“Just Kids” to Become Film

Patti Smith's award-winning memoir is heading to Hollywood

There are few books I rush out to buy – in hardcover – from the local bookshop down the street. But when Patti Smith’s book Just Kids came out – a book that chronicles her somewhat tumultuous move to New York and young friendship with controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, they hadn’t even placed the book on display before I asked if they carried it…yet.

And as I poured through the pages that remembers a very different city, one where two starry-eyed bohemians could live ‘La Vie Boheme,” it was clear why the memoir would eventually win the prestigious National Book Award last year. It’s raw. It’s honest. And it’s a fascinating story of two larger-than-life people before they grew into their fame. And before Mapplethorpe died from complications of AIDS years later.

There isn’t a page that doesn’t carry along the story like a Patti Smith song in a way that stresses the passion, frustration, fear and bravado that the two artists sought from one another as they made their way into the spotlight. The story also blurs the lines of love and relationships. We tend to impose a lot of rules on these things – none of which either Smith nor Mapplethorpe ever seemed to subscribe to, which makes the “retro” read enlightening in the most modern sense possible. These two were lovers briefly, and above all “soul mates” who – through many ups and downs – found a certain solace in each other – androgyny and all.

Now the entertainment publications are reporting that the book is being made into a film – and thankfully – Smith is on board as one of the screenwriters. We can see it now: Misty mornings in Coney Island where two tattered hippies blaze onto New York’s underground scene with the Chelsea Hotel, Warhol’s Factory and Max’s Kansas City as backdrops. A little romantic? Yes. But fans like me have a reason to be thankful.

According to Deadline, Smith will be collaborating with John Logan who wrote Gladiator (weird) and the Tony-winning play Red about painter Mark Rothko (not so weird). And really good news is that the duo is writing the script without a producer just yet – hopefully giving them the artistic freedom needed to make the film reflect the book and Smith’s own life in the 1960s and 70s.

If you’d like to learn more about Mapplethorpe in the meantime, the documentary Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe tells a story similar to one in Just Kids in which the wealthy art patron takes the budding erotic photographer under his wing – and into his bedroom. It’s also been rumored that Mapplethorpe’s own brother would play the photographer in a movie a few years ago which never seemed to happen. But who will play him in this film?