“I’m an artist. I would’ve been a painter but the camera was invented,” says iconic gay photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, played by The Crown’s Matt Smith, in the first trailer for upcoming biopic Mapplethorpe. The film, based on the artist’s life, centers on his friendship with Patti Smith (Marianne Rendón) — the relationship first mined by Smith in her blockbuster memoir Just Kids — and his rise to fame during the peak of the AIDS crisis, exploring sexually-liberated queer culture of the time that inspired his thrilling erotic work.
“You may not know us yet, but we’re gonna be big stars,” Smith tells the concierge at what seems to be the Chelsea Hotel, where the pair famously lived for years.
“In Church I found God, and now Polaroid led me to the Devil,” says Mapplethorpe across a series of scenes of him shooting some of his famous NSFW photos. “You scared of dying?” asks Sam Wagstaff (John Benjamin Hickey), the art curator who Mapplethorpe dated until Wagstaff’s death from pneumonia caused by AIDS in 1987. Mapplethorpe himself died from AIDS-related complications in 1989, something alluded to in the trailer.
“What gives you solace,” asks a voice. “Knowing that my work will outlive me,” answers Mapplethorpe.
Mapplethorpe is in theaters March 1.