Rumors of Penn Badgley playing Jeff Buckley in biopic are false, film's co-producer says
New rumors swirling around the long-awaited Jeff Buckley biopic have falsely pitted actor Penn Badgley as the lead in the film about the late singer-songwriter. According to the film's co-producer, Orian Williams, the gossip surrounding the "Gossip Girl" star is compounded on further inaccuracies that "Twilight" heartthrob Robert Pattinson had been considered a shoe-in for the role of the enigmatic singer-songwriter.
"Penn is not involved in the film at all," Williams said in a phone interview. "It's crazy how these stories get out." When asked about Pattinson's involvement with the film, Williams said that although he's a fan of the British actor, he'd only had preliminary meetings with Pattinson, who was interested in auditioning for the film project, now almost six years in the making. Williams, along with producer Michelle Sy, casting director Billy Hopkins and executive producer Mary Guibert, Buckley's mother, are still seeking out actors for the casting process, which will likely begin in October, Williams said.
Most likely, the film will star an unknown actor who can portray Buckley without the weight of any preconceived Hollywood expectations, added Williams, who helped cast Sam Riley in the lead role of Ian Curtis in the 2007 biopic "Control" about the Joy Division front man. Williams said he's hoping to follow the same standards of finding someone with a low profile who can deliver Buckley's intense personality and haunting falsetto. "[The producers] are all very unified in our search to find the perfect person to play Jeff," Williams said.
Currently, the film is set to shoot in New York and Tennessee, where the story largely takes place. Though he rebuts rumors regarding the part of Buckley, Williams said that all kinds of actors and musicians have expressed interest in auditioning.
"When you have a story about an individual like Jeff you get a lot of interest because his life was so impactful and so short," Williams said.
Buckley was 30 when he drowned in May 1997 after deciding to go swimming in Wolf River Harbor, a slack water channel of the Mississippi River. News of a film about his life circulated as early as 2006, two years before Williams came to the project. Williams said that though the film has had a long gestation period, many measures have been taken to make sure that the foundation and intentions are authentic.
"We’re being very careful about it as we move forward," Williams said. “It takes a while to perfect this type of film. You’ve got to do it for the right reasons.”
-- Nate Jackson