EXCLUSIVE: Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark star Reeve Carney has signed on to play Jeff Buckley in the untitled film about the late musician that Welcome to the Rileys helmer Jake Scott is putting together for a November shoot. Carney, who performed the Bono/The Edge-penned Spider-Man single Rise Above 1 at the American Idol finale, will do all the singing to bring to life the music of Buckley, who was just getting started as a solo artist when he drowned at age 30.
Considering that Buckley had only released a single album when he died in 1997 after getting caught in the wake of a passing boat in Tennessee’s Wolf River, it seems amazing that there are not one but three feature films about him. The first one to start production will be Greetings From Tim Buckley, the Dan Algrant-directed indie film that starts a four-week shoot Monday in Brooklyn. Conventional wisdom that the first film out of the gate wins doesn’t necessarily apply here; these two projects tell very different stories about Buckley. Scott is making a biopic, while Greetings From Tim Buckley stars Gossip Girl’s Penn Badgley as a pre-fame Jeff Buckley who reconnects with his estranged father Tim by singing at a tribute concert for his folk-singer dad. In Algrant’s film, that short adventure forged Jeff Buckley’s own solo aspirations. The other Buckley film is called A Pure Drop and it is being mounted by Mad Bastards director Brendan Fletcher. The title comes from the book A Pure Drop: The Life of Jeff Buckley.
Carney will star in what Scott hopes will be a definitive film about Jeff Buckley’s life, and WME is raising funding. They have exclusive rights to Buckley’s music and personal archives, including the nod from Sony to use Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, which is perhaps Buckley’s best-known tune from his first album Grace. A second album, Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk, was released after Buckley died. Buckley’s mother, Mary Guibert, has also thrown in with Scott’s project and is executive producer. The script by Ryan Jaffe (The Rocker) was informed by the David Browne book Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley.
Insiders behind Greetings From Tim Buckley said that since their film takes place at a tribute concert performed before Jeff Buckley generated his own solo songs, they didn’t need his song rights to tell a father-son story with a rights package deal made with the estate of Tim Buckley. Badgley will do his own singing as Jeff Buckley, and Imogen Poots, Ben Rosenfield, and Norbert Leo Butz also star.
In casting Carney, director Scott called him “the perfect combination of musical prodigy, impish charm, innate intelligence and sensitivity to play Jeff.” Scott, the son of director Ridley Scott, has directed videos for the likes of R.E.M., Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins and The Cranberries. He has a common thread with Carney: He has directed vids for U2; aside from singing nightly the Spider-Man songs by Bono and The Edge, Carney and his band of the same name opened for U2 on the last stop of its mammoth 360 tour.
Michelle Sy and Orian Williams are producing the Scott-directed film, and Jeff Buckley Music’s Alison Raykovich is associate producer. Carney is repped by Paradigm and DAS Communications.
Here is Buckley singing Hallelujah: