The star of Broadway’s “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” is taking on another iconic — and musical — role.
Reeve Carney has been cast as Jeff Buckley in the biopic based on the deceased singer’s life. He will be led by director Jake Scott, who was behind “Welcome to the Rileys,” and it has the backing of Buckley’s estate: his mother and executive producer Mary Guibert and Jeff Buckley Music exec and associate producer Alison Raykovich.
“We are over the moon that Reeve has agreed to take on this challenging role. I’ve seen him perform several times…he’s been getting ready for this all his life,” said Guibert in a statement. “It certainly doesn’t hurt that he looks so much like Jeff.”
“We are excited to have found in Reeve the perfect combination of musical prodigy, impish charm, innate intelligence & sensitivity to play Jeff,” Scott gushed.
The flick is being penned by Ryan Jaffe, replacing Brian Jun, who was originally tapped to write and direct the film. The script is to be based on interviews, archives and family stories around the singer/songwriter. Producers also optioned David Browne’s book “Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley” (Guitarist Tim Buckley was Jeff Buckley’s estranged father). For fans, that account is actually a good read.
As for the casting choice, is that a good read? Obviously Carney, 28, has that look and has acting and musical ability. I haven’t seen “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” but I have been over the musical’s soundtrack, written by Bono and the Edge. While I’m not wild about the material the U2 men came up with, it is a decidedly un-Broadway collection of songs, and Reeve doesn’t sing like a traditional Broadway star. The timbre and a vibrato in his voice is much more akin to somebody’s like Muse’s Matthew Bellamy — theatrical, but still rock.
And timber and vibrato are going to be what’s important when it comes to playing Buckley, who died at age 30 in 1997 while going for a swim in the Wolf River near Memphis. Most people would contend that Jeff Buckley was much more of a soul singer than rock guy, insofar as the single studio album (1994’s epic “Grace”) and a handful of alternative and rare cuts would have us believe. Tougher tracks like “So Real” and “Eternal Life” were side-by-side with “Hallelujah,” “Last Goodbye” and “Lilac Wine,” but it was on those latter tunes that Buckley’s delicate, feminine and more detailed vocal features stood out.
Along with that, this movie has been long in the works. Like potential biopics on Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley, there was obviously a lot of estate, licensing and copyright issues to suss out; Jimi and Bob’s corporations have yet to give a green light to any filmmakers. But unlike those rock gods, Buckley had only completed album to show for his many years in trying to “make it” in New York. I can understand how and why posthumous “Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk” came to be — those were sketches. But then there was live album “Mystery White Boy,” “Grace Around the World,” anniversary compilations, the “Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley” documentary and a DVD of concert performances, all of which mostly featured the exact same songs in various configurations (though I did appreciate that Smiths cover, “I Know It’s Over”). Guibert and all interested parties should have dug their heels in years ago instead of investing their time into subpar live material and radio appearances — the songs were never bad, just their re-hashings.
But when I spoke to Guibert four years ago, she most of all emphasizied her interest in keeping her son’s short legacy — and part mythology — alive. She’d said that there may be two or three more albums worth of drips and drabs, but also hinted that she had them in a reserve for a reason. She didn’t sound like a woman who wanted to cash in on her deceased prodigal son: she sounded like somebody who knew what she had.
It’d be a shame if Carney came off more pop than soul, from a musical standpoint and a portrayal. I’m eager and anxious to see.
Below I’ve posted tracks from Reeve Carney, both from his stint as Peter Parker/Spidey in “Turn Off the Dark” and in his aptly named pop-rock outfit Carney. And then there’s some Jeff Buckley songs.