Ruairi O'Connor has been tapped to play iconic musician Buddy Holly in the upcoming biopic Clear Lake. O'Connor currently stars as a young King Henry VIII in the critically-acclaimed Starz mini-series The Spanish Princess. The biopic is being directed by Oscar-nominated director Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy) and is produced by Rick French (Not Without Hope) of Prix Productions and Stuart Benjamin (La Bamba) of Stuart Benjamin Productions.
Gary Busey previously played the singer in 1978's The Buddy Holly Story, while musician Marshall Crenshaw played him in 1987's La Bamba. Ruairi O'Connor, who is also co-starring in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, set for a 2021 release, was tapped to play Holly following a six-month exhaustive search by the producers and casting directors at Presser/Well Casting to find the right actor. The creative team was seeking someone who both resembled Holly and could handle vocals and instrumentation on classic songs such as "Everyday," "That'll be the Day," and "Not Fade Away."
Ruairi O'Connor was born in Ireland and previously starred in Max Minghella's Teen Spirit opposite Elle Fanning. Other credits include the role of Niall in Lenny Abrahamson's What Richard Did and Weasel in John Butler's critically-acclaimed Handsome Devil. The actor also has extensive experience on the small screen with BBC shows and Netflix. In addition to his acting, O'Connor's guitar and singing skills were able to impress the Clear Lake creative team enough to offer him the role of Buddy Holly. Producer Rick French had this to say about casting O'Connor.
"We looked at hundreds and hundreds of audition tapes for the Buddy Holly role and interviewed some tremendously talented actors and musicians but Ruairi's audition really stood out. He's a terrific young actor who exudes charisma and he's also a very accomplished musician who our team believes can handle this very challenging role."
Clear Lake tells the story of how Buddy Holly and other famous musicians of the late 1950s, who gave birth to rock 'n' roll while changing the trajectory of civil rights in America. Holly died in a plane crash outside Clear Lake, Iowa on February 3, 1959, along with Ritchie Valens, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson and pilot Roger Peterson. It is often referred to as "The Day the Music Died," which singer Don McLean detailed in his song titled "American Pie."
A tentative Spring 2021 start date for principal photography is scheduled for Clear Lake. The biopic is being developed by Prix Productions in association with Stuart Benjamin Productions and BMG, which manages the Buddy Holly estate and controls the U.S. publishing rights to his catalog. David Hirshland and Kathy Rivkin Daum (David Crosby: Remember My Name) are producing on behalf of BMG. Maria Elena Holly, widow of Buddy Holly, Stephen Easley, general counsel to Mrs. Holly and The Buddy Holly Educational Foundation, and Peter Bradley, Jr. of The Buddy Holly Educational Foundation, are associate producers. Patrick Shanahan, who adapted Easley and French's original story, penned the screenplay and is a co-producer. He and French are partners in Prix Productions, with Easley serving as general counsel. This news comes to us from the Prix Production Studios.