Jeffrey Wright has revealed that David Bowie once played his album ‘Outside’ for him and Gary Oldman before it had been released.
Wright and Oldman co-starred in the 1996 film Basquiat alongside Bowie, a biopic focusing on the life of the American painter Jean-Michel Basquiat. In the film, Wright played the titular artist, while Bowie portrayed Basquiat’s mentor, Andy Warhol. Oldman, meanwhile, played another artist, a character loosely based on the film’s director, Julian Schnabel.
In a new interview on The Kelly Clarkson Show, Wright revealed that in a spare moment during the shooting of the film, Bowie decided to test out his new material on his fellow cast members.
“I remember one day we were in the hair and makeup trailer — Gary Oldman was in the film as well — we’re sitting there and David walks in,” Wright said. “He goes, ‘You want to hear some music?’ We’re like, huh? His music. We’re like, yeah, David Bowie, we will tolerate your music. Yeah, sure. Put in your little disc there.”
The music in question was ‘Outside’, Bowie’s 20th studio album, released in September 1995. The record was Bowie’s first time working alongside Brian Eno since the Berlin trilogy of the late 1970s, and featured elements of industrial, jazz and electronica.
“Some of the music is featured in the film because it’s kind of reminiscent of the story in some ways,” Wright continued. “His guitarist was named Reeves Gabrels and he plays this really abstracted beautiful stuff,” Wright added. “And we’re listening to it, and we’re like, woah. And David is sitting there air-guitaring to his own music. And it was like the cool guy at school found some obscure record somewhere and brought it in — except the cool guy was David Bowie.”
Oldman and Bowie had an enduring friendship, with the actor also starring in Bowie’s iconoclastic video for his 2013 single ‘The Next Day’, alongside Marion Cotillard. Oldman later said he was paid “a sandwich and a bottle of pop” for his appearance.
Oldman also gave a memorable tribute speech to Bowie at the 2016 Brit Awards, while collecting a posthumous Icon award on behalf of the late singer. He spoke of his friend’s attitude in his final days, saying “His outlook was always positive and I never heard him complain.”
He continued: “He faced his illness with enormous courage, dignity, grace and customary humor – even in dire circumstances. When he wrote to tell me the bad news, he added, ‘The good news is I’ve got my cheekbones back.’”
“Over his career, David challenged and changed our understanding of the medium, whether in music or life, he emphasized originality, experimentation, exploration, and in his very unique way, he also reminded us to never take ourselves too seriously.”