Andrew Rossi set about “peeling back the layers” of Andy Warhol’s personal life in order to make the Netflix docuseries The Andy Warhol Diaries.
Rossi paid a visit to the Factual America podcast this week to talk about the docuseries, executive produced by Ryan Murphy, which uses AI to allow the late artist to read aloud his own diary entries that were posthumously published in 1989, two years after his death.
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“There are so many different myths and efforts by Andy to construct an image that making the series required several levels of sort of peeling back the layers. And the diaries really help in that effort, because Andy’s own words and the voice that is provided by a combination of AI and the actor Bill Irwin, give you Andy’s own sort of confession of feeling totally awkward saying that he is a freak,” Andrew Rossi said.
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“I hope the viewer starts to understand that Andy is constantly juggling many different stakes, and one of those is his sense that, as a gay man, that he won’t be accepted by a society that, when he first was growing up in Pittsburgh, deemed homosexuality illegal and a mental illness. He is also struggling with his religious background, which views homosexuality as immoral. But it is actually within his Byzantine Catholicism, I think, that we start to find the first big revelation.”
Andrew Rossi says the doc also reveals how religious Warhol actually was — something the average person might not have suspected about the Interview Magazine founder.
“People were unaware that Andy was a very religious person and went to church at St. Vincent Ferrer in Manhattan. Throughout the workweek, he would go, even as an older man. But then also, his mother, Julia, took him to mass on Sundays — three masses back-to-back, it’s reported. And it’s in that context that he discovered a form of painting that is part of the Byzantine Catholic Church, the iconostasis, which shows saints on a very flat surface. So, he gains a sort of formal approach that we can see traces of in his portraits, but he also gains an approach to spirituality that comes through a lot in the diaries. And I think that’s the other thing that, in peeling back the layers comes, through — love, for him, and the search for connection to his romantic partners, is explicitly part of the way that he frames his effort to fill the void.”
The Andy Warhol Diaries is now streaming on Netflix. Here are some timestamps from the Factual America interview:
00:00 – A clip from The Andy Warhol Diaries.
02:36 – What the docuseries is about.
06:40 – What Andrew thought about Andy Warhol before starting the project.
08:45 – How Warhol’s diaries are interpreted differently from when they were first released.
10:54 – The impact editor Pat Hackett had on how Warhol’s diaries were published.
12:58 – The public persona Warhol created.
15:14 – Common misconceptions people have about Warhol’s life.
19:36 – The spiritual aspects of his later work.
25:25 – The complex nature of Warhol’s life and the subjective nature of his diary.
27:40 – How it felt to make a film about such an iconic figure.
33:35 – What it was like going through the archive of material they had access to.
35:14 – The challenges of interviewing Warhol’s old friends and peers.
37:21 – The unique insight this docuseries gives into Warhol’s life.
42:14 – The capitalistic side of art that came out in the 1980s.
Factual America uses documentary filmmaking to examine the American experience as well as universal topics that affect all Americans. Guests include Academy Award, Emmy, and Grammy-winning filmmakers and producers, their subjects, as well as experts on the American experience. We discuss true crime, music, burning social and political topics, history and arts with the creators of the latest and upcoming documentary films in theatres and on the most popular digital platforms. This podcast is produced by Alamo Pictures, a London- and Austin-based production company that makes documentaries about the US from a European perspective for international audiences.
Main Image: Artwork from The Andy Warhol Diaries directed by Andrew Rossi courtesy of Factual America and Netflix.