Production on Clear Lake, a biopic about Buddy Holly, is moving forward with the announcement that Ruairi O'Connor will play the rock 'n' roll pioneer. Nelly will co-star as Chuck Berry.

Variety notes that Colin Hanks has been cast as Norman Petty, Holly's manager and producer; Diane Guerrero, who played Maritza Ramos on Orange Is the New Black and Lina on Jane the Virgin, will play Holly's widow, Maria Elena Holly.

Born in Ireland, the 30-year-old O'Connor starred as Prince Harry and King Henry VIII in the Starz historical drama series The Spanish Princess. He'll also play Ty Fitzgerald on the upcoming season of Apple TV's The Morning Show.

“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,” producer Rick French said. “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 is named after the Iowa town where Holly was killed in a February 1959 plane crash along with Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper and pilot Roger Peterson. The movie will focus on Holly's life, while also telling the story of music's role in the civil rights struggle. It's being made with the approval of Holly's estate, with Maria Elena Holly serving as an associate producer. The script was written by Patrick Shanahan from a story by French and Stephen Easley, counsel to Maria and the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation.

Two-time Oscar nominee Bruce Beresford (Tender Mercies, Breaker Morant) was tapped as the movie's director earlier this year. “I found myself attracted to Clear Lake because the script tells the tragic story of Buddy Holly and his era in fascinating detail and with vivid characterizations,” he said. “Needless to say, the added plus of all the wonderful music was also a major lure.”

 

Rockers Who Died at Age 27