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The Tale of Two Jeff Buckley Movies: Which One Will Win?

Photo of Dana Harris By Dana Harris | Indiewire June 20, 2011 at 11:03AM

So if Penn Badgley's playing Jeff Buckley, why did producer Orian Williams tell the Los Angeles Times that Badgley "is not involved with the film at all"?
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The Tale of Two Jeff Buckley Movies: Which One Will Win?
The cover of Jeff Buckley's 1994 album, "Grace."

So if Penn Badgley's playing Jeff Buckley, why did producer Orian Williams tell the Los Angeles Times that Badgley "is not involved with the film at all"?

Because Williams' Jeff Buckley project is not the same as Penn Badgely's Jeff Buckley project. And while it seems very likely that Badgely's movie will wrap first, the other Buckley project has the blessing of the Jeff Buckley estate. (The Badgley project has rights to music from the Tim Buckley estate.)

Got it?

To be clear: Badgley is starring in "Greetings from Tim Buckley," now in preproduction. [See related story.]

However, there's another project, as-yet untitled, about the life of Jeff Buckley that will be produced by Williams and Michelle Sy. And while this film doesn't have a title, its attachments include director Jake Scott; a script by Ryan Jaffe ("The Rocker"); rights to the biography "Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley" by David Browne; and rights to music under the Jeff Buckley estate, which is controlled by his mom, Mary Guibert, who is also an executive producer.

What the untitled Buckley picture doesn't have is a star (Billy Hopkins is overseeing casting) or an official start date, although Williams says he hopes to start pre-production in September and have the film wrapped by the end of the year.

That puts the two projects in what's become a classic for indie biopics: The showdown. And while it's possible both films will be made, there's usually only one winner.

Consider:

Truman Capote
There was "Capote" and there was "Infamous." "Capote" wrapped two months before "Infamous" began production. "Capote" opened in October 2005 and won an Oscar for star Philip Seymour Hoffman; "Infamous" opened in October 2006 and earned about $1.1 million in North America.

Brandon Teena
Then-Fox Searchlight president Lindsay Law bought "Boys Don't Cry" after seeing 20 minutes of it during the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. Later, Searchlight reached an out-of-court settlement with Diane Keaton's Blue Relief Prods., which had developed another Teena project, "All She Wanted." Law had picked up that project out of turnaround at Fine Line Features about a year earlier, but killed it after the "Boys Don't Cry" acquisition. Later, Teena's former girlfriend, Lana Tisdel, filed a lawsuit against Fox claiming her name and likeness were used without consent.

Marilyn Monroe
The Weinstein Co. has "My Week With Marilyn" starring Michelle Williams slated for release this year. At one point, Naomi Watts was also attached to portray Monroe in "Blonde," with Andrew Dominik directing and adapting Joyce Carole Oates' mock memoir. "Blonde" remains in development.

Harvey Milk
Gus Van Sant made "Milk," which earned an Oscar for star Sean Penn and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. "The Mayor of Castro Street," with Bryan Singer attached to direct, died in development.

Coco Chanel
In the rare instance of a tie, Audrey Tatou starred in "Coco Before Chanel;" and Anna Mouglani starred in "Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky." Both films were acquired by S0ny Pictures Classics and released in 2009 to prevent cannibalization/competition.