×
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.

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

  • Ava DuVernay Toby Emmerich Michael Douglas

    Ava DuVernay, Toby Emmerich, Michael Douglas to Speak at Produced By Conference

    Ava DuVernay, Toby Emmerich, and Michael Douglas will speak at the Producers Guild of America’s 11th Produced By Conference. The event will be held on June 8-9 at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif. Other notable speakers include Netflix executive Cindy Holland; Blumhouse producer Marci Wiseman; “Homecoming” showrunners Micah Bloomberg and Eli Horowitz; Entertainment One [...]

  • Jean Francois Helene Etzi

    Disney's French Chief Jean-Francois Camilleri Exiting, Helene Etzi Upped

    Jean-Francois Camilleri is leaving Disney after more than 30 years and will replaced as the head of its French operation by Helene Etzi. Sources said Camilleri’s departure was his own decision. He announced his exit on Twitter, Tuesday, and paid tribute to his team and colleagues at Disney, thanking them for the “unique adventure.” In [...]

  • dumbo Tim Burton

    Film Review: Tim Burton's 'Dumbo'

    The key image in Walt Disney’s 1941 “Dumbo” is something out of a fairy-tale daydream: Dumbo, the baby elephant with long-lashed goo-goo eyes, a cuddly grin, and ears as long and floppy as wings, flapping those ears to soar around a circus big top, flying over the crowds with a freedom as touching as it [...]

  • Guys and Dolls

    'Guys and Dolls' Getting Remade at TriStar (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Guys and Dolls,” the venerable Broadway musical, is set to return to the big screen. TriStar Pictures has purchased remake rights to the original Damon Runyon short stories about gamblers and gangsters that inspired the shows, as well as the rights to the Broadway musical with its book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows and [...]

  • Captain America: Civil War

    'Black Widow,' 'Little Women,' 'Charlie's Angels' Among Most Tracked Female Directed Projects, IMDb Says (EXCLUSIVE)

    Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women,” Cate Shortland’s “Black Widow,” Patty Jenkins’s “Wonder Woman 2,” and Elizabeth Banks’s “Charlie’s Angles” are among the ten most tracked projects on IMDbPro. Ava DuVernay (“Selma”), Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”), Chloé Zhao (“The Rider”), and Susanne Bier (“After the Wedding”) rank among the most widely followed female directors on the [...]

  • European Union Placeholder

    European Parliament Gives Final Approval to Controversial Article 13 Copyright Directive

    The European Parliament on Tuesday gave final approval to Article 13, a controversial part of a wider directive that shakes up the rules around copyright in the European Union. The new rules will have ramifications for online platforms, content owners and creators, and the general public. The proposed new framework, now approved, has sparked widespread [...]

  • Fox Disney Layoffs

    Fox Studio Quickly Fades Away as Disney Starts Work on Integration

    In the waning days of 21st Century Fox, there was a run on the searchlight. As Disney neared the completion of its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox, employees on the Fox lot rushed into the studio’s gift shop to pick up mugs, shot glasses, sweatshirts, hats and T-shirts emblazoned with 20th Century Fox’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content