs from the play: “The play had two stars, Basquiat and Warhol. In the movie, there are three stars, Basquiat, Warhol and 1980s New York… The film has more details about their lives.”