Everyone loves the movies, and one of film’s most popular genres is the biopic—or biographical film. Following a famous person from cradle to grave can make for an entertaining and enlightening experience, as it allows the audience to gain a new perspective on a household name. It was recently announced that a new biopic on the life of legendary artist Andy Warhol is in the works, with actor Jared Leto suiting up to play the lead.
The spotlight is on this particular project chiefly because Leto will portray the titular role—a decision that is making some question the success of the upcoming film. Leto, for those unfamiliar with the actor’s work, is controversial for his unusual interpretations of classic roles as well as his intense dedication to what is known as “method acting.”
Under this doctrine of portrayal, an actor strives to remain in character at all times—even when the camera stops rolling. During the filming of Suicide Squad—in which Leto played iconic Batman villain The Joker—several stories surfaced on the actor’s methods causing friction between him and his fellow cast members.
Will Smith, who starred alongside Leto in Suicide Squad, recalled one such incident at the movie’s panel at San Diego Comic-Con. “This dude walks in and goes, ‘I have a message from Mr. J.’ And he puts a box down in front of Margot [Robbie], being like, ‘This is a gift from Mr. J in honor of your relationship,’” Smith recounted. Robbie—who played Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad—then proceeded to open the box, horrified to find a live rat and a handwritten note from Leto inside. In the note, Leto had supposedly detailed the Joker’s intimate—and rather creepy—thoughts about his co-star.
Besides sparking drama on set, Leto has also earned a dubious reputation among moviegoers. Despite critical acclaim for his earlier work—such as Requiem for a Dream—his more recent projects have not been as successful. The aforementioned super villain-themed action flick currently holds an abysmal rating of 26 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
The concern of those interested in the upcoming biopic is that Leto—with all of the baggage he entails—will do a disservice to Andy Warhol, a cultural icon.
Warhol’s work in the 1960s created a genre of art known as “pop art,” which shined a spotlight on the phenomena of celebrity and consumerism in American society. Some of his most famous works include “Campbell’s Soup Cans,” “Marilyn Diptych” and “Eight Elvises.” Warhol’s work combined bright, vibrant colors with a realistic approach. He also helped define the culture of his era, as well as pave the way for the realm of psychedelics that followed.
Warhol passed away in 1987 after complications from gallbladder surgery. He was only 58 years old. His memory lives on today as his work is studied and appreciated by art aficionados around the globe.
There is hope for the film, however, despite audiences’ hesitation toward Leto taking the lead. The actor recently won an Oscar in 2014 for Dallas Buyer’s Club, in which he played a gay man dying of AIDS. Warhol himself was openly gay despite popular disapproval at the time.
Many hope that Leto’s experience with the subject will allow him to do the pop artist justice when it comes time to shoot the movie. In addition, his presence in the cast lends star power and name recognition to the film, which could help draw audiences to the theater.
At the end of the day, only time will tell if Leto is the right man to step into Warhol’s shoes. The film is currently in production, and a release date has yet to be announced.