‘The Andy Warhol Diaries’ Is A Fascinating Look Back At A Queer Icon’s Great Loves

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Filmmaker Andrew Rossi has built a career out of zooming in on Manhattan-based institutions like The New York Times and the Met Gala. With his latest project, he takes a thoughtful and humanizing look at another New York icon ― and this time, it has deeply personal resonance.

The Andy Warhol Diaries,” which debuted on Netflix last week and is executive-produced by Ryan Murphy, is a pop art lover’s dream. The six-episode docuseries is a fascinating deep dive on artist Andy Warhol, whose impact on modern culture remains without parallel 35 years after his death.

Rossi charts the highs and lows of Warhol’s well-documented, public-facing life in the mid-to-late 20th century ― from his strict Catholic upbringing in Pittsburgh and subsequent arrival in New York to the founding of The Factory, his art studio and cultural hub, and the near-fatal shooting that forever changed his relationship with his work.

A New York native, Rossi began working on “The Andy Warhol Diaries” shortly after the 2011 release of his “Page One: Inside The New York Times,” which received two News & Documentary Emmy nominations.

From left: artists Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
From left: artists Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Andy Warhol Foundation/Netflix

The filmmaker, who is bisexual, told HuffPost he’d long admired Warhol as both a queer icon and “part of the air we breathe,” but wanted to focus primarily on his famously private subject’s inner life. So he turned to Warhol’s own diaries ― as dictated to journalist Pat Hackett and, later, published posthumously ― as the basis for his script.

During his lifetime, Warhol presented himself as an asexual figure, but as “The Andy Warhol Diaries” shows, he had several significant relationships with men, including interior designer Jed Johnson, with whom he spent 12 years, and Paramount Pictures executive Jon Gould.

The series is at its most poignant when Johnson and Gould appear in archival photos and footage, and their intimate ties to Warhol are detailed in interviews. There’s also a fascinating look at Warhol’s friendship with artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, which was platonic but, according to the series, nonetheless charged with an undercurrent of sexual attraction.

"We can’t underestimate the internalized homophobia that Andy was living with at the time," filmmaker Andrew Rossi said of Warhol.
“We can’t underestimate the internalized homophobia that Andy was living with at the time,” filmmaker Andrew Rossi said of Warhol.

Andy Warhol Foundation/Netflix

“I never knew he had relationships with men who lived in his home and who he had deep, layered, joyful and painful feelings about,” Rossi said. “We can’t underestimate the internalized homophobia that Andy was living with at the time. He was playing a game with the press and even with those he knew, in the high-society world that he was selling to.”

Similarly impressive is Rossi’s recreation of Warhol’s speaking voice, by way of an artificial intelligence program and an assist from actor Bill Irwin. Though this decision has raised a few eyebrows among critics, Rossi believes Warhol ― who in 1963 proclaimed, “I’d like to be a machine” ― would have loved it.

“I wanted to honor the diaries as an extraordinary window into Andy directly,” he said. “I didn’t want to fall into the trap of having some other actor’s rendition of Andy be in the way of the relationship that the viewer had to him.”

With “The Andy Warhol Diaries” finally out in the world, Rossi has begun early work on his next project, which he says will examine another figure who “has influenced our notions of masculinity and femininity,” albeit via the fashion industry. Given that the Warhol series is being released at a time when Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and other legislative proposals that could limit the rights of LGBTQ Americans are making waves across the U.S., the filmmaker is hopeful viewers will be reminded of “the courage it takes to realize one’s identity and live it in the world.”

“The idea of creating silence around one’s identity is exactly what pushed Andy into a corner,” he said, “but his queerness informed his artwork, and that’s something that should be celebrated.”

“The Andy Warhol Diaries” is now streaming on Netflix. Catch the trailer below.



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