We HEAR "Waltzing Matilde," by Tom Waits.
INT. MUSEUM OF MODERN ART - DAY (DREAM SEQUENCE IN GRAINY BLACK
Fade out music.
A well-dressed black BOY and his MOTHER walk through several
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
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
The beam gets whiter, the rest of the screen gets black.
INT. CARDBOARD BOX
Silence. In darkness, we hear a VOICE - imbued with a sense of
its own history:
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
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"
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
As he writes, he reads aloud, as if addressing Posterity.
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.
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
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
Jean walks out of the park and looks up past the buildings at the
SUPERIMPOSED IN THE SKY - STOCK FOOTAGE OF A HAWAIIAN SURFER
Jean sees the surfer, 'riding the nose' in glistening, shimmering
EXT. TOMPKINS SQUARE PARK - DAY
Rene grabs the box for use as a desk and continues to speak out
loud as he writes.
RENE (CONT'D, O.S.)
Part of the artist's job is to get the work
where I will see it.
EXT. LOWER EAST SIDE ST. - DAY
As he speaks, we see Jean pass the wall of a funeral parlor. He
spraypaints: "SAMO AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO GOD"
RENE (CONT'D, O.S.)
When you first see a new picture, you don't
want to miss the boat. You have to be very
careful because you may be staring at Van
Jean signs his words with his 'logo', a triple pointed crown.
As he presses the spray can, we HEAR the roar of a breaker.
INSERT: CLOSEUP OF SIDEWALK
Pressed into the concrete is a pair of EYEGLASSES. A light-
colored piece of rock completes the picture to make a face.
EXT. LESHKO'S RESTAURANT - DAY
JEAN'S POV: His shoes pause next to the face in the concrete.
IN FRONT OF THE RESTAURANT
Is a METAL BILLBOARD with red plastic magnetized LETTERS that
reads: "TODAY'S SPECIAL: CLAM CHOWDER $1.50. TRY IT!!!"
INT. LESHKO'S - DAY
EXT. LESHKO'S RESTAURANT - DAY
The sign. It now reads: "SAMO'S DAY OLD TEETH $5.00"
INT. LESHKO'S RESTAURANT - DAY
Bending over a countertop, we see GINA CARDINALE, 22. He fixates
She looks up and notices his stare. She continues to work.
Still staring at her, he sits down at a table. He pours maple
syrup onto the table. He draws in the syrup with his fingers.
CLOSE ON SYRUP ON TABLE
ANOTHER WAITRESS arrives at his table. She's put off by the
What'll it be?
Jean thinks about it, eyes still following Gina.
Ummm. It'll be great. We'll live together
in peace. What's her name?
He looks up at the waitress.
Gina. What'll it be?
She leaves and whispers something to Gina. Gina turns and glances
over at Jean.
Jean pours more syrup and starts writing his name.
At the grill, LESHKO, the burly Owner/Cook, has his watchful eye
on Jean. He doesn't like what he sees.
Jean smears the syrup thinly, so it doesn't erase itself. He
draws a picture of Gina, using his fingers and the silverware,
rendering her last expression strikingly with a few quick lines.
A GAUNT YOUNG MAN saunters up to Jean's table. He's sort of a
tall Puerto Rican Alain Delon with sleepy eyes. He is BENNY.
Hey - Willie Mays.
Suddenly, Rene Ricard enters - a one-man parade. He beckons to
Gina, snapping his fingers.
Nurse!!! Oh!!! Nurse!!! Carrot juice. Tofu
We don't serve that - amigo.
Fine... A greasy cheeseburger. Fries - and
(under his breath)
The Devil, man. Rene Ricard. Art critic -
writes for Artforum. People read him. Tell
him who you are..
Who am I?
Rene lands at the counter.
Jean's gaze is still on Gina.
She waits on a MAN at a nearby table.
How's the special today?
It's your stomach.
She hurries past Jean.
She slows down, not wanting to.
What do you think?
She looks at her portrait in the syrup... She can't resist
It's me. I've never been done in maple
syrup. Here's a rag.
Gina smiles. She offers him one. As she holds it out, their eyes
lock. She tries to resist his smile.
She puts her finger in the syrup and licks it off.
Benny takes it all in.
Leshko is upon them.
Alright. Look at you, staring at this girl,
making a mess.
He waves Jean toward the door.
Jean takes Gina's rag and begins cleaning his mess, seemingly
How about those pancakes?
He brings out a roll of dimes to the tabletop and splits it open.
Dimes roll all over the table and stick in the syrupy parts. The
Pipe down, Lech. Let him order.
You nuts? Let him order? You on his side?
You're not such a good waitress. You get
I just don't think you're being fair.
I need this?
I need this?
Gina quietly removes her apron in disbelief.
Benny gets up to leave very casually.
(waving g'bye to Jean)
That's right. You go with them. Make babies
the government has to pay for.
GINA AND JEAN
Leave the restaurant.
Behind them, we see Rene, absorbed in his writing.
EXT. AVE. A - DAY
They stand outside, not knowing quite what comes next.
Jean gives Benny a look (i.e. 'scram').
Catch you later.
A CHILLY WIND picks up.
Jean's mood is suddenly downcast.
They button up their overcoats, about to leave.
What's a job, anyway?
What's wrong with you?
The truth is, he feels awful for causing Gina's trouble, but
shows it by moping like a child.
No, don't tell me - you just got fired by
your crazy boss.
I guess you did.
Guess I just got sick of him.
Can I walk you home?
I think I could do that alone.
Gina walks away.
He runs after her.
Wait, I'm in a band....We're at the Mudd
Club on Halloween. I'll put you on the
Gina turns and looks back at Jean.
I hate the Mudd Club.
He catches up to her.
Gina notices a dead leaf in his hair and picks it out.
Have you been camping? You could use a
I'm clean. Smell me. I always smell good. I
don't know why, I just do!
He leans forward, offering his neck.
You do! You definitely do.
Just come to the Mudd Club on Friday.
I don't go there. Too many party girls.
Party girls? Can I call you?
Yeah, if you have any dimes left. 477-0496.
He writes her number on his pant cuff with a big fat magic
Here, this is for you. I made this.
He hands her the small speaker.
She takes it.
She admires the speaker watches him walk off.
EXT. MENTAL HOSPITAL (OUTSIDE THE CITY)
We see Jean crossing a lawn outside a mental hospital.
INT. MENTAL HOSPITAL - RECREATION / VISITING ROOM - DAY
PSYCH. PATIENTS fill a cavernous day-room engaged in arts and
crafts. Some of the sadder patients stare off into space as Jean
crosses the room. He carries a plate of cookies and a full glass
He approaches a sad, nice-looking, middle-aged black woman - the
same one from the dream, earlier. She sits alone fondling a
pillow in her lap. It's his mother, MATILDE. She doesn't see him
As he sets the plate in front of her, she notices him. She
recognizes him and seems pleased, even in her isolation. He
kisses her on the cheek.
She smiles slightly.
Jean takes a cookie. She does likewise.
They eat in silence, looking at each other, communicating what
Time passes. In between cookies her fingers find and break the
stems of the pillow feathers.
I met the girl I'm gonna marry.
His mother brightens. She drinks the milk. They finish the
Do you like it here?
I'd like it better in Hawaii.
INT. CARDBOARD BOX - NIGHT
Jean tries to sleep in the box. RAIN falls heavily onto it.
Drops of water hit his face.
He wills it to stop. It doesn't.
Finally, he can't stand it. Rain forces his blinking eyes open.
INT. BENNY'S APARTMENT - NIGHT
A door opens to reveal Jean's wet face.
Benny lets him in.
Jean enters a rundown railroad flat crammed with musical
instruments, beer cans, and homemade art. There's a couch with a
sheet over it.
Junk is piled in a corner - mostly art books and drawings.
Benny sits down at an electric piano, which he's evidently
playing. He sings along, softly, working out the words,
Jean sets his belongings on the couch, walks to a mic stand and
starts making up his own words.
"She loves me.
Oh yeah she loves me!
She loooooooves me,
Oh yeah she loves me!"
Bring me some chicken, baby!
Would you shut the fuck up? You hear what
Yeah man. I'm jealous. You're always great,
(goes back into 'act')
"Her name is G-I-N-A Gina
And she lo-oooves me."
I did say chicken!
Benny turns off the piano and lights a roach, angry at Jean's
Jean digs through a pile of garbage. Finally, he finds what he's
looking for - a pile of "SAMO baseball cards" - color Xeroxes of
his favorite images and words. He pockets them.
I knew I left these somewhere. One of
these'll send your kids to college someday.
(hands it to Benny solemnly)
Here - I made this for you.
Your dad called again - something about a
He hands Jean a slip of paper. He notices the number on Jean's
You got a date already?
We're getting married. She said she could
tell I was a great artist - she could see
it in my eyes. She said she wanted to be by
my side and have inter-racial babies with
Benny grins. He grabs a basketball and spins it expertly on his
G'night... See you in court tomorrow.
Jean turns on the TV. He notices the roach. He picks up the paper
Benny gave him with the message from his father and sets it on
He lights the roach with it.
He looks up; on television, we see a BUM being interviewed. Jean
turns up the volume.
The bum's on the ground, looking beat up. Jean picks up a pocket
recorder and turns it on:
The guy just hit me and I was on the
ground!!!! Boom, for real.
Jean mutes the sound on the TV. He rewinds and proudly plays back
the words "Boom, for real."
He picks up the phone and dials. He turns on the speakerphone.
Jean holds the recorder to the speaker as someone answers the
phone. (Jean walks in and out of frame throughout the following.)
I-Is this the s-s-suicide h-h-hotline?
Yes. My name is Chris. What's yours?
That's a beautiful name. French?
Haitian. I'm going to kill myself. I'm
taking pills. Reds, blues, greens.
Jean opens his notepad and looks down a long list of seemingly
random words. He comes to the words (in order) "liquid, hijack,"
What? Wait a minute... talk to me.
(about to sob)
Life doesn't... make... sense. This city's
k-killing me. I want my liquid hijack
What? Life's beautiful. Depression isn't
permanent. Don't you believe that?
What is it - did your girlfriend leave you?
No! I have a boyfriend. He loves me.
Jean spies an electric pencil sharpener and plugs it in.
You see? You have someone to live for.
No, I don't. I'm alone. We all are.
Especially here. The world's unjust. The
respect fools get. The disrespect I get.
What is it you want? Respect? I have
respect for you, just for making this call.
One philosopher said "Sadness is a sin
against the richness of the world." Think
about it. Feel it.
You don't even know me. I want real
He jams a pencil into the electric sharpener and holds the
receiver right next to it, giving the guy an earful:
CLOSE UP - A speaker. It fills the screen.
We continue to hear:
What? What do you want?
Fame. My liquid hijack Marlboros and the
moon and the cow that jumped over it.
CAMERA PULLS BACK FROM SPEAKER TO REVEAL:
INT. MUDD CLUB - HALLOWEEN NIGHT
Jean and Benny are on stage with two other GUYS, members of the
band Gray. Everyone but Jean is dressed in some sort of Halloween
We HEAR the words "Boom, for real" blasting from the P.A. system.
What follows is a continuation, a collage of words from Jean's
"suicide hotline" call -
One philosopher said "Give me my liquid
hijack Marlboros. Life's beautiful. You
have someone to live for. What do you want?
RKKKK! That's a beautiful name... French?
Jean sits in a chair onstage with his band members. Benny plays
the organ. The other band members play percussion and guitar.
It works. The crowd loves it.
The song ends abruptly.
We begin to hear James Brown's "Sex Machine."
Jean looks out into the crowd and notices Gina. She's looking
right back at him from the bar. Pleased to see her face, he says
to himself -
Boom, for real.
We see him walk offstage into the crowd. They meet.
I thought you hated this place?
I just said that. I was never here before.
I actually like it.
MUSIC segues into PIL's "Public Image".
Let's get out of here.
He leads her towards the exit. They step out of the club.
EXT. MUDD CLUB - NIGHT
HIGH, WIDE ANGLE
It's raining heavily. Jean motions for Gina to wait under the
entrance. He tries to hail a cab... And another. And another.
A parade of them passes, but each time they slow down, they get a
glimpse of Jean and drive off.
Finally, Gina steps out of the entrance. She raises her hand, and
a car pulls over instantly.
INT. CAB - NIGHT
They scurry into the backseat.
The cab pulls off.
EXT. CHINESE RESTAURANT - NIGHT
Through a steamy, rain-wet window, we see Jean and Gina seated at
a table, dining.
They seem to be having a nice time.
INT. GINA'S APARTMENT - NEXT MORNING
Gina lays in bed. Daylight streams into the apartment.
Jackhammers RATTLE outside. (Music: REGGAE SONG - Errol
Scorcher's "Cockroach in de Corner.")
A cockroach crawls from Gina's bedroom across the floor and into
the kitchen where Jean sits naked on the floor, working on a
drawing. It crawls over his drawing towards a cardboard box.
Jean rummages through a cabinet. He finds a can of bugspray. Jean
tears off a side of the box. With cardboard in one hand and
bugspray in the other, he forgets the cockroach.
He's mesmerized by the list of ingredients on the aerosol can.
Someone POUNDS furiously at the door.
Ignoring the pounding, he starts listing the ingredients on the
piece of cardboard, finishing his new drawing by including a
symbol of a cockroach to the left of the list.
Miss Cardinale... Open up for me, please!
He gets up and peeks through the security hole. He sees a middle-
aged Hispanic woman reaching to unlock the door. He opens it.
Ohhh, Dios mio!
She stares at him levelly.
I just want the rent.
Why didn't you say so? Damn! She's asleep!
Jean draws on a piece of paper on the counter next to him. He
hands it to the landlady. It's a a little shack with a big head
next to it that says "'Here' For Rent."
The landlady looks at him like he's crazy. She balls up the
drawing and puts it in her pocket.
Gina arrives in the doorway, wearing a robe. The landlady's
trapped between them.
What're you doing?
The landlady wags her finger at Gina.
Gina and Jean look amused as they watch her leave.
Wanna go get some breakfast?
A friend of mine offered me a job doing a
little work installing a show in a gallery.
He's an electrician. I was supposed to be
there an hour ago.
She looks at the bugspray drawing on the floor.
Ohh, that's nice.
Jean kisses her neck as she looks at the drawing.
We HOLD on the drawing.
INT. MARY BOONE GALLERY - DAY
White dust sprinkles down onto Jean's face from the ceiling.
Unable to use his hands, he tries to blow the dust out of his
His boss, GREG, a mild-mannered hippie electrician, works above
him on the ladder. Jean steadies the ladder. Greg's head is out
The gallery is an impressive space under preparations for an
Jean, could you get me a Phillips
A Phillips head. From the toolbox.
Jean searches through the toolbox. He picks up a screwdriver and
reads the handle: "CRAFTSMAN"
'Phillips head,' right?
Jean shakes his head and puts it back. He tries a couple more -
they each say "CRAFTSMAN." He puts them back.
Finally, he finds one with a different handle. It says "G.S.C.
You don't have any!!!
That's impossible. I've got, like, five of
He comes down off the ladder.
You're holding one in your hand!!!
You've never done this kind of work before,
See, this is a regular screwdriver, and
this is a Phillips head. The cross thing...
I'll tell you later what all the tools are
so you'll know.
A GROUP of people arrives.
Albert Milo comes into view, tailed closely by Rene Ricard and
MARY BOONE - well dressed, petite, intense, 30. Milo, (also about
30), wears casual clothes splattered with paint. Mary Boone is
engaged in conversation with Milo. Rene chatters away.
Greg climbs back up the ladder. He holds a piece of wire down to
Jean. Jean stares at the group while trying to be invisible.
I need to make a call, Mary. You don't
mind, do you?
Certainly not. You can use my line.
Rene picks up the phone.
To Paris. Bernard Picasso -
You know Bernard -
Be my guest.
Jean watches the group talking.
Jean? Hold this, please.
(beat - he sees why Jean's so
You'll get there. But it's good to have
something to fall back on. That's why I
became an electrician. It pays the rent.
Y'know, I'm an artist, too.
I didn't know.
I sculpt. I'm really just starting to find
myself. How old are you? Twenty? You're
just like I used to be. I'm forty-one. And
I'm glad I haven't gotten any recognition.
It gave me time to develop.
Jean watches Mary and Milo talking.
I can't tell you how happy I am with this
Mary yells across the room to Jean.
MARY BOONE (CONT'D)
(her tone impersonal)
Excuse me - you - what's your name? Would
you move those tools there and put them
He looks at her.
Milo watches to see what he's going to do.
My name is Jean Michel Basquiat. Have you
heard of me?
No. Should I have?
I'm a painter, too.
Really. Huh. Too bad.
Excuse me, would you please move those
Jean looks at Milo. Milo looks back at him.
Jean walks past the tools and continues toward the door. He walks
out without turning around.
Milo smiles to himself.
EXT. BOONE GALLERY - ALBERT MILO OPENING - DUSK
The ART WORLD CROWD fills the gallery. Jean lurks across the
street, watching through the window.
Cabs and limousines line the block. A crowd outside blocks the
Jean's obviously impressed, jealous and estranged - he feels
entitled to all this.
He crosses the street to get a closer look.
THROUGH THE WINDOW
He sees Albert Milo talking with ANDY WARHOL and BRUNO
BISCHOFBERGER. Andy, of course, is thin, silver-haired, and
nearly albino. Bruno is a Swiss art dealer in his 40's. He exudes
money - a pillar of security.
On the other side of the room, Rene Ricard is surrounded by a
coterie of young, mostly BLACK AND HISPANIC MALES. Rene looks
drunk, enjoying the moment, holding court.
Rene crosses to Albert and Andy.
People pass by.
Jean starts to walk.
About half a block away, he sprays on a wall:
"THE WHOLE LIVERY LINE BOW LIKE THIS WITH THE BIG MONEY ALL
CRUSHED INTO THESE FEET"
He looks pleased. He turns and looks up West Broadway beyond the
buildings at the sky:
SUPERIMPOSED IN THE SKY
We see a surfer emerging from a HUGE WAVE. He looks powerful and
EXT. BASKETBALL COURT - DAY
ANGLE ON: A wall. We see the following graffity:
"JIMMY BEST ON HIS BACK TO THE SUCKERPUNCH OF HIS CHILDHOOD
A basketball bounces against a wall.
Jean and Benny amble onto a basketball court. Jean's changed his
hairstyle. Now the dreadlocks stand straight up from his head.
Benny dribbles with skill while Jean puffs furiously on a
cigarette. He doesn't look like he's slept, but he's happy.
Benny throws the ball to Jean. It bounces off a puddle and
Come on, Jean. Get rid of your cigarette.
I am... On Gina.
Fuck - I didn't think we were actually
gonna do this.
Concentrate on the ball. Shoot.
Jean shoots. It flies up, up, up - and over the backboard.
He runs after the ball, gets it, and dribbles clumsily.
You're shattering all my myths.
Oh - you mean black people!
He shoots and misses again. He throws it to Benny, who does a
(changing the subject)
How long do you think it takes to get
During the following, Benny performs a series of amazing shots
while Jean looks on admiringly.
For a musician or a painter?
Whatever. Famous. To where you can do your
stuff all day without thinking about
Ummm... Four years. Six to get rich.
He shoots. Swish.
First, you have to dress right.
He shoots again. Swish.
Then, you have to hang out all the time -
with famous people - the right people, the
right chicks, the right parties.
He shoots again. Swish.
And you gotta do your work all the time
when you're not doing that. The same kinda
work, the same style - over and over
again, so people recognize it and don't get
confused. Then, once you're famous, you
have to keep doing it the same way, even
after it's boring - unless you want people
to really get mad at you - which they will
Benny tosses Jean the ball. Jean walks off the court.
Come on. I hate this. I'm no good at it.
Jean shoots the ball and keeps walking. The ball goes in. He
doesn't notice. Benny runs after it.
EXT. HOUSTON ST. - DUSK
Benny and Jean walk along. Benny dribbles.
Famous people are usually pretty stupid.
You're too smart. You'd get bored to death.
You don't wanna be like John Henry -
fighting the machine. Just do what you do.
It's about integrity. Follow your heart.
Who's John Henry?
Oh man! Folklore guy - worked on the
railroad. Y'know, pounding in spikes and
laying down track. Then one day they
invented a machine to do it. And he says
"Fuck that, I'm a MAN" and he challenges
the machine to a race to lay down a mile of
track. It takes two days. Neck and neck the
whole time. They get right to the end, and
he beats it by one spike.
Got a cigarette?
So then what?
He drops dead! See? Just do your shit like
you do it! Your friends like you, you get
laid, everyone walks by, sees your stuff
everywhere. It's good. What else do you
They watch a long stretch limo cruises up across the street.
Like I said - my liquid hijack Marlboros.
Check it out.
The LIMO DRIVER opens the back door. Andy Warhol and Bruno
Bischofberger step out.
Andy Warhol. He's famous and he's not
INSERT: AN IMAGE OF ANDY'S PAINTINGS AT THE WHITNEY MUSEUM
(FOOTAGE FROM JONAS MEKAS FILM)
Jean scrounges in his pockets, pulls out his Xerox cards, and
readies himself as Bruno and Andy enter BALLATO'S RESTAURANT.
What're you doing? You're doing something.
He's the best painter in the world. I'm
gonna give him one of these.
Don't give him anything, man. Your art's
worth a lot. Trade. That's what real
artists do with each other. Besides, he'll
just use you. He's famous for that.
Benny watches Jean crosses the street. Jean passes the limousine.
Inside, the driver (a 24-year old Rasta) takes a hit from a joint
and watches Jean.
The driver's eyes.
He watches Jean cross the street.
Jean enters the restaurant.
INT. BALLATO'S - DAY
Jean enters. Andy and Bruno spot him. The Maitre'd becomes
alarmed. but it's too late - he's at their table.
He spreads his cards on the table. The topmost card reads
"REDEEMABLE BECAUSE OF HIS YOUTH."
Andy stares dead ahead, Sphinxlike.
Bruno watches the non-interaction between the two.
(to Jean, flustered)
Can I help you?.
He taps Jean's shoulder.
I think it's ok.
Of course, Mr. Bischofberger.
Bruno picks up one of the cards.
You wanna buy some ignorant art? Ten bucks.
Yeah... Like - stupid, ridiculous, crummy
Ohhh. That's new. That sounds good.
Ten bucks apiece.
I can give you five. You didn't do very
much to these.
You don't even work on your stuff!
It doesn't matter how much you worked on
them. It matters how much you can get for
I can get ten.
I'll take two. This one and... that one.
Can I borrow some money, Bruno?
Bruno pulls out a hundred dollar bill.
Here. Do you have change?
As WAITER arrives with the tray, Jean pockets the bill.
You made a good deal. Here, you can have
He leaves all the cards and walks toward the door.
Jean leaving past stupified Maitre'd.
EXT. GINA'S APARTMENT - DAY
Jean and Benny are outside the entrance to Gina's building. Jean
carries two huge bags overflowing with groceries and flowers. He
buzzes. There's no answer.
I'll be right back.
He produces a key and lets himself in.
He enters the building.
INT. GINA'S APARTMENT - DAY
Jean sets the groceries on the counter and leaves.
We notice the Bugspray painting on the wall, along with more of
Jean's work and supplies.
EXT. GINA'S APARTMENT - DUSK
Jean rejoins Benny in front of Gina's building.
As they're leaving, Gina comes up the street.
Check you later, man.
INT - GINA'S APARTMENT - DAY
Flowers and groceries are strewn on the counter.
FADE TO BLACK
Over the following MONTAGE we HEAR:
... 'APT 20'... The church bells would ring
at noon and six a.m.. 24 strokes:
How many times we counted them.
We called our bed the cloud.
And there we'd float.
The bathtub was in the kitchen
and took forever to fill up.
We'd bathe together afterwards.
Oh the countless cigarettes and
take out Chinese food...
The bed was so narrow
Three years we made it fit.
The sheets were green the
sheets were pink the sheets
white linen from the past.
Little home, farewell,
The broken windows
and the bodega on the corner.
Now from my balcony
I look out over all New York...
INT. GINA'S APARTMENT - NIGHT
Jean and Gina are sleeping.
SERIES OF DISSOLVES: As they're turning together in their sleep.
FADE TO BLACK
INT. KITCHEN / LIVINGROOM (GINA'S APARTMENT) - DAY
Filled with Jean's paintings.
SERIES OF DISSOLVES: Paintings and objects fill the room.
FADE TO BLACK
SUPER: "A YEAR AND A HALF LATER EAST 9TH ST."
INT. GINA'S APARTMENT - DAY
Jean watches "The Little Rascals" on TV in the living room. The
sound is turned off and a record player PLAYS Gypsy music loudly.
Rolled up in a large drop cloth, Gina is asleep on the floor.
Next to her, Jean works on all fours, drawing figures, crowns,
Working feverishly, he writes "HEY, HEY, HEY" in big clusters,
then writes other words: SHARK, IMMORTALITY, JOHN THE REVELATOR,
FAME, INK, TEETH, HAWAII SUPERMARKET, POLE STAR, BABOON and TAR.
He has an acoustics manual and Bible open on the floor. He copies
the technical blueprints from the manual. He reads the Bible,
following the text with a dirty finger. It seems that he watches
TV, draws, listens to the music and reads at the same time.
He mixes Liquitex paints and puts some colors on the drawings. He
draws a long blue line and carries it over onto the floor. Up the
wall. Through the fridge. Across the window.
He takes off his paint-covered clothes and changes into Gina's
black slip. He rummages around the room, gathering pieces of his
and Gina's clothes.
He spreads the clothes on the floor, and selecting wide brushes
with long bristles, picks up the cans of Liquitex paint.
When paint spills on the clothes, he spreads it into shapes.
Gina wakes up. She reaches for one of the painted shirts.
Basquiat, those are my best clothes!!! What
are you doing?
C'mon, baby, I painted them for you.
They're beautiful now.
I'm going to my parents this weekend. What
am I going to wear?
(she begins to cry)
How could you do that to me?
Jean wipes his hands off on his thighs and puts his arms around
Gina, holding her.
... I'll buy you some new ones.
You don't have any fucking money..
Jean lets her cry for a moment, then notices the music playing on
the stereo - a Gypsy song sung in Spanish.
Do you know what he's saying?
What who's saying?
... if one day I die, and you read this
piece of paper, I want you to know how much
I love you. Although I'll never see you
again, Gypsy, Gypsy, your hair, your hair,
your face, your face'
Gina looks up at him.
'Even though you were never mine
And you never will be
You have a piece of my heart
You have, you have, you have...'
(he reaches down, wiping off
'Gypsy, Gypsy, your hair, your hair, your
face, your face.'
No longer crying, Gina leans her head against Jean.
We HEAR a CALL from the window:
Willie Mays!!! Willie Mays!!!
(at the window)
Come on in!
Benny and two GUYS come barreling into the apartment. Immediate
chaos. Benny holds up a packet of drugs and jiggles it
temptingly. They make themselves at home. Jean sits with them and
starts to chop up the drugs.
Gina gives Jean a look. She stands, still wrapped in the drop
cloth. She lets it fall to the floor. She's wearing only her
underwear. She walks to the bedroom. Benny watches her.
Gina, don't you want any of this? You could
Gina doesn't respond. She comes out of the bedroom with a small
See you later.
They start to laugh.
INT. GINA'S APARTMENT - LATER
Kneeling on the floor, Jean covers the surface of the
refrigerator door with fast, rushing strokes. He mixes paint in a
large soupbowl and dips his hair in the bowl. Pressing his head
to the door, he paints with his hair. He stops to examine the
He HITS his head against the door harder and harder.
FADE TO WHITE
INT. GINA'S APARTMENT - MORNING
CAMERA PULLS BACK: Revealing Jean's eyes. They're open and
motionless. His head is tilted toward his chest.
OFF SCREEN WE HEAR the sounds of Gina coming home:
The LOCK turns. The door OPENS.
Gina comes in and drops a bag on the floor.
Silence. She picks up the mail from under the door and walks into
the room. There's a lump on the floor. It's Jean.
Wake up! I'm back!
She shakes his arm. No result. She lifts his head, revealing his
She shakes him harder. His body is totally limp.
The whites of his eyes are red; his pupils slowly float up,
Jean, what did you do to yourself?
She listens to his breath, then to his heart.
She finds heroin sprinkled into some pot on the floor near him.
(slapping his face)
Don't do this to me.
She shakes him until his eyes unglue. His pupils float into their
... What's the matter?
Oh, God, Basquiat, you scared the shit out
of me. How the fuck could you do that to
It's Monday morning.
It's not Sunday? I missed you. You
shouldn't leave me alone.
You're blaming me? I had to go see my
I'm your family.
Basquiat, what did you take?
Jean tries to pick himself up from the floor. He gets up stiffly,
like Pinnocchio. The long sleep made his limbs wooden.
Nothing special - just some weed.
He finds an old joint and lights it up.
Basquiat, don't lie.
(holds up powder)
This is smack.
You want some?
He offers her the joint.
EXT. ST. MARK'S PLACE - NIGHT
Jean and Benny walk along, sharing a beer in a brown paper bag.
They approach a DRUG DEALER and exchange money for dope.
Jean finds a discarded window frame in a pile of trash and
carries it with him.
They sit down on a stoop. Jean rolls up a dollar bill, empties
the dope onto the window, and splits it into two lines. He hands
the rolled up bill to Benny, who snorts the line.
Benny shakes his head involuntarily, making a violent face, as
though the dope burned a hole in his sinus.
We got beat.
Jean takes a taste with his finger... He tastes his tongue and
makes a face..
He snorts part of his line, anyway, to make sure.
They continue onwards. Jean still carries the window.
You gonna carry that around all night?
Yeah... I'll paint on it.
INT. PARTY - NIGHT
The party's winding down - hip-hop kids, Lower East Side types.
Jean and Benny pass through the room, ignoring the two or three
clusters of people - maybe fifteen in all...
Jean encounters a familiar face: an enormous red-haired dealer -
ROCKETS (35). They greet each other as friends.
Rockets leads Jean aside. They stand near a wall where a painting
hangs ("Flats Fixed"). It bears Jean's three-point crown.
You did that, didn't you?
I gave it to Maripol. She let me stay here
Jean hands him twenty dollars. Rockets hands him two dime bags.
As if thinking better, he hands the bill back to Jean.
Do one for me and it's free. How's that?
Jean re-pockets his money. He gestures to Rockets as if to say
"fine - it's a deal."
He and Benny sit down across the room and split a bag onto the
window, as before. This time, it's good. They lean back into it,
slumping down into the couch.
Nearby, Rene sits on a couch with THREE STREET KIDS - artists
(who we've seen at Milo's opening). They sit on their knees
looking out a window passing binoculars back and forth.
ARTIST #1 looks through the window with a pair of BINOCULARS. He
points down towards the street, trying to get Rene's attention.
Check this out, Rene.
Rene lunges towards the window. The stereo BLARES (Curtis Blow's
"The name of the game is survival, You
learn it in jail upon your arrival!"
Another ARTIST (#2) a young black man, runs up and tries to turn
down the volume.
Rene grabs his crotch.
Chill, man! Be cool! This isn't even my
Oh man, you a FINE nigga! You know that?
Cut it out, man! And don't be callin' me
Benny is now alone on the couch. He nods out.
Oh my, there goes the neighborhood. Who's
house is this, anyway?
Artist #2 is still mad at Rene.
(to Artist #2)
That's what I like about you straight boys.
You're so sensitive!!!
"The name of the game is survival,
Survival! Survival! only the strong
Rene! Come here, man!
I gotta go pee.
Rene weaves across the room. Suddenly, he stops cold. He's
staring at Jean's painting. He doesn't move.
Who did this?
(beat - louder)
Who did this?
I don't know. I told you, this isn't my
I know who did that. That's Jean Michel's.
He's right here, man...
He turns to look for Jean.
Fuck, man, where'd he go? Where's Jean?
Benny looks around ineffectually and shrugs.
It's fucking amazing. Motherfucker's got to
put a crown on it.
(yelling from the window)
Rene, man, check this out. Whoa... He's
Rene looks to him and back at the painting. He takes one last
He stumbles towards the window and grabs the binoculars from
We look through the binoculars' POV at a GUY coming down the
street. He's wearing all black, cowboy boots, and sunglasses.
Naaaa. Poor thing has a little dick.
How do you know?
Just look at him.
(Rene hands the binoculars to
Little silver thingies on his cowboy boots?
Honey, I don't think so.
He looks around the room again as if looking for Jean.
Whoa - check it out. It's him!
Rene grabs binoculars.
Jean pauses before one of his own graffiti pieces:
"PLUSH SAFE, HE THINK"
Rene watches in awe. Jean, moving a bit slowly, `signs' his tag
with the copyright sign. He walks off.
That's the same guy who did this painting.
I know that. Don't let him get away.
He hands the binoculars to Artist #3 and runs towards the door.
EXT. STREET - NIGHT
We watch as Rene looks frantically for Jean, but can't spot him.
Finally he sees Jean's hair-do bobbing up and down a block away.
He runs towards it.
Hey, wait up!!!
Huffing and puffing, he catches up.
You heard of Albert Milo. I made that
niggah. I'm Rene Ricard. Didn't you read
"Not About Albert Milo?" I know who to
hype. Baby, I'm gonna make you a star.
Can you put me in the ring with him?
I can put you in the ring with him. Even
book the dates.
But those big boys know how to fight. They
could make you look real sissy.
I was looking at that painting upstairs.
It's the first time a picture made me
embarrassed to own anything.
So what's your real name? 'Samo?'
Jean Michel Basquiat.
They shake hands.
Sounds famous already.
INT. PS 1 SHOW - DAY
INSERT: A huge poster reads:
"NEW YORK / NEW WAVE
CLOSE ON: A HAMMER, POUNDING
Jean pounds a nail into one of his pieces, nailing it directly
onto the wall. Everyone stares.
Oh child... You got no respect. Didn't
anyone teach you how to mount paintings?
Rene smiles. Jean finishes pounding the last piece into the wall.
CAMERA pulls back to reveal several of Jean's paintings - found
objects with paint on them.
This is a very important season in New
York. One's public appearance is absolute.
(beat - a man approaches)
Oh!!! Louise!!! I'd like you to meet Jean
Michel Basquiat -
SAMO. This is Henry Geldzahler.
A crowd begins to gather around the work.
Ohh... SAMO. I've heard a lot about you. I
love your graffiti.
I was a kid then.
How much are these?
You or the museum?
It's for me.
I'll take it.
That's five thousand dollars.
(hissing to Jean)
He's from the Metropolitan Museum of Art so
suck my pussy, you star.
There seems to be a buzz about Jean already. People gather around
Gina arrives. She looks great.
You look fucking beautiful, beautiful.
ANNINA NOSEI, a sophisticated, well-groomed woman appears at
Jean's side. She takes in his paintings.
As Jean, Rene, and Annina talk, Gina is left out.
This is Jean Michel, whose work I told you
Rene hasn't stopped talking about your
paintings. Haven't I seen you in my
You haven't been by lately.
I didn't have the subway fare. My Medicare
How do you come up with all those words you
put over everything?
I don't know.
Jean sees Bruno and turns his back to her.
Bruno looks at the paintings with a smile... He gives a cheerful
nod to Annina.
You're doing well.
He leaves. Annina's impressed that Jean knows Bruno.
I'd love to see some more of your work...
Where's your studio?
You name it, I paint there.
Well, I don't want to get mugged on a
Bowery street corner. Maybe I could find a
place for you to work. Take my card.
You want a drink?
He produces a pint bottle in a paper sack.
But I'd like one of these paintings.
She walks off.
You kidding? That's Annina Nosei. Jean's
been in her gallery a thousand times.
You slut. How do you know Bruno
He's only the biggest art dealer in Europe.
I had lunch with him once.
INT. GINA'S APARTMENT (BEDROOM) - NIGHT
Jean and Gina lay in bed.
Which island of Hawaii do you want our
house to be on? Maui? Kaui? Molokai?
(a little upset)
I hadn't thought about it.
(in perfect Hawaiian)
Oahu, Lanai, Niihau, Kahoolawee -
Staten Island would be ok.
Jean can't sleep. He stares at the ceiling.
Do you wanna marry me?
INT. GINA'S APARTMENT (KITCHEN) - LATER (NIGHT)
Quietly, Jean kneels on the floor of the kitchen. He paints on an
He draws figures of three people sitting at a table - obviously a
family. He crosses out one person and paints a dog under the
He crosses everything out.
He mixes the paint in a large bowl and starts again.
Again, he crosses everything out.
INT - GINA'S APARTMENT - MORNING
Jean continues to work. He's wearing pajamas and a bathrobe.
Gina enters, waking up.
She looks at the painting.
Kind of a family portrait.
Jean moves to add something. She stops him.
It looks done.
You mean babies with you?
What's wrong with me?
You're your own baby.
Jean paints out the image.
There's a KNOCK at the door.
Who is it?
ANNINA NOSEI (O.S)
Jean jumps up and locks himself in the bathroom. Gina goes to the
door, unlocks the chain, and looks out.
(through the crack)
Hello? Oh. Come in.
She opens the door.
Is Jean Michel here?
Closed in the bathroom, Jean smiles while eavesdropping.
I'm here to see some work.
Annina starts noticing all the work around her. Gina hands her a
stack of drawings.
ANNINA NOSEI (CONT'D)
These are great.
How much for these five?
You should talk to him about this.
Annina contains her excitement.
(continuing to stare at the
Um... Do Rene and Jean have a contract
We see Jean in the bathroom looking at himself in the mirror with
a bird's nest on his head.
ANNINA NOSEI (CONT'D)
I'm interested in showing Jean's work.
I really think you should talk to him about
Jean pops out of the bathroom.
How about right now?
She opens the door.
Unnoticed, Gina starts for the bedroom.
Be ready in a minute!
THE DOOR SLAMS
As Jean exits with Annina.
INT. TAXI - DAY
Jean waits in a taxi in front of Benny's apartment.
Honk the horn again, will you please?
The DRIVER obliges. The back of the cab is loaded with all his
belongings. Boxes piled with junk. Bags of new painting supplies.
Benny emerges from his building and jumps into the cab.
The cab pulls out. Jean lights a joint. and smokes it furiously.
He doesn't pass it to Benny.
What's the rush, John Henry?
I ain't John Henry.
What's your fuckin' problem, anyway?
Benny holds out his hand for the joint.
I don't really have any problems.
Good. What do you have?
What's your fuckin' problem? You get a
girlfriend and a little attention and then
start acting all uppity with me.
'Uppity?' Like as in 'uppity nigger?'
He snaps his finger for the joint back.
That's not how I meant it.
For all you know, you might just be a flash
in the pan! You can never tell.
Hey fuck you! I deserve this shit. You're
just jealous 'cause it ain't happening to
The cab stops for a red light. Benny gets out. He doesn't say a
word. Jean doesn't look at him. The cab sails off.
EXT. ANNINA NOSEI GALLERY - DAY
It stops in front of the gallery. From outside, we see Annina
conversing on the phone. She looks up and opens the door for him.
INT. STAIRWELL - BLACK.
Off screen we HEAR Jean walking down the stairs.
I've got to find the switch.
INT - BASEMENT, ANNINA'S - DAY
Annina flips on a light.
Here it is.
Jean looks around him. He's in a large, empty cement-floored room
lit by fluorescent lights.
INT. BASEMENT, ANNINA'S - (LATER) - DAY
Jean bends over, beginning several canvases. He pours paint on
them - kind of like photographs we've seen of Jackson Pollock. We
HEAR Miles Davis' "Flamenco Sketches."
INT - BASEMENT, ANNINA'S - DAY (LATER)
GRANDMASTER FLASH'S "WHITE LINES" fills the room.
The walls are covered with half-finished, unstretched CANVASES.
Two or three more lie on the floor.
He works like a maniac, buzzing back and forth from one painting
to another, adding figures, crossing out words, all the while
smoking and eating cookies. The crumbs fall onto the paintings.
He walks on them.
Every so often, he refers to a book of DaVinci drawings. Torn
pages litter the floor beneath the book.
We hear someone THUMPING down the stairs.
It's Rene. A PUPPY follows him.
He dumps a huge load of paint supplies, art books, and carryout
ribs. The puppy sniffs around happily, licking at Jean and
walking over the paintings, wagging his tail.
He stops the tape player and inserts some Persian music.
Jean empties some foil-wrapped bags of coke. He cuts a line of
coke on a foil plate.
Rene starts reading from a poem he's evidently written:
3rd night I called him 'boy'
He sed "don't call me 'boy'" "Well
Then don't call me 'Boss'" That
Was the end for us and I've
Been seeing him for 2 1/2 years.
In kangaroo court I want to be
Able to say I never kept a
Slave. But he tricked me in
To Tying him up and busting his
Face. He'll jump up at my Trial
Yelling 'He wupped me gud.'
Jean warms the plate 'til the coke crackles, and then "chases the
dragon," sucking the smoke through a straw.
He offers it to Rene, who refuses. He lights and hands Rene the
joint. Rene takes a hit. Jean takes it back.
Jean starts to work again.
The PUPPY runs around, chasing after him, getting in his way,
running across the paintings. Jean laughs, playing tag. The puppy
gets a hold of Jean's sleeve. It unravels about ten feet.
While Jean's playing, Rene spots a painting with the words
"Famous Negro Athletes."
Oh man! That's one looks famous already.
Without hearing him, Jean walks towards the painting and with a
swipe, paints out what Rene is pointing to.
You are a willful boy. How'm I s'posed to
write about you if you keep changing
The phone RINGS... Jean ignores it. Rene gets it -
Uh huhh... Band practice?
It's Benny. He wants to know why you're not
at band practice...?
I forgot about that.
He sets his brush down.
Rene hold the phone against his leg.
Fuck band practice... If you're gonna be a
painter you're gonna have to break a few
hearts - you don't wanna be like Tony
Tony Bennett... What do you mean?
Singing on stage and painting in your spare
I didn't know Tony Bennett painted.
My point exactly.
Jean picks up the phone... All he hears is a DIAL TONE.
So keep painting.
If you're so smart, why are you here with
me in this basement?
You're news. I want the scoop. I write it
down. When I speak, no one believes me. But
when I write it down, people know it's
There's never been a black painter in art
history that's been considered really
important, you know?
So shut up and keep painting..
What time is it?
Jean regards a near-finished painting. He writes "5:11" on it. He
crosses it out and re-writes it, "Rene 5:11." Rene looks pleased.
That one's for you.
Thanks... I'll take it tonight.
I can't. After the show.
Jean continues painting. Rene slumps down onto the floor, happy -
a parasite content to have a host, impressed with Jean's
limitless energy. Rene closes his eyes.
INT. ANNINA'S BASEMENT - LATER
Jean is bent over his work. He looks to see a pair of legs. They
belong to Albert Milo.
Hey - it's the big A.M..
Rene's been telling me about your work.
Milo takes his time looking at the paintings.
Jean continues to work, never wanting to appear impressed by
anyone. He walks on top of the paintings.
ALBERT MILO (CONT'D)
Is this finished yet?
I don't know.
When's your show?
Not sure. How was yours?
I haven't decided yet.
Rene, you wanna come over to the studio
tomorrow. I wanna make a painting of you.
How about now?
Rene shrugs to Jean. He prepares to leave.
See you at your opening. Thanks.
Albert and Rene begin to ascend the stairs. Jean continues
painting. The dog leaves with Rene and Albert.
WOMAN'S VOICE (O.S.)
Ohhh, Albert Milo, what a pleasure to meet
Jean's brush stops.
ALBERT MILO (O.S.)
This is Rene Ricard.
Jean paints over the words "Rene 5:11."
We hear FOOTSTEPS COMING DOWN THE STAIRS. The woman continues -
WOMAN'S VOICE (O.S.)
We're Tom and Cynthia Kruger - nice to have
We see Annina's legs coming down the stairs.
A man wearing a pin-striped suit and gold-rimmed glasses. The
woman is wrapped in a cashmere shawl.
ANNINA NOSEI (O.S)
Tom and Cynthia Kruger.
We SEE that Jean continues to paint, looking down.
This is Jean Michel Basquiat.
You've seen the SAMO graffiti everywhere.
That's his. This is the true voice of the
As she speaks, Jean squirms. He grabs a banana from a fruit bowl.
Without peeling it, he takes a big bite. And another. And
another. Everyone looks uncomfortable. Annina starts showing them
We've seen the graffiti. I work on Wall
Street. And I've heard wonderful things
about the paintings. Everybody's talking
He looks up at them, eating the banana.
Here's a very good example of his recent
work that's not spoken for yet.
He's got to work in a basement. He's got so
much energy that if he worked in a place
with a window, he'd jump right through it.
Most of these are reserved already. After
this week, this work will not be available.
(to his wife)
... I don't know.... This one's nice, but I
don't know if I could live with it. That
green is so... institutional.
He (Kruger) looks up to see two KIDS enter - young black artists,
one of whom we saw with Rene at the loft party.
They walk right into the middle of the room, completely oblivious
to the presence of Annina and the Krugers..
Yo, man, you're a damn lucky nigger selling
You like it?
Not bad. Yeah, I do.
The Krugers hem and haw in front of the painting next to Jean.
I'm fascinated by his choice of crossing
out words that way.
Yes, well, they are more meaningful in
their absence, no?
(to Jean, joking)
What does it mean?
Jean paints the words "Rene 5:11" back into a painting. They
ignore the kid..
I like this one, but that green...
Suddenly, we see LEGS coming down the stairs. It's Gina. Everyone
looks at her.
Y'want me to make it a nice shit brown?
Gina hadn't expected to find herself in the middle of this scene.
Hi. This is Gina.
Annina nods to her.
Gina nods to the group.
They're something like Dubuffet's...
That... childlike quality.
Gina tries to connect with Jean. He's cold.
CYNTHIA KRUGER (CONT'D)
(to her husband and Annina)
I can't make up my mind.
I like this one. If it were just another
Get a fucking decorator. If you buy one,
you'll have to change your whole lives -
maybe even sell your kids!
These paintings aren't even done yet!!!
He sets his brush down. As he leaves -
TOM KRUGER (O.S.)
I think we'll take the green one.
Gina, left standing in the middle of this.
INT. MCDONALDS - DAY
CLOSE ON McDonald's COUNTERMAN. He smiles.
I'll take three big Macs, two chocolate
shakes, two orders of fries, and an apple
You want three Big Macs, two chocolate
shakes, two orders of fries, and an apple
A line begins forming behind Jean.
Forget it .I'll take six, no, seven
chocolate shakes, an order of fries, a Big
Mac, and two apple pies.
You only want one Big Mac?
The people in line are beginning to get impatient.
Yeah... And make it three apple pies.
EXT. SOHO STREET - DAY
Jean leans on a fire hydrant, eating a Big Mac.
A pink scarf blows on the wind right in front of his face. He
A BOMBSHELL BLONDE arrives with her hand outstretched to retrieve
How can I ever thank you?
(with a smile)
I'd like to squeeze your titties.
He offers her a Big Mac.
No, I'd like the scarf.
Have a Mac.
I don't eat junk food.
Oh. I didn't know. I'll take you to the
best restaurant in town.
You'll miss a great meal and I'll keep the
scarf, anyway. What's your name?
You're a fast mover.
No name? That's ok. I'll just call you Big
A man sleeping on the ground with a beehive of paper bags on his
head and three overcoats sticks out into the sidewalk.
Jean leaves the McDonald's bag near his head as he walks down the
street with the girl.
INT. GINA'S APARTMENT - NIGHT
Jean enters the apartment.
A present I picked up for you.
Gina holds the scarf up and looks at it.
It's beautiful. Thanks.
As she holds it up he puts it around her neck and kisses her.
You look like an angel.
INT. ANNINA NOSEI GALLERY - NIGHT
CLOSE UP PAINTING
We read the words:
A CAT POURING TACKS ON ITS TONGUE"
SOMEONE (the big red-haired dealer we met earlier) walks in front
CAMERA PULLS BACK to reveal a crowd in a gallery. It is literally
filled with people. Again - all this takes place in silence.
We begin to HEAR Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?" It colors
the motion of the crowd.
EXT. PRINCE ST (BET. MERCER AND WOOSTER) - DUSK
Jean walks down the street. He's got on a new set of clothes and
he listens to a Walkman. We HEAR Miles Davis' "Flamenco
We MOVE down Prince St. and take a left on West Broadway. We
approach a huge crowd. We get closer and closer until we are
immersed in it.
The crowd realizes Jean's amongst them. People start approaching
him. Someone removes the headphones.
The DIN of the crowd replaces the music. Amongst the normal crowd
chatter, we hear friends' calling out:
VOICES IN CROWD
Jean!!! Jean Michel!!!
INT. ANNINA NOSEI GALLERY
Annina beckons to him. Beyond her, he sees Albert, Andy, and
Bruno. He's being escorted or maybe just pushed - it's hard to
tell. Each step of the way, he's pounced upon by INDIVIDUALS
we've never met. The room is wall-to-wall with people. People are
swept along in currents.
Jean, man!!! Let's make a record!
You finally did it.
(pointing to Jean, sneering)
He's so fulla shit.
MAN #3 (O.S.)
How much is he getting for these?
Jean walks up to Andy Warhol.
Andy, man, thanks for coming. I'd like to
paint your jacket.
My jacket? Gee, great...
(he Polaroids Jean)
Your show looks great. Quite a turnout. You
look great. You kids. You drink red wine
with fish. You can do anything! Make
paintings in the basement of your gallery?
First time I've heard of that!
They are approached by Mary Boone, a short woman in high heels
and an Armani suit).
ANDY WARHOL (CONT'D)
Jean Michel, this is Mary Boone. She's got
the great new gallery.
Yeah, I met her already.
(shaking Jean's hand)
You should be pleased. It's a great
show...I'm having a dinner later at Mr.
Chow's for Albert. You should come.
In the background, we see Annina watching.
You'll like it. Everyone'll be there.
Annina walks over to Jean with a COUPLE.
Jean, your parents are here.
Hi Dad. Hi Nora.
Thanks for coming.
Rene appears out of the crowd.
(continuing to Jean's father)
You must be very proud.
How does it feel to have a genius in the
It feels... good!
Jean notices Benny across the room. He slows down and waves.
Jean sees Gina across the room wearing the scarf.
Just beyond her, he sees Big Pink approaching.
There must be ten people between them.
I'll be right back.
He moves towards her. Suddenly, directly in front of him are the
We love our painting.
The green one.
We got a couch to match.
She's only kidding!
Looking past the Krugers, Jean looks for Gina. He sees her. His
path is blocked.
He presses forward, looking for Gina, getting caught in the
Jean strains to keep an eye on Gina and Big Pink..
Benny arrives at Jean's side holding a bottle of Jack Daniels and
a shot glass.
Willie Mays. A Toast.
Jean brushes past him.
Not now, ok?
Benny is left standing next to Andy holding the bottle.
Jean manages to advance a few more feet through the crowd, then
runs smack into Rockets, his drug dealer.
Jean Michel, my man. Nice party. Should we
step into my office?
Nearby, Benny sees this meeting and walks off, disgusted,
thinking this is why Jean gave him the brush off.
That's alright. I'm cool now.
Jean looks off and sees Big Pink fingering the scarf, saying
something to Gina.
Gina slaps her in the face.
Jean tries to get around the dealer.
Gina turns to leave. She catches Jean's eye.
She walks out.
A gift! I was just trying to give you a
The dealer palms something to Jean.
I gotta go.
Jean steps away from Rockets, but is trapped in the crowd.
Rockets looks after him with disappointment.
Rene arrives with, Andy, Bruno, and a PHOTOGRAPHER.
(edging his way in)
This guy wants a picture.
They shrug and crowd in - Jean, Andy, and Rene. The photographer
gets them to squeeze closer and closer.
Of the painters, please.
There's not enough room. Rene accidentally gets pushed out of
Rene fumes. Albert Milo arrives with his parents (JACK AND ESTHER
MILO). They are a nice Jewish couple in their 70's.
He said 'of the painters!' Hey - Albert!
Get in the picture!
Albert crowds in. The photographer SNAPS a picture and the FLASH
blinds everyone momentarily.
Hey, Jean, I'd like you to meet my
wife....and my parents. Mom, Dad, this is
Jean Michel Basquiat.
Jean pulls out a joint and lights it as if it were a cigarette.
He offers it to Albert, who takes a hit.
(frowning at her son)
Don't do that.
Hi, John... Are your parents here?
My dad's here with his wife. My mom
couldn't make it.
He offers the joint to Albert's mother.
(waving it away)
I'd like to do a show with you.
(pointing to "Rene 5:11"
I'm especially interested in that one. I'd
like to buy it for myself.
Jean spots the very word on the painting ("Rene 5:11") and
freezes for a second.
I wasn't gonna sell this one.
He looks around the room for Rene, but doesn't see him. Bruno
remains smiling, waiting for an answer.
You shouldn't have put it in the show. This
is the one I absolutely have to have. I
really love it.
Jean wants out. He feels compromised.
Do you think I could borrow your limousine?
I'll get it back to you in an hour.
It's OK. Just have him bring you to dinner
at Mr. Chow's later. We'll be there.
Jean makes his way through the crowd, as we see images of the
crowd and fragments of paintings. As he nears the door, he feels
his arm pulled.
You fucking little whore! You sold my
painting! I'm gonna tell you something,
brother - when you're climbing up the
ladder of success, don't kick out the
rungs! Believe that shit.
I'll make you another one.
He pulls out a scrap of paper and starts writing.
Rene shushes him... He hisses loudly, like a cat.
(speaking to himself)
"What is it about art, anyway......"
Jean pauses. He turns around and surveys the room once more.
We see the crowd in SLOW MOTION.
Everyone's eyes are shut.
RENE (O.S.; CONT'D)
... that we give it so much importance?
Artists are respected by the poor because
what they do is an honest way to get out of
the slum using one's sheer self as the
medium. The money earned is proof pure and
simple of the value of that individual...
INT. / EXT. GALLERY - NIGHT
The CAMERA rises higher and higher over the crowd and follows
Jean as he makes his way toward the street.
We begin to DISSOLVE into a MONTAGE of stills of ARTISTS:
The picture a mother's son does in jail
hangs on her wall as proof that beauty is
possible even in the most wretched. And
this is a much different idea than the
fancier notion that art is a scam and a
rip-off. But you could never explain to
someone who uses God's gift to enslave that
you have used God's gift to be free."
EXT. STREET - NIGHT
Jean enters a waiting limo. It pulls away from the curb.
Rene finishes as the limo threads its way through the night-lit,
INT. LIMO - NIGHT
The DRIVER is the young Rasta we saw earlier outside Ballato's
driving Bruno and Andy.
Jean slumps in the back seat.
The driver can't help staring in the rearview mirror.
I really... admire you.
You did it! You made it. I'm a painter,
Would you check out my studio some time?
Sure. I'd be glad to.
The limo pulls over.
Quickly, Jean gets out of the limo. He leaves the door open.
The DRIVER watches as Jean talks to two DRUG DEALERS.
Jean jumps back into the limo.
The driver pulls away. In the rearview mirror, he sees Jean
separate a bag from a bundle of ten. He rips it open and snorts
directly from it.
He lays his head back and takes a deep breath.
What's your name, man?
They call me Steve, but I prefer Shenge.
Nice to meet you, Shenge. Want a job?
INT. MR. CHOW'S RESTAURANT - NIGHT
An elegant Chinese restaurant on the Upper East Side. The dining
room is split level with a mezzanine reserved for celebrities and
special friends of the owner.
At the podium, the MAITRE'D approaches.
From behind the Maitre'd on the mezzanine we see Bruno waving to
In the dining room on the lower level sit Annina and Rene.
Nearby, at another, smaller table, are seated DAVID MCDERMOTT and
PETER MCGOUGH, two artists dressed in Victorian attire.
Annina beckons him.
Rene looks away from him and talks to a WAITER. Jean waves to
Annina and continues towards Bruno's table.
Seated at a large table are Andy, Bruno, Albert Milo, his wife
and parents, Henry Geldzahler, MELINA PORTOS (a young heiress)
and FRANCESCO and ALBA CLEMENTE and Mary Boone. Dinner's already
At the large table, everyone watches as Milo makes a portrait of
Francesco in a beautiful leatherbound book. It belongs to Mr.
Chow, who is nearby at the bar.
He motions to Mr. Chow to set a chair for Jean between Mary Boone
Jean, everyone loved your show.
As Jean is seated, Andy and Jack Milo resume conversation -
Nixon lives in Saddle River, New York.
Saddle River's in New Jersey.
Saddle River, New York!
It's in New Jersey.
I think it's in New Jersey.
It's in New York.
Oh, I didn't know that.
CLOSE UP: Jean smiles at Andy's diplomacy.
Albert finishes drawing his portrait: it's Francesco with his arm
around a headless torso.
You finish it.
He pushes the book across the table.
Francesco begins to draw.
I hear your show was sold out already.
There's a very important collector who's
interested in some of your works.
Bring him over sometime. I have some other
stuff to show him.
Annina watches from the other table as Jean talks to Mary.
Francesco finishes his drawing.
Albert takes the book and passes it to Jean.
ALBERT MILO (CONT'D)
Go on, take it..
Jean takes it. Mr. Chow watches his book change hands.
Jean takes a bowl of moo-shoo pork in front of him and dumps it
onto the book. Then he uses a piece of pork to draw a head.
Suddenly, there's a shrill, familiar voice.
I'd like a glass of your best champagne,
This is an enormously important season in
New York, and to make a false step could
have severe repercussions for years. We are
no longer collecting art, we're buying
Oh shut up, Rene.
Everything's over your head, Andy. Even Mr.
(beat - to Jean)
Thanks for not inviting me
He leans over everyone and helps himself to some spears of
Esther Milo, watching.
I'm starving. You can't buy advertising
like this. This is the most glamorous
dinner you'll have here this fall. How
about some of that imitation crab?
I'm not paying for the drawing with crab.
It's a present to my friends. It's my
Jean finishes his drawing - a big beautiful head that fills the
Rene grabs it from him. He holds it up for everyone to see.
Isn't he great? Thanks, Jean.
He rips the page from the book.
He owes me one.
Everyone's face drops. Mr. Chow grabs his book. He motions to a
couple WAITERS -
You're too much, Rene. Get this guy out of
I haven't eaten yet!!!
The waiters grab Rene's arms.
Hands off me, you faggots! I'm going. I'm
going...I've kept Diana Vreeland waiting
too long, anyway.
Wow... That was a nice drawing, too, Jean.
Maybe you should do another one.
Some other time.
Spontaneously, David McDermott climbs onto the tabletop
downstairs and sings "Paris Je T'aime."
As he belts it out in a theatrical falsetto, he glides over
glasses and plates, executing a leap to another table in mid-
The restaurant staff and OTHER DINNER GUESTS watch, agape.
CLOSE UP - DAVID'S SHOES.
As David dances, Annina walks over to the table, greeting people
and saying goodnight.
It's great that people are interested, but
if anyone's going to buy anything, I'll
handle it for you. Everything goes through
the gallery, even if they come to your
Jean leans back in his chair, taking in this splendid new world.
He pulls out a joint, lights up, inhales with pleasure, closes
his eyes and smiles.
SUPER OVER HIS FACE: "FOUR YEARS LATER"
SCREEN GOES BLACK
... had twenty-three one man shows, been in
forty three group shows from Zurich to
INT. GREAT JONES STREET LOFT - DAY
Note: The following scene is shot in documentary style.
INTERVIEWER (O.S, CONT'D)
... had over fifty articles written about
you, switched galleries - how many times? -
DJ'd in the hottest clubs -
Jean looks out the window, yawns and rubs his eyes. He now sports
dreadlocks bundled into groups of spikes sticking out of his
head. He wears a wrinkled Wesleyan College T-shirt, paint-
splattered jeans, and no shoes; just out of bed, it would seem.
An INTERVIEWER - a balding Brit with all the humor of a bank
clerk - tries to buddy up with Jean on camera.
... one of the youngest artists ever to be
included in the Whitney Biennial, also
produced a rap record. It's said you're
quite the ladies man - even dated Madonna
for a couple months!!!
(takes a breath)
All at the ripe old age of 24. One might
ask: is there anything left for Jean Michel
Basquiat to do?
Jean and the interviewer face each other in front of one of
Jean's paintings. Jean stares at the interviewer, incredulous.
What is it that gets you out of bed in the
I hate this. Turn that off.
Jean walks off camera and disappears into his bedroom.
Shenge (the former limo driver, now working as Jean's assistant)
SUPER: "GREAT JONES STREET, 1985"
A CAMERA CREW waits in the room. Jean returns.
We're running a little late.
He signals to the crew that he's beginning.
He points to some scribbled words on the canvas.
... Can you... decipher this for us?
Yes. What do they... stand for?
They're just words.
Yes, I understand - but where do you take
Where? Do you ask Miles where he got that
note from? Where do you take your words
(pointing to a detail)
What are they?
Leeches. A long list of leeches.
(looking at some frames
Shenge's working on)
It looks good like that.
Hmmm. And 'Parasites.'
You seem to be a Primal Expressionist.
You mean like an ape?
He grabs a huge double mouthful of French Fries and washes them
down with champagne..
Well, you said that.
(beat - looks at notes)
You've got a lot of references from
Leonardo da Vinci, don't you?
Oh, that's a "Leonardo's Greatest Hits"
painting. You like it?
Yes, but as a black painter -
I use a lot of colors - not only black.
I'm not black.
No, I'm Haitian-Puerto Rican.
The BUZZER sounds. He signals for Steve not to answer the door.
Yes, yes... Let's talk about that.... your
roots... Your father is from Haiti, isn't
Hmmmm. Interesting. And when you grew up
were there any primitives hanging in your
We don't hang them at home, y'know - just
in the streets..
And... How do you respond to being called -
(peruses some notes)
- yes, "the pickaninny of the art world."
(smiles - hurt, stunned)
Who said that?
Why, that's from Time Magazine.
No, he said I was the Eddie Murphy of the
art world. He said the Eddie Murphy.
Is it true that your mother resides in a
Jean walks off camera like he just received a punch in the
The filming of the interview becomes increasingly erratic.
Let me... just... open something up here.
You come from a nice, middle class,
respectable home. Your father is an
accountant. Why did you at one time live in
a cardboard box in Tompkins Square?
Jean walks back into frame.
Or rather, do you think you're being
exploited or are you yourself exploiting
the white image of the black artist from
Are those the only two possibilities?
(cramming a French Fry into
You wanna French fry?
OK. One last thing. Is there any anger in
you? Any anger in your work?
Should there be?
Tell me about it. What are you angry about?
Jean drifts off.
Mmmm. I don't know. I don't remember.
INT. FANCY GOURMET DELI - DAY
Jean and Andy browse through the aisles. Jean piles things into
Jean approaches the specialty counter. Andy continues with the
Can I have some caviar, please?
The Counterman selects a miniscule plastic spoon of caviar and
begins to put it into a tiny glass jar.
I'd like to taste it, first.
Reluctantly the Counterman gives him a taste with a look like
"what's a person who looks like you doing buying caviar?"
Jean tastes the caviar and hands him back the spoon.
Is that the best quality you have?
Yeah, it's the best one.
I'll take the whole tin.
It's three thousand dollars!
I'll take it.
(wipes nose with sleeve.)
Andy, gimme three thousand dollars.
Just the caviar - I'll get the rest.
He hands two one hundred dollar bills for the other items to the
counterman, who checks them carefully.
You check everyone's bills or just mine?
EXT. WINDOW - DAY
A cheap pharmacy gift shop window. Jean and Andy look in on two
yellow furry stuffed ducks which are part of a larger display.
When I was little, my brother and I used to
have two ducks as pets. We called them the
They walk into a beauty salon.
INT. BEAUTY SALON - DAY
Jean and Andy recline on the beautician's armchairs. THREE
BEAUTICIANS busy themselves with the two of them, simultaneously
giving them pedicures and manicures. Jean sets down a magazine.
I wish they'd quit writing this shit about
That's good. At least they're interested.
Everybody's paying top dollar for scraps of
paper, refrigerator doors - anything with a
SAMO tag on it.
The other day, I just wanted a pack of
cigarettes, so I did a drawing and sold it
for two bucks. A week later this gallery
calls me up: "Somebody's offering us the
drawing. Should we buy it for five
Wow... Stop giving them away.
I got an invitation to model for Comme de
Garcons... You wanna do it with me?
Yeah - I'd do that... You could teach me.
Gee. I don't need to. You're a natural. You
should sign up with my modeling agent.
Jean points to Andy's ankles - they have plastic flea collars on
My dog, Archie... I woke up with flea
bites... Creepy. I ran out and bought flea
collars. They work really well.
Let's leave this town and go someplace.
Let's go to the Carnegie Museum. They have
the world's most famous sculptures all in
these giant plaster replicas. It's really
great. It's in Pittsburg.
EXT. STREET - - DAY
They walk out of the beauty salon..
Jean sees the back of a girl. She looks a lot like Gina.
That girl looks just like my old girlfriend
Do you still love her?
Yeah. I really blew it. I still think about
Well, have you asked her to come back?
Jean shakes his head `no,' sorry that he didn't.
INT. BARBETTA'S (RESTAURANT) - DAY
A medium-sized dining room with dark wood paneling and tastefully
Jean and Gina enter. Gina looks considerably more conservative
than previously - more like a student. Jean's dressed well, but
looks even more careworn than usual. His hair is tied back with a
necktie. He has a couple sores on his face. His skin looks a
The MAITRE'D smiles at Jean and bows -
Mr. Basquiat - what a pleasure to see you
Hey George, what's up?
A huge table with NINE WHITE EXECUTIVES. WAITERS clear their
lunch settings. As they spot Jean and Gina entering, they gawk
George leads them to their table. As they take their seats, Jean
notices the suppressed giggles coming from the executives' table.
They try to ignore it. George disappears.
Jean seems self-conscious about the sores on his face.
So are you really friends with Andy? He
seems like such a weirdo.
He's not. He's out of town and he calls me
every day. What's weird about him?
Don't you think he's using you?
Why does everybody say that? He's the only
person I know who doesn't need to use me.
Would you like to see the wine list?
Chateau Latour '64, please.
George disappears again.
So. Are you ready? I start Columbia next
fall. Of course, there's like, a year of
pre-med stuff, but - whatever. I'm really
And: Rene gave me a job as his secretary.
His poems are getting published.
How is he?
Pretty much the same.
Jean's eyebrows go up.
Wow. Congratulations. I hate that asshole.
Thanks for coming. I guess I just wanted to
find out how you're -
(referring to an extra loud
snicker from execs)
What's that about?
George arrives and pours a sip for Jean to taste. He nods. George
moves off. Two or three of the executives break out laughing.
Jean puts the glass down and looks at them. The other table is
clearly making fun of him.
That is amazing. What year is it?
George hurries over.
I'm sorry, Mr. Basquiat.
See that table over there? I'd like to pay
Gina looks at Jean, confused.
Yeah, just put their bill on my tab.
He moves off towards the executives. George whispers to the HEAD
EXECUTIVE, and nods towards Jean. The executives spread the words
amongst themselves. They're horrified.
Baby, I think about you a lot. I'm really
sorry about everything. You have to believe
me. I'm serious. I wish, y'know, that we
I don't believe it, Jean - they're picking
A YOUNG EXECUTIVE, obviously the loser, takes a deep breath and
heads towards them.
Excuse me... On behalf of my friends I'd
like to apologize. We're really sorry.
I wish you niggahs could get it togeth-
The Executive reaches to shake Jean's hand. Jean puts a hundred
dollar bill in his hand.
What's this for?
Jean turns back to Gina. The Executive leaves them. George
You don't have to be sorry. There's no one
to blame. Jean, you're a real artist. I
thought I was one. You made me realize I
What's his name?
Gina balks. Rather than face a disappointment -
I have to go to the bathroom.
INT. BARBETTA'S (BATHROOM) - DAY
CLOSE ON JEAN - looking in the mirror.
He looks at himself.
He starts to pick at his face.
INT. PALLADIUM - HUGE ROOM - NIGHT
Jean and Albert Milo sit on a banquette
A huge white painting of Jean's with a dragon's head hangs on one
wall to their left. On the opposite wall in back of the bar hangs
another huge painting with a lot of heads, mostly black.
Lots of PEOPLE mill about a huge room.
A GIRL - another Gina look-alike walks through the crowd. Jean's
eyes follow her momentarily..
(re: the paintings)
What do you think?
I like the one with the dragon's heads a
lot. But the black one's filled up with too
I'd take some of them out.
I think you're painting too fast. I
wouldn't put in so many heads. Let it
breathe a bit.
It's always how you would do it. This is my
You're right. It's your version. You should
come over to the studio sometime.
Why, so you could humiliate me?
No, I wanted to make a painting of you.
EXT. UNION SQUARE PARK - DAY
Jean rides his bicycle through the park. He's looking up at the
birds flying in the trees.
The birds. We see the statue in the middle of the park, but we
have no idea where we are until we see the Mays Dept. Store sign.
The birds circle in flocks, never lighting on the trees.
EXT. THE FACTORY (ENTRANCE) - DAY
Jean presses a buzzer. He's admitted. He carries his bike on his
INT. THE FACTORY - DAY
Jean enters a broad, high-ceilinged studio. It's neat. Paintings
lie on the floor.
Andy's back is turned to him. As Jean gets closer, he sees that
Andy's assistant FRANK is peeing on canvas covered with copper
pigment. We hear the SOUND of the piss.
Frank holds a bottle of beer in his hand.
A little more to the right, Frank. OK...
Good. Now up... You got a little more?
Jean notices a bunch of Andy's wigs on a desk.
What's with the wigs?
I'm going to send them to my friends for
You think those are good presents? Who
wants an old wig?
Jean makes a grimace. He walks up to the painting Frank's peeing
I wanted to make a few more of these.
Frank's been drinking this Mexican beer. It
makes a good green.
How come you're not peeing on them
I don't like beer.
Looking down at the painting -
If you ever want me to shit on 'em, just
ask. You could finger paint.
INT. THE FACTORY - LATER
Jean and Andy collaborate on a large canvas. Andy outlines a
Mobil Oil winged horse.
Jean paints it out. To the side he paints a penguin with a hat.
That was my favorite part!
We can do better. It needed more white.
Andy watches as Jean lights a joint and continues working on his
Jean, you make me feel worthless. You're so
Andy paints an Amoco logo next to the penguin.
I don't even have any friends anymore
besides you. And everyone says "Warhol?
That death-warmed over person on drugs?
He's just using you."
Gee. You shouldn't take it so seriously,
Jean. That's why you can't stop taking
drugs. You always think people don't like
you. Everyone likes you.
People are only interested in you because
you're famous, not because they know a
fuckin' thing about your work.
Jean paints out part of Andy's logo.
Bruno called. In Europe, people are saying
you're gonna die from drugs. They think
they can cash in on your death.
When I was poor, everybody doubted I could
make it. When I got rich, everyone said,
`yeah, but he'll never keep it up.' Now
everyone says `he's killing himself.' So I
clean up, and then they say `Look. His
art's dead.' I don't take drugs, anyway.
I'm healthy now.
Jean obliterates Andy's logo.
If you say so. You sleep until 5:00 p.m.
You call at four in the morning. You never
show up anywhere on time - if you show up.
You're painting out everything I do!
Andy paints back in part of the horse.
Jean adds some letters on top of Andy's logo.
I can't even see what's good anymore.
Jean Michel obliterates the rest of the logo with some white.
Andy steps back and squints as he examines Jean's work.
ANDY WARHOL (CONT'D)
Yeah, I see what you mean about the white.
Jean quits painting.
After the show we should take a nice long
vacation. Maybe go to Hawaii. That's what
I'm gonna do. I'm going to give up painting
and start playing music again. I wanna
That would be a pity because you're a real
Here's the poster for the show.
He presents them with a yellow poster of Jean and Andy facing
each other with boxing gloves.
INT. FACTORY - NEXT DAY
Shenge hands Andy a box.
Andy opens the box. Inside is a football helmet with Jean's
dreadlocks glued to the outside.
CLOSE UP: Andy in mirror wearing helmet.
The screen is filled with the cover of the New York Times
Magazine. Jean is featured on the cover, without his dreadlocks.
INT. GREAT JONES ST. LOFT - NIGHT
As Shenge opens the door, a CROWD of people spill out. They pour
into the loft. The studio is crowded with PEOPLE. (Many of them
we recognize from earlier scenes in Mudd Club, Jean's opening,
etc). On the wall there is a portrait of Jean by Andy. The
background is a piss painting.
Inside, Jean kneels on the floor in the corner of the loft with a
bunch of people around him - girls, mostly. Twenty-five copies of
the Times Magazine lay stacked on the floor.
Crouching on one knee, Jean signs a copy for a BRUNETTE.
Looking up -
A BRUNETTE walks up -
Andy's assistant, Frank, arrives with CHRISTINE, 25, a model.
This is really great. What a nice place.
Jean is taken with Christine.
Have you met Christine?
I don't think so.
He's thrown off his rhythm.
Would you sign one of those for me?
TOXIC (seen with Rene at loft party earlier) spots Jean and steps
YO! Jean, this is Ramellzee.
Yo... You know why Rammellzee's here, don't
I'm here for an interrogation. You've been
called a graffiti artist and I wanna know
why. All I see are scribble scrabble
Boom? As in ordnance? Are your letters
armed? What is the prime directive of
graffiti culture? Do you know, black man?
Jean likes Rammellzee enough to be patient... Toxic grins and
rolls his eyes to Jean. Jean watches Christine as they go on.
(to Ram, re: Jean)
Man, I was up on him years ago on the IRT.
You're selling and ending the culture. Not
one bit of information. Only to get the
money and growl with the power, man.
That ain't ignorant - that's just stupid.
(beat - to Christine)
Can I get you a bowl of gumbo?
Rammellzee yells after him -
This interrogation is not over!
Jean escorts Christine to the kitchen.
Bruno and Andy stand in the crowd.
Nearby are two WOMEN.
Albert Milo? Ugh! He's just a pressmonger.
That's all these people do.
You know, I love Jean's early work. It's
really got something. But this
collaboration with Andy - maybe they
thought it was a joke... I mean - whose
work is it? Jean's or Andy's?
Walking by, Rene responds to this -
His early work? He's only twenty-six!
Rene walks over to Jean.
Thanks again for not inviting me. I'm only
here on business.
Rene heads back out into the party.
Jean eats gumbo while Christine thumbs through the Times
Rene responds to something Andy's been telling him in a low
You're asking me? Nigga, please. After the
way you treated me? This is the first time
I've heard from either of you in months! I
had to crash this party! You treated me
like a suede biscuit. Rene don't play that!
I can't get him off drugs! I don't even
talk to him any more!!!
What's a suede biscuit?
CHRISTINELooks up from her magazine..
Hey, what's this? It says right here you're
Jean walks away.
He passes through the crowd, making his way to the door.
EXT. GREAT JONES ST LOFT - NIGHT
Drugged, upset, Jean leaves the party.
He opens a limo door and looks back at his house. The party
The limo drives off.
We HOLD on Jean's building.
INT. LIMO - NIGHT
The limo floats through the streets.
Jean stares out the window.
Here... Pull over.
The limo pulls over.
EXT. STREET - NIGHT
Jean disappears around the corner.
THREE KIDS in the process of prying a door panel with crowbars.
We see that they're removing one of Jean's SAMO pieces from a
wall. We read:
"PAY FOR SOUP
BUILD A FORT
SET IT ON FIRE"
Jean arrives behind them.
Mind your own fuckin' business.
(recognizing his work)
That ain't yours, man. Some asshole named
SAMO did this.
He's dead. That's what I heard.
He ain't dead yet. He's gonna kill himself.
That's why all those art fags in Soho are
paying more every time we bring one of
Stupid SAMO... Hardly any of this shit
The panel is almost pried free without a scratch.
This one's damn nice. I say we hang onto it
if he's almost dead.
Jean shoves his way in front with a magic marker and adds a
couple words; now it reads:
"SAMO IS DEAD"
There you go. Now it's worth more.
The kids are outraged, thinking Jean's ruined their find.
They jump on him.
They beat the shit out of him.
Jean lies curled up on the ground, trying to talk.
What's he saying?
I'm SAMO... I'm SAMO...
He says he's SAMO.
Kid #1 whacks him in the back once more for good measure.
It is flat, dead, gray.
Ominous and waiting.
INT. GREAT JONES ST. LOFT - DAY
Washed in sunlight, a large painting leans against the wall, the
words "HAITIAN BASEBALL FACTORIES" scrawled through its center.
Jean lays down, watching TV.
He looks older now, more worn. His face is slightly swollen. His
complexion is discolored.
Shenge covers a triptych with wide brush strokes of yellow paint.
He circles a large, primitive figure of a black man drawn with
magic marker in the center. He is careful to leave the figure
Paint it out.
Yeah... Maybe just his arms.
(Shenge paints out the arms)
Put some Cerulean Blue there.
Jean points to the lower corner.
Shenge picks up the phone, which has been RINGING for some time.
It's Andy again.
Still not here.
- In this corner?
Shenge changes the brush and dips it in the can.
You want me to put it here?
Use your fucking instinct.
Shenge shrugs and starts to spread the blue. Jean looks at his
Don't try to make art. Just paint like a
A woman's shout can be heard through the open window. Shenge
It's Maria Portos. What should we do?
Why don't you try letting her in, Steve - I
Get up. She won't buy anything if she sees
me working on it!
Wanna bet? If you show too much respect for
people with money, they don't have respect
MARIA, a raven-haired, sharp-featured beauty in a Chanel suit
jacket, blue jeans, and pearls walks into the room. She's with
ELLEN - younger - a millionaire fake hippie from Texas.
Maria carries a bag with clogs in it - a present for Jean. She
takes them out.
(showing him the clogs)
These reminded me of you, the clogs. I
found them in Amsterdam.
Jean doesn't get up from the floor.
How are you?
You remember Ellen?
What are you working on?
Basquiat points at the painting.
How much is something like that?
Jean raises his hand and pumps five fingers three times in the
Ellen makes a snotty face.
How 'bout some blue in the corner?
Shenge gives Jean a stupefied look.
What's wrong with you today?
Shenge is embarrassed by Jean's remark in the company of the two
Don't look at me like that. It hurts my
He points. Unsure, Shenge picks up the brush and paints one of
Maria browses through a stack of paintings leaning against the
I love these.
God... I just can't even care anymore.
Compare this to a mountain or a tree.
Who're y'all trying to kid? That's what I
think. I was just in the Himalayas, and
like - OK - is this important? No. I mean,
compared to the rain forest or something?
These are just narcissistic jokes.
Who are you selling these through now?
Jean gets to his feet. He dips a long, thin brush into black
paint and nonchalantly crosses out the half figure that Shenge is
carefully surrounding with blue.
Well, that's better.
You can buy direct from me.
Look at these - silkscreens? What're you?
Andy Warhol Junior? It's like - not even
She's not even worth a response. Jean looks around, numb.
INT. MARY BOONE GALLERY - DAY
Jean enters the gallery. Cleaned up. Healthier. Bruises healing.
He looks like he's been painting.
Mary looks up from her desk, surprised to see Jean.
Jean Michel... Crawling from the wreckage?
I need a dealer.
You have a bunch of them, don't you? Albert
Milo walks in from another room.
It'll never fit.
It'll be ok.
You better take a look. Why's your door so
small? The ceilings are sixteen feet and
your door's the size of a mouse hole!
Why are your paintings so big? Just go
home. I'll get it in.
You doing anything right now?
Let's get out of here.
See ya in an hour.
So what do you think?
Bruno spoke to me already. We could talk
OK. I'll be at your studio Thursday three
INT. ALBERT MILO'S LOFT - DAY
Albert shows Jean through a series of large rooms filled with
It looks like the Cairo Museum.
They pause before a painting.
This is painted on a backdrop from the
Kabuki theater in Japan. I painted it after
Joseph Beuys died. A rebirth painting. I
felt like he could've painted it, or maybe
someone else was painting it instead of me.
The Chinese calligraphers used to change
their name mid-career so they could start
over as someone else..
Do you ever get sick of it?
The whole thing - painting.
No. It's one of the few times I feel good.
I used to have to go to work and cook every
day. That I got sick of.
What about the shit they write?
You're asking me this because of the
'lapdog' remark. I read that. The person
that wrote that has the compassion of a
housefly. That's your enemy, not your
audience. Your audience hasn't even been
born yet. It's a lie that art is popular.
The only thing popular about it is that
it's written about in newspapers. I'm
surprised when anybody comes to my
openings. There're about ten people on the
planet who know anything about painting,
and Andy's one of them.
I haven't felt like talking to him since
that thing came out.
As long as I've known Andy, he's never
asked me for anything except to speak to
you about getting off drugs. He's painted
my picture, we've eaten dinner in God knows
how many places together. But he doesn't
care about me. He cares about you. You're
the only person he cares about. He's your
friend. Fuck that article. You want a
toasted bagel with cream cheese?
Milo's daughter STELLA (12) calls out from over the balcony.
Papa, the TV's broken... Will you fix it
Alright. I'll be right up.
Jean looks at some paintings.
Stella comes downstairs.
I've seen you before. I like your paintings
a lot. Your hair was different.
You like your dad's paintings?
Some of them.
He draws her.
See you later.
He walks to the door, leaving the drawing on the floor.
He just left.
Albert opens the door to the stairwell looking for Jean.
He hears the sound of URINATING.
He leans over the stairwell.
He sees Jean Michel, taking a piss on the landing.
He shuts the door quietly.
EXT. GIFT SHOP WINDOW - DAY
Jean walks out of the gift shop (seen earlier, next to
EXT. BROADWAY AND HOUSTON STREET - DAY
Jean walks through the middle of the intersection. He carries two
yellow, furry toy ducks under his arm.
SUPER: "FEBRUARY 22, 1987"
Seeing Bruno at the wheel of a black Mercedes stopped at a light,
Jean clowns around like a street vendor who wants to wash his
Bruno doesn't notice him.
B.B. It's me - Jean! What's the matter? No
snow in Switzerland this year?
I didn't see you.
What do you mean?
You haven't heard? Andy's dead.
The light changes.
Bruno pulls across the street because of the traffic.
Jean drops one of the ducks in the street and walks off.
The duck lying in the street.
EXT. GREAT JONES ST. LOFT - NIGHT
The "OUT FOR RIBS" sign hangs outside Jean's door.
EXT. GREAT JONES ST - DAY
Mary sits in her limo trying to call Jean.
INT. GREAT JONES ST. LOFT - DAY
Near darkness. The curtains are drawn. Music plays: `Birds' by
Neil Young: "it's over.....it's over".
Jean watches a video tape with the sound MUTED. The screen fills
with Andy's face. We SEE a series of quick scenes from his life.
Jean and the remaining duck are lit by the TV.
INT. GREAT JONES ST. LOFT - DAY
EXTREME CLOSEUP: A COLORED PENCIL TIP
Held in Jean's hand. It's stalled in mid-stroke. He writes with a
magic marker on the heel of two wooden clogs the word: "TITANIC"
There's a loud BANGING at the door.
When it stops, the pencil tip resumes its long voyage across the
MUSIC UP: Tom Waits' "Tom Traubert's Blues"
EXT. GINA'S APARTMENT - DAY
Jean buzzes the doorbell. He's wearing the clogs. He's hurting.
The intercom comes on.
Who is it?
Jean recognizes Benny's voice.
Gina and Benny look out the window into the street.
Jean's a block away.
EXT. MENTAL HOSPITAL - NIGHT
Jean gets out of a cab. He walks up to the entrance.
The doors are locked. He rattles them.
Inside, an OLD JANITOR keeps mopping.
Jean pounds harder, RATTLES the doors more.
Hey, come here! Please. Just for a second.
Open the door.
The janitor gets nervous. He leaves.
He returns a moment later with a large SECURITY GUARD.
Open up! Open up!
The guard unlocks the door, hoping to settle Jean down.
My mother's inside.
Come back tomorrow. Visiting hours are
Don't cause any trouble.
I'm not here to visit... I wanna take her
The guard gently ushers Jean out through the door.
Don't cause any trouble.
He locks the door and walks off with the janitor.
EXT. STREET - DAYBREAK
Jean, walks around, drifting, stoned. He looks up at the skyline.
Waves crash silently over a surfer.
FADE TO BLACK
EXT. STREET - MORNING
Jean has been passed out on a sidewalk.
CLOSE ON: Benny's face.
He leans over Jean and helps him up.
Willie Mays... Nice to see you.
Benny looks at Jean's eyes.
Jean stretches, kicking life back into his limbs.
How's Gina? You guys getting along?
Benny looks at him guiltily.
I guess it was a long time ago.
Come on, let's get out of here.
EXT. JEEP - STREETS - DAY
Jean and Benny zoom along in a battered old Army Jeep. Now
revived, Jean stands up, waving at people miming General Patton.
We HEAR the music of "Summer of Siam."
Sit down! You're gonna fall out!
Me fall? Let's get some drugs!
Medicine, man! Like health food. I'm taking
care of my health!
INT. HEALTH FOOD STORE - DAY
A mountain of homeopathic medicine and health food on the
counter. Benny helps the clerk load it into a box.
You starting a hospital?
Jean approaches and dumps some more stuff onto the counter.
He's chewing something.
Just ring it up. I don't need a bag.
Try this tabouli - it's great...
Tabouli spills onto Jean's shirt.
EXT - WEST BROADWAY - DAY
Jean and Benny walk along. Benny's arms are full with boxes.
Jean walks in front, eating yogurt. He's wearing his Titanic
clogs. Benny tries to keep up.
My mom told me this... Or was it a dream?
INT. CELL - DAY
A crude stone jail - almost medieval - fairy-tale like. A thick
wooden plank suspended by chains for a bench. A candle on the
A small, crowned prince (the boy seen in the dream in intro.)
looks longingly out the window at rolling green hills. Terraced
hillsides, cedar trees, cottages, smoke wafting up from chimneys.
The prince smashes the window. He hits his head on the bars,
gripping them tightly.
EXT. MEDIEVAL VILLAGE' - DAY
The villagers cease their activities as they listen to the SOUND.
Looking up, they smile, as if warmed to their souls by some
unearthly and intangible substance. They look heavenwards.
CAMERA follows their collective gaze skywards.
We shoot up, up, into the sky.
There was this little prince with a magic
crown. An evil warlock kidnapped him,
locked him in a cell in a huge tower and
took away his voice. There was a window
made of bars. The prince would smash his
head against the bars hoping that someone
would hear the sound and find him. The
crown made the most beautiful sound that
anyone ever heard. You could hear the
ringing for miles. It was so beautiful,
that people wanted to grab the air. They
never found the prince. He never got out of
the room. But the sound he made filled
everything up with beauty.
It's definitely time to get out of here.
EXT. WEST BROADWAY - DAY
We rush down, down through the sky.
Buildings come up at us.
We're over Soho.
We're back on the ground.
Benny and Jean continue walking.
We see Jean from behind. He's looking up.
Benny stops to readjust his parcels.
Jean continues down the street, talking louder.
Hawaii? Fuck Hawaii. Let's go to Ireland.
We'll stop in every bar and have a drink.
FREEZE FRAME ON HIS FACE
"JEAN MICHEL BASQUIAT
BORN: DECEMBER 14, 1961
DIED: AUGUST 12, 1988"
EXT. IRELAND - DAY
Rolling hills. Green. Lush. Peaceful..