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Ruairi O’Connor to Play Buddy Holly in ‘Clear Lake’ Biopic (EXCLUSIVE)

Ruairi O'Connor Buddy Holly
Courtesy of Independent Talent/AP Photo

Irish actor Ruairi O’Connor will play rock ‘n’ roll icon Buddy Holly in the biopic “Clear Lake” with a tentative production start date set for the spring.

O’Connor, who stars as a young King Henry VIII in the Starz miniseries “The Spanish Princess,” was selected following a six-month search by the producers and casting directors at Presser/Well Casting to find the right actor 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.”

The BMG-backed “Clear Lake” will be helmed by Bruce Beresford, who received Oscar nominations for the “Breaker Morant” script and for directing “Tender Mercies.” He also directed “Driving Miss Daisy,” which won the Academy Award for best picture. Producers are Rick French (“Not Without Hope”) of Prix Productions and Stuart Benjamin (“Ray,” “La Bamba”) of Stuart Benjamin Productions.

“Clear Lake” tells the story of how Holly and other famous musicians of the late 1950s gave birth to rock ‘n’ roll while changing the trajectory of civil rights in America. The 22-year-old Holly died in a plane crash outside Clear Lake, Iowa, on Feb. 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,” a term coined by Don McLean in his 1971 song “American Pie.”

“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,” said French. “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.”

O’Connor is co-starring in the upcoming “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It,” set for a 2021 release. Other credits include Max Minghella’s “Teen Spirit,” Lenny Abrahamson’s “What Richard Did” and John Butler’s “Handsome Devil.” His television credits include the Netflix series “Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope,” the BBC’s “My Mother and Other Strangers” and the first two seasons of Sky’s “Delicious.”

“Clear Lake” is being developed by Prix Productions in association with Stuart Benjamin Productions and BMG, which manages the Holly estate and controls the U.S. publishing rights to his catalog. David Hirshland and Kathy Rivkin Daum are producing on behalf of BMG. Associate producers are Maria Elena Holly, widow of Buddy Holly; Stephen Easley, general counsel to Maria Elena Holly and The Buddy Holly Educational Foundation; and Peter Bradley, Jr. of The Buddy Holly Educational Foundation.

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.

O’Connor is represented by Independent Talent Group, LINK Entertainment and Rick Genow at Goodman, Genow, Schenkman & Christopher. Beresford is represented by Gersh. French is represented by Buchwald, and Benjamin is represented by the Johnson & Johnson law firm.