Is Penn Badgley the right actor for Jeff Buckley?


Image Credit: Mick Hutson/Redferns; Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Producers of the upcoming Jeff Buckley biopic Greetings from Tim Buckley announced Monday that Gossip Girl heartthrob Penn Badgley would play the singer-songwriter with a tragic story. Undoubtedly a controversial choice, Badgley released a statement expressing his seriousness about the role saying, “To play a man who was singularly gifted as an artist, greatly misunderstood and mythologized as a human being… It’s something very special and sacred. I’m going to give all I can to this project.”

But is he actually ready for a role as dramatic as Buckley? Can he even sing? There are some factors working against Badgley: Even though the actor played Gossip Girl‘s most artsy hunk, the sarcastically angst Dan Humphrey, Badgley will have to deal with the fact that a Buckley biopic is certainly weightier than any heavy episode of the CW series. (We are, after all, talking about a beloved musician who died at the age of 30 in an accidental drowning.) Also, though Badgley looks enough like Buckley to silence the superficial critics, it could be hard for him to escape the pretty boy label leading into the film. And, finally, his name will now be placed aside a list of actors supposedly eager to play Buckley, some of whom already garnered fan support: Another Buckley biopic developed by Welcome to the Rileys director Jake Scott and Buckley’s mother had Robert Pattinson circling and fans pleading for James Franco, a thespian who looks the most like Buckley of the three.

But we must return to the most important question: Can he sing? Though there is no word on whether or not Badgley will lend his own vocals to the film, he has some experience as a singer and even showed-off his own version of Green Day’s “Good Riddance” on the short-lived series Do Over. (See video of his performance here.) Unfortunately, though the performance is nearly a decade old, the rendition is not quite up to par — if he is going to perform for the film, I’d vote he undergoes some vocal coaching to get down to Buckley’s deeper register. But, hey, no shame: The Oscar-nominated Joaquin Phoenix also went to professionals while filming Walk the Line.

Of course, we can’t be too quick to judge — it remains to be seen how the larger community of Buckley fans will react to the casting, especially once the film hits the big screen. And perhaps more folks will jump on board once they finally see Badgley take on more serious roles, as he’ll do with this fall’s Margin Call, a financial thriller co-starring Kevin Spacey and Paul Bettany. The film, which competed at Sundance and Berlin, revolves around the bosses at an investment bank on the advent of the financial crisis, and certainly sounds like Badgley’s most weighty role to date. The actor could very well surprise us all — after all, he comes from the same series that delivered us Blake Lively, a star who similarly impressed us with her first serious movie role in The Town.

How do you feel about the casting, PopWatchers? Is the Gossip Girl actor too much of a pretty boy, or are you pumped to see what he brings to the table?

Read more:
Penn Badgley to play Jeff Buckley in ‘Greetings from Tim Buckley’

Comments (45 total) Add your comment
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  • tracy bluth

    I’m a huge Jeff Buckley fan and a little skeptical about the casting, but I guess I’ll have to wait and see.
    I REALLY hope they choose someone like James Franco over Robert Pattinson for the other biopic.

    • Joe

      Yea i hope they pick Franco too. I don’t have anything against Robert Pattinson, he’s very handsome and the interviews of his i’ve seen he comes across as very likable. But the man is not a great actor.

      • Grace

        I’ll be skipping this version and waiting to hear who gets cast in the Jake Scott version; the Penn Bagley version doesn’t have the rights to Jeff’s music, they only have the rights to his father’s music. The Jake Scott version has the rights to Jeff’s music and his life story through Jeff’s family. I’m guessing Bagley’s people got their release out early and will rush that version out before the Jake Scott version.

  • Bobby’s Robot

    I can’t comment on his acting because I’ve never seen him, but the term “Gossip Girl heartthrob” is a little worrying as I’m a big Buckley fan and want him done justice on screen.

    • Andy

      He’s terrible and has gross little teeth and a penchant for overly tight shirts

  • LOL

    We’ll see. Just glad Pattinson is nowhere near this movie.

  • Buckley Fan

    Give the kid a break, already!! Who knows, maybe he’s chomping at the bit for something with a little depth. Let’s not cast doubt – okay EW!?

    • Stash

      Agreed. Most teen actors get cast in (shock!) schlocky teen material. They grow up, and have to grow past it and their reputation. It’s happened time and time again in this industry… so can we maybe just respect that he found success on GG, but that now he’s like to move up and on?

    • lala44

      Penn is TRULY AWEFUL…his acting reminds me of a dead fish….

  • T

    Go to youtube and watch his Bullet Magazine video. You’ll hear him sing there

  • Mincha

    Well, he doesn’t look quite the part, but it’s not insurmountable.

  • Tiffany

    Kevin, Blake Lively impressed you in The Town. Really? Her?

  • Stash

    Regarding the “pretty boy” comments: it’s not as if Buckley was a slouch himself!

    Yeah yeah yeah, very serious artist. I love his work. All I’m saying is, change up the styling a bit and Buckley’d be a ‘pretty boy’ too.

  • the soul charmers wife

    There is no one who could do Jeff Buckley justice, period, but as a long-time lover of Jeff’s music, I am particularly disppointed they chose Penn Badgely. I am glad though that he is in this “unathorized version” that focuses on Tim and not the one that Mary, his mom, will be putting out about Jeff himself.
    Jeff was GENIUS. Most people only know “Grace,” but Live at Sine and Sketches were incredible, too.

  • scottm

    I was lucky enough to meet Jeff and see him perform live. Nothing of what Penn Badgley has done acting wise makes me feel confident of this choice I am afraid.

  • mojopin

    Have never seen ‘Gossip Girl’, so I can’t comment on Badgley as a pick, but I’ve always thought either James Franco or Joseph Gordon-Levitt would be great for the part.

    • servo

      Ooohh Joseph Gordon-Levitt! You hit the nail on the head. There seems to be a lot of support for Franco in this role but I just can’t see it. I’m a huge Buckley fan and I think J G-L would be most capable of getting to the man behind the myth.

  • tg

    In a word, no. I’m all for teen heartthrobs getting their break (Heath Ledger), but this guy’s a clown. No to James Franco too. I love him, but a little goes a long way these days. It would be nice if the person could sing, a la Val Kilmer in the Doors, which was 50 times better than Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in my opinion, just more realistic. Getting the physical type right goes a long way towards suspension of disbelief.

    • Lee

      Ironic that Jeff Buckley himself was accused by some of being a “pretty boy” trading off his looks and his cult-figure dad’s fame. He was one of People’s 50 Most Beautiful People in 1995.

  • Chris

    If ever there was a singer who could not be mimicked, it was Jeff Buckley.

  • V

    I thought casting Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash was effing sacrilege, and that turned out okay. Give him a chance.

  • Lauren

    I guess this is cool, except wasn’t James Franco supposed to be Jeff Buckley?

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