There were more than a few audience members surprised by Penn Badgley's falsetto at the U.S. premiere of Greetings from Tim Buckley, which screened this week at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival. The narrative digs deep into the relationship between Tim Buckley and his son Jeff – played by Badgley – dramatizing the respective back stories of a musical pair who never really knew each other.
"I was a Jeff Buckley fan even before I read for the Richard Hell part," Anthrax's Frank Bello said in a discussion following the film. "But I was skeptical. I said, 'Who is going to play Jeff? Penn Badgley? Who the fuck is that? But I'm telling you. . . balls of steel. Balls of steel."
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In addition to multiple on-screen renditions from Jeff's catalogue (performed alongside Kate Nash), Badgley delivers a demonstrative, sixty-second a capella take on Led Zeppelin III.
"Remember that – balls of steel," the former Gossip Girl star joked. "It would have been very hard to do without the live performance. Even if I had done the singing afterward, or before, it would have stolen anything we had going for us with the vibe."
The film's producer, Frederick Zollo (Mississippi Burning, Quiz Show), is responsible for introducing director Daniel Algrant to the Buckley family catalogue. But Algrant only "lept emotionally into" the music after watching their April 1991 performance at Brooklyn's St. Ann's Church, an event that's recreated in the film.
"I just freaked out at these lyrics," Algrant told the audience. "I went, 'Wow, who the heck allowed people to forget these songs?' These songs are current, they're emotional. We're hoping that the film will bring people back to him."
Greetings from Tim Buckley will be released by Focus World and Tribeca Film on May 3rd.