Culture / Film

Ira Sachs celebrates the life of photographer Peter Hujar in his latest film

peter hujar film

Are you sick of biopics yet? Admittedly, I feel the fatigue setting in. However, there is one project that could entice me to the genre. After producing one of the best films of 2023, Ira Sachs and Ben Whishaw are joining forces once more to deliver an "intimate" portrait of the late American photographer, Peter Hujar. Here's everything we know.

What is the film about?

The so far untitled project will cover Peter Hujar's career photographing queer life in New York City during the 70s and 80s. A fixture of the Downtown art scene of the 70s and 80s, Hujar mingled with its bohemian inhabitants including names like Fran Lebowitz, William Burroughs, Robert Mapplethorpe, Diane Arbus, John Waters, Divine, Allen Ginsberg, Susan Sontag and Candy Darling, the latter two of which will each get their own biopic starring Kristen Stewart and Hari Nef respectively. These artists and thinkers often became the subject of his portraits, which were unflinching and blunt in their approach, a quality which extended to the rest of his work, whether it was images taken while cruising the Christopher Street piers or documenting the AIDS crisis.

Speaking about her relationship with Hujar, Fran Lebowitz said, "Peter would think of reasons he wasn’t succeeding, and they would be never the reasons why he wasn’t succeeding. For instance, in Peter’s mind he wasn’t not succeeding because he threatened to break a barstool over an art dealer’s head. He wasn’t not succeeding because (I believe) he punched a woman dealer in the face. [Rather, he believed] he was not succeeding because all successful people’s first and last names started with the same letter, like Marilyn Monroe. This was the thing he was out for, for like a year. And every time he would see you he would tell you. Those were the reasons. He would say, ‘do you think I should change my name?’ And I was saying, ‘no, I think you should change your behaviour’.”

Hujar is responsible for photographs like Orgasmic Man (1969), which is recognisable as the cover of Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life, and the final portrait of Candy Darling on her deathbed aged only 29. It was only after his death in 1987 that his photographs began to accrue the critical esteem they deserve.

Who is involved?

So far, all we know is that Whishaw will star as Hujar. But we expect Sachs will line up a mesmerising cast as he did with Passages.

Is there a release date?

Impatient aren't we? Production on the film was set to begin in late 2023, however like most projects it was delayed due to the strikes. Let's keep our fingers crossed for a 2025 release date. In the meantime, take a look at some of Peter Hujar's photographs below.



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