An Upcoming Film on Photographer Peter Hujar Has Found Its Leading Man

The biopic will be directed by indie filmmaker Ira Sachs.

Ben Whishaw. Photo: Shutterstock.

A forthcoming biopic on the late photographer Peter Hujar has cast its lead. British actor Ben Whishaw, best known for his role as Q in the recent James Bond franchise, will play Hujar in the film, which will be directed by American indie filmmaker Ira Sachs.  

The film, titled Peter Hujar’s Day, looks to be based on a 2021 book of the same name by Linda Rosenkrantz, which documents Hujar’s life and activities over 24 hours in 1974. The volume takes the form of a transcript of a conversation between the writer and photographer, who discussed Hujar’s day right down to its minutest detail (“I go and I make another cup of coffee and two pieces of toast with raspberry jelly and now I’m going to call Allen Ginsberg,” and the like). 

The movie, Sachs told Indiewire, is “about the photographer… and his friend Linda in December of 1974 in New York City. This is a film about what it is to be an artist among artists in a city where no one was making any money.” 

Peter Hujar, Christopher Street Pier (2), 1976, gelatin silver print, purchased on The Charina Endowment Fund, The Morgan Library & Museum, 2013.108:1.84. © Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.

Peter Hujar, Christopher Street Pier (2) (1976). © Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery and Fraenkel Gallery.

Though trained in commercial photography, Hujar, by the 1960s, had forewent a flourishing commercial career to pursue art. He turned his lens toward the city’s downtown and queer cultures, unflinchingly documenting their complexities in stark, intimate black-and-white images. Some of his most seminal photographs were compiled in 1975’s Portraits in Life and Death, which featured still lifes, cityscapes, and portraits of Susan Sontag, John Waters, and William Burroughs. 

In his day, Hujar formed friendships with peers like Robert Mapplethorpe and Diane Arbus; more notably, his relationship with David Wojnarowicz helped inspire the latter younger artist’s practice. “Everything I made,” Wojnarowicz remembered, “I made for Peter.” 

However incisive and potent his work, Hujar was never widely recognized for it in his lifetime (his 1975 book, for one, sold poorly). But decades on from his death from AIDS in 1987, his reputation has only grown, helped by a slate of publications and shows including the touring retrospective, “Speed of Life” (2017–19). Of this revival, Sachs’s biopic is a part.  

Peter Hujar’s Day will mark Whishaw and Sachs’s second collaboration, following Passages (2023), a romantic drama centered on a gay couple rocked by betrayal. Whishaw is currently on the BAFTA’s 2024 Supporting Actor longlist for his work on the film. 

 

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