Julian Schnabel Biography

Julian Schnabel photo

Born: October 26, 1951


Date of Birth: October 26, 1951

Julian Schnabel's family moved from his birthplace, Brooklyn, New York, to Brownsville, Texas when Julian was a toddler. He went on to receive a B.F.A. at the University of Houston, then applied (and was accepted) to an independent study program at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Included in his application were slides of his art work, sandwiched between slices of bread.

To finance his studies, Schnabel worked as a short-order cook. His art soon began to attract attention and was showcased in various galleries. Described as neo-expressionist, some of his pieces included oversized canvases covered in crushed plates, and commanded as much as $100,000 each. Later on, Schnable would use Kabuki theatrical sets decorated with various cloths and hides. He was enormously successful, selling as many as 60 canvases in one year. His works can be seen in museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, The Museum of Modern Art in Los Angeles, and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

In the 1990s, Schnabel began to focus his creativity on filmmaking. His first film, a biopic about painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, entitled simply Basquiat (1996), starred Jeffrey Wright in the title role, surrounded by outstanding actors such as Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Willem Dafoe and Benicio Del Toro. Shown in competition at the Venice Film Festival, it was nominated for the prestigious Golden Lion award and won an award for "excellence in filmmaking" from the National Board of Review, USA..

His second film, Before Night Falls (2000), was also a biopic, this time about the tragic life of openly gay Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas. It starred Javier Bardem, who received an Oscar nomination for his performance. The film also won several awards, including the Grand Special Jury Prize and the OCIC Award for Schnabel at the Venice Film Festival (as well as another Golden Lion nomination), and a Freedom of Expression Award from the National Board of Review, USA.

Schnabel decided to film his next biopic in French, because it was about a French man, based on a true story written in French. Centered on Jean-Dominique Bauby, who at 43, was almost completely paralyzed by a stroke, Le Scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, 2007) was nominated for four Oscars (including Best Director for Schnabel), won two awards at the Cannes Film Festival (including Best Director), and two Golden Globes - Best Foreign Language Film and Best Director..

Schabel, who is known for wearing pajamas all day long - even when out in public, lives in New York City and has a summer home in Montauk, Long Island. He has two children with his current wife, Olatz, and three children with his first wife, Jacqueline, who lives just a few blocks away from him in New York City and with whom he is on good terms.


Le Scaphandre et le papillon/The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
Before Night Falls (2000)
Basquiat (1996)
  Change Location