Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Why Tragic Jeff Buckley Biopic Has Lured the Likes of Pitt, Maguire, Pattinson, and now Badgley

by Jacob Combs
June 28, 2011 6:58 AM
1 Comment
  • |
Thompson on Hollywood

For a producer, it’s not exactly a good sign when you have to publicly acknowledge that an actor isn’t playing the lead role in your biopic because he is in fact playing that same role in another biopic being made simultaneously. It’s probably even less heartening to find out just a week later that your seeming duopoly on the subject material has splintered even further, and that there is suddenly a third contender in the ring.

This happened to Orian Williams, the producer of Jake Scott’s upcoming Jeff Buckley biopic, when he was asked a question earlier this month about a casting decision that ended up being not about his film but rather a different biopic about Buckley, Daniel Algrant’s Greetings from Tim Buckley.

To make matters more complex, this Thursday, Australian director Brendan Fletcher announced that he will be directing A Pure Drop, yet another movie about (you guessed it!) Jeff Buckley based on the 2008 book A Pure Drop: The Life of Jeff Buckley by Jeff Apter, a former Australian music editor for Rolling Stone. Fletcher, whose debut feature Mad Bastards premiered in the U.S. this year at Sundance, will produce along with Train Houston (who wrote the screenplay) and his wife Holly.

Houston’s project has been in the works for quite some time: Chris Morris wrote in THR in 2005 that the writer-producer was shopping around a script based not on Apter’s book, but on Dream Brother: The Lives & Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley, another biography about Buckley and his musician father written in 2001 by David Browne, music critic for EW. Around 2005, Houston worked on the project with an executive at Tobey Maguire’s production company, but talks fell through.

Like A Pure Drop, Greetings from Tim Buckley will examine the relationship between the two Buckleys, focusing specifically on Jeff’s 1991 tribute concert for his late father, an event that catapulted him into preeminence. The elder Buckley was a pioneering musician in his own right, experimenting with genres from folk to jazz, soul and psychedelia before dying of a drug overdose at 28. His son Jeff earned even more fame as master singer-songwriter-guitarist, but three years after great acclaim for his 1994 album Grace, he accidentally drowned in Memphis. He was 30.

The film, directed by Dan Algrant (whose career has progressed at a Malick-ian pace of one feature every ten years) starts shooting in August. Buckley will be played by Penn Badgley of Easy A and Gossip Girl. Badgley is certainly prettier than Buckley (who was pretty good-looking himself), and will have to work to shrug off the TV hunk stereotype as he steps into a more serious role. The more pressing question of whether or not he can sing has been raised by fans (many of them clamoring for none other than non-singer James Franco), although for now there seems to be no ready answer.

Working against all this, of course, is the other already-announced pic to be directed by Jake Scott (Ridley Scott’s son), an as-yet-untitled film that aims to be a more conventional biopic than Greetings does. Buckley’s mother is onboard as an executive producer, and she reportedly met with Robert Pattinson to discuss the casting of the lead role. (In the race to portray the real life of an iconic and somewhat tortured musician, heartthrobs somehow rise to the top. Go figure.)

One intriguing piece of trivia is that Mary Guibert (Buckley’s mother) at one time gave the green light to Brad Pitt to produce Scott’s film with Jennifer Aniston and their production company Plan B. Not surprisingly, the plans fell through when the couple split up.

Who will get to the finish line first? Greetings has the leading man advantage, but Buckley projects seem notoriously hard to get off the ground no matter who’s involved. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen dueling biopics: Bennett Miller’s Capote completely overshadowed Douglas McGrath’s Infamous by not only being superior but getting out a year ahead. It’s possible we’re looking at a similar situation here, but then again, for anything with the name Buckley, the rules don’t really seem to apply.

1 Comment

  • Reid Rosefelt | July 5, 2011 10:51 AMReply

    As a huge Tim Buckley fan, I was at the concert at St. Ann's in Brooklyn Heights, where numerous musicians performed covers of his songs, and then at the very end, they brought Jeff out, which made everybody go nuts. My memory is that it was a thrill to have him be there, but that Jeff Buckley was a faint talent compared to Tim Buckley. I've never changed that opinion. This is nothing against Jeff, who was wonderful, just that Tim Buckley had one of the greatest voices to ever sing folk or rock or even jazz. There has never been and never will be anybody who sounded like him. If you don't believe me, just listen to him, he's uncanny. Check out his second album, "Goodbye and Hello." He was also an extraordinary songwriter, known for dozens of his own great songs.

    The story of Tim Buckley, who was a huge, huge star, until he followed his own creative paths that led him to make albums that were so avant-garde that he lost practically all of his fans, except for a tiny cult. I memorized the words to most of his early songs, I played them in my bands, but when he got to those late records, try as I might. he lost me. It was an utter reinvention, had nothing to do with the music I liked; I guess I couldn't relate to that kind of jazz improvisation yet. He became a heroin addict and eventually overdosed. At the time of his death, all this one-time idol owned was a guitar and an amp.

    I think the story of Tim Buckley could be very dramatic and it would be great to introduce a new generation to his music. I'm not exactly sure what the story of Tim and Jeff would be because Jeff never really knew him.

    "Greetings from Tim Buckley" is a reference to Tim's album, "Greetings From LA."

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • Career Watch: Will 'Hit Girl' Chloe ...
  • Trailers From Hell on 'Requiem For A ...
  • Rolling Stone Names 40 Greatest Rock ...
  • WATCH: Rare Behind-the-Scenes Footage ...
  • Chris Moore Creates 'The Chair' Indie ...
  • Best of the Week: Remembering Robin ...
  • This Weekend, Avoid 'Expendables,' See ...
  • Keanu Reeves Is Latest Movie Star to ...
  • WATCH: Four Clips from Amos Gitai's ...
  • Isabelle Huppert on Embracing the Darkness ...