×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Director John Carney Considered Casting Adele in ‘Begin Again’

The director of 'Once' on his new musical love story

After his microbudgeted “Once” became a global indie hit in 2006, John Carney hatched another idea for a bigscreen musical. In many ways, “Begin Again,” which opens in limited release on June 27, is like a cousin to “Once,” which went to Broadway and won the best musical Tony. It’s about a singer-songwriter (Keira Knightley) who, while breaking up with her boyfriend (Adam Levine), forms a special bond with a music executive (Mark Ruffalo).

“I actually think ‘Begin Again’ is a nice continuation of ideas,” Carney says. “It has the same DNA as ‘Once.’ But it’s a more ambitious story with a larger palette of characters.” Even though he came up with the idea a few years ago, Carney didn’t start working on “Begin Again” right away. “I wanted time to pass,” he says.

Instead, he directed two small Irish films — a comedy and a ghost story — neither of which ever secured U.S. distribution, before diving back into “Begin Again” in 2010, when he pitched the premise to Judd Apatow.

“We would have long telephone conversations from Dublin to Los Angeles, just chatting about stories we knew about people in bands,” Carney says. The director-writer was partially inspired by his own experiences: As a teenager, he signed with a record label and toured. He knew he wanted Ruffalo to play the disgruntled music exec. “He has an old-school Marlon Brando appeal,” Carney says.

Popular on Variety

For his female lead, he toyed with the idea of casting a real pop star. “I did think of someone like Adele for a minute, but then it was like if I put Adele in the movie, the movie is about Adele playing a character, a version of herself,” Carney says. Knightley brought a dose of Audrey Hepburn to the love story, and held her own with the vocals. The songs in “Once” were performed live, but the actors in “Begin Again” croon to a pre-recorded track.

Exclusive Media financed the $9 million production, a big jump from the $120,000 it cost to make “Once” (which grossed $20.7 million worldwide). Carney insists he’s still cost-conscious. “Films are so insanely expensive in America,” he says. “I believe in making films cheap.” He recalls shooting a scene in Times Square for the picture with his stars and a handheld camera at 3 a.m., instead of splurging on extras and a crew.

Carney is working on yet another musical, “Sing Street,” based on those years he spent as a rocker. He’s casting unknowns for the $8 million film, which will include songs penned by Bono and the Edge. The filmmaker says he’s been offered plenty of Hollywood projects since “Once,” but has turned them down. “That’s not to say I wouldn’t love to make a film in Los Angeles or with a studio,” he says. “But I would have to make it because they wanted a specific voice.”

“Begin Again” premiered at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, where the Weinstein Co. bought U.S. rights for $7 million. Carney says he’s only made small adjustments since then, including changing the title from “Can a Song Save Your Life,” at the Weinsteins’ suggestion. He agreed to the switch though he notes the new title runs counter to his roots. “We don’t believe in beginning again in Ireland,” Carney jokes. “We fester until we die.”

More Film

  • 700700 + Ted Turner Dedication. December

    Ted Turner Tributes Established With WarnerMedia Gift to University of Georgia

    WarnerMedia has established a scholarship, internship program and exhibition hall at the University of Georgia to be named after maverick media mogul Ted Turner. The company has gifted $550,000 to the university to create the Ted Turner Scholarship Fund, for students attending the school’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, which is also the [...]

  • Golden Globes nominations predictions

    Golden Globes 2020 Predictions: What Movies and TV Shows Might Nab Nominations?

    Awards season kicks into higher gear on Monday, as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announces nominations for its 2020 Golden Globe Awards, which cover the 2019 calendar year. Noms will give certain films momentum heading into the Oscar race, while it’s the first opportunity for many TV series to earn awards acclaim before competing for [...]

  • Peter Sarsgaard The Batman

    Peter Sarsgaard Joins Robert Pattinson in 'The Batman'

    Peter Sarsgaard is joining Robert Pattinson in Warner Bros.’ “The Batman” in an undisclosed role. “The Batman” director Matt Reeves tweeted the news on Friday, sharing a gif of Sarsgaard accompanied by a bat emoji. Pattinson is starring as Batman/Bruce Wayne. The movie also stars Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Paul Dano as the Riddler, Colin [...]

  • Worst movies 2019

    The Worst Films of 2019

    Keep in mind that we haven’t seen “Cats.” Or a single one of the half-dozen Nicolas Cage movies released “on demand” (to zero demand?) this past year. Still, in the ongoing quest to find the next masterpiece, film critics inevitably have to sit through a lot more turkeys than your typical moviegoer. Rather than let [...]

  • FAMILIAR FACE -- In Walt Disney

    'Frozen 2' Still Sizzling With $37 Million in Third Weekend; 'Playmobil' Crashing

    “Frozen 2” is gradually warming up the North American box office, with an estimated $37 million its third weekend at 4,348 sites, early estimates showed Friday. Disney’s animated sequel is projected to decline about 57%. Should estimates hold, “Frozen 2” should finish the weekend with nearly $340 million domestically in it first 17 days. With [...]

  • Legendary Logo

    Legendary Invests in Library Pictures to Fund Local-Language Production

    Legendary Pictures has made an investment in Library Pictures International with plans to fund local-language productions. Library Pictures is a content-financing entity organized earlier this year by CAA Media Finance to support industry-leading filmmakers and distributors by investing in local-language production slates. As part of the deal, Legendary becomes part of a team at Library [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content