Smith will play the avant-garde photographer, with Mamet as Patti Smith
Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Matt Smith of Doctor Who and Zosia Mamet of Girls are set to play groundbreaking photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and punk icon Patti Smith, his onetime lover and lifelong friend, in a biopic from writer-director Ondi Timoner.

The film, which has the blessing of the Mapplethorpe Foundation, will chronicle how Mapplethorpe stunned the art world with his elegantly composed, sexually explicit, and often overtly homoerotic images before dying of AIDS at age 42.

Timoner, a two-time Sundance Grand Jury prize winner for her documentaries Dig! and We Live in Public, is directing from her own screenplay and producing alongside Sirad Balducci and Eliza Dushku. Shooting is scheduled to start in the summer.

“After several years of developing this script and searching across the globe for the perfect talent to embody the rich and layered roles of visionary artists Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith, I am ecstatic to have found Matt Smith and Zosia Mamet,” Timoner said in a statement. “They will bring indelible passion, raw humanity, and authenticity to this timeless, inspiring story.”

Smith is best known for his run as the title character of Doctor Who and will be seen in the upcoming films Pride & Prejudice & Zombies and Patient Zero. Mamet returns on the fifth season of Girls next month and has a role in Todd Solondz’s new film Wiener-Dog.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Mapplethorpe’s death, and exhibitions of his work are planned at several museums, including the Getty and LACMA in Los Angeles.

The announcement of the biopic comes on the heels of HBO debuting the documentary Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Patti Smith also published an acclaimed memoir about her relationship with Mapplethorpe, Just Kids, in 2010.