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Hari Nef
via Instagram (@harinef)

Hari Nef joins cast of Robert Mapplethorpe biopic

The upcoming film about the renowned American artist and photographer recruits the model and actor

Production is reportedly underway for Mapplethorpe. Directed by Ondi Timoner, the film with chronicle the life of American artist and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, known across the world for his boundary-smashing artworks that explored nudity, fetishism, sexuality and sensuality.

With Matt Smith in the leading role and Marianne Rendón as his sometime-lover, friend and collaborator Patti Smith, news has emerged that Hari Nef is joining the cast.

Nef, a model, actor and current face of Gucci perfumeshared the news that she’s part of the upcoming biopic on Instagram, telling her followers she’s “quite proud and excited”. Nef has previously featured in acclaimed TV series Transparent, and has spent much of 2017 filming Assassination Nation alongside Suki Waterhouse and Abra. She also recently starred in a Proenza Schouler campaign for Planned Parenthood with Grimes.

From her IG post, it seems like Nef is taking on the role of Tinkerbelle, a friend of Mapplethorpe's, Andy Warhol associate and contributor to Warhol's Interview Magazine, who regularly hung out at Studio 54. Her real name was Jeri Lee Veronica Visser, and she tragically died by suicide at the age of 40.

In an unpublished autobiography, she wrote of herself: “I've been a go-go dancer, a stenographer, an actress, a comedian, a tap dancer, a dance teacher, a film critic, a maid, a designer, a fashion model, a singer, a publicist, a journalist, a computer operator. I have appeared on national television. I have collected endless unemployment. I have worked, wage-slaved, struggled and triumphed and lost.”

According to Warhol Stars, Tinkerbelle's ex-boyfriend Joel Kronfeld cited Studio 54 as her ultimate “downfall”. Writing in his diary in 1978, Warhol himself said: “Talked to Tinkerbelle and she was saying how she makes out with everybody she interviews, that she was making out with Christopher Walken and that his wife was getting upset. She said she cut her arm falling on the glass from a skylight, she'd broken into a friend's apartment, she thought they had some drugs in there. I guess Tinkerbelle's really wild.”

In Patti Smith's 2010 memoir Just Kids, the woman makes an appearance: described by Smith as one of the Factory girls, it was Tinkerbelle who first introduced the pair to Mapplethorpe's later lover David Croland. “Robert was attracted to her lively wit, but despite her impish appearance she also possessed an extremely sharp tongue,” she wrote. Smith also detailed that it was Tinkerbelle who informed her that Mapplethorpe was gay. In one section of the book, Smith talks of his great upset upon finding out she learned of his sexuality via Tinkerbelle, and that Mapplethorpe barely spoke to Tinkerbelle from then on.

“It’s a very rich story about a cultural lightning rod, who in our country is probably one of the most controversial artists of all time,” Timoner previously told the Guardian about the project. “Back then, (Mapplethorpe) was doing the unthinkable. Outrageously rebellious... (The film) will hopefully cause people to go do their own thing.”

Last year saw the release of the documentary Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, which traced his life, provocative and awe-inspiring works, and his final show before he lost his battle with Aids. The doc centres on The Perfect Moment, his last exhibition which sparked a cultural war, obscenity trials and a nationwide conversation about censorship. The candid film, directed by Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey, gave a striking, unflinching snapshot of the dedicated artist, helped by the limitless access they were given to his archive. Some of his most famous artworks include Smith’s Horses cover, celebrity portraits of everyone from Andy Warhol to Debbie Harry, still life photographs and series of erotic nudes.

Smith documented much of her personal and creative relationship with Mapplethorpe in her beautiful Just Kids, though chose not to be involved in Timoner’s production. Mapplethorpe previously cast Girls actor Zosia Mamet in the role of Smith, who had to drop out due to reported schedule conflicts.

Timoner, who has directed past works such as Dig! about the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Dandy Warhols and other American rock bands, has the support of the Robert Mapplethorpe foundation, founded the year before he died in 1989.

“The Mapplethorpe Foundation was impressed by Ondi Timoner’s vision for the project and her strengths as an artist,” Michael Ward Stout, president of the foundation, told Indiewire. “We’re very pleased she has chosen to tell Robert’s story.”

Hari would have made an absolutely incredible Patti, but we're psyched to see what part she takes on.