HIDING OUT WITH REEVE CARNEY

From VMAN 25, Spring 2012

JUST LISTENING TO SOME BOOTLEG RECORDINGS OF JEFF BUCKLEY

PHOTOGRAPHY BRUCE WEBER
FASHION CARINE ROITFELD
TEXT PATRIK SANDBERG

If you can walk through Times Square without tripping over a rolling suitcase, getting impaled by an errant umbrella, or obstructing a tourist’s cell phone photo op, you might hang a left on Forty-third Street and find yourself at the back door of the Foxwoods Theater. If you make it past security, punch in the proper code, and navigate your way through the bowels of the building, you’ll come across a door covered in autographs, perhaps from old inhabitants or recent admirers. Behind it is a dressing room the size of a small walk-in closet that belongs to Reeve Carney, more commonly known as Peter Parker‚ or Spiderman. He is the star of the most expensive musical production in the history of Broadway.

Whether strumming a guitar or putting up one of dozens of Post-it notes on the wall referring to key changes and time signatures, the young star of Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark is perfectly content in this cloistered existence, where he spends his days writing songs—that is, when he isn’t reading up on his latest fixation, the doomed musician Jeff Buckley (more on that later), or preparing to save New York City from mutant forces of evil (most specifically, a bioterrorist madman who calls himself the Green Goblin). Today, Carney is offering this writer a stick of gum as I marvel at his Spiderman-branded toilet seat, only a few feet from where I sit blocking the exit on a small sofa.

“It was really an accident,” Carney says with a charming laugh. He’s not speaking of one of the five notorious incidents resulting in injuries that plagued the start of the show’s previews in 2010—prompting the city’s more ravenous media outlets to declare the play a doomed cataclysm. He’s referring to being cast in the first place as a singing, dancing—and most conspicuously—flying crusader on the Great White Way. “It’s weird, man. It’s not something that I ever thought I would do.”

Raised between New York and Los Angeles, Carney was brought up around show business (his great-uncle was the well-known actor Art Carney), but he’d by all means hedged his bets on becoming a lifelong musician, after studying jazz guitar at USC’s Thornton School of Music. In 2010, his band (also named Carney) released its debut LP. “In some ways I thought, Oh man, this might make me look like a joke as a musician. Spiderman is the most high profile production I’ve been involved with, so many people might think acting is primarily what I do, but I couldn’t pass it up.” Performing six nights a week to sold-out audiences also packs in its fair share of front man rehearsal for the budding rock star. “It’s an amazing experience for anyone who’s a rock-and-roll musician,” he says, “because the diligence it requires is hard to compare to anything else. I haven’t worked quite this hard since I was in high school.”

He recalls the play’s preview period as “intense,” in what might be the understatement of the century. Delays, rewrites, and crew changes—including the well-publicized departure of director Julie Taymor—delayed the play’s official premiere so much so that reviewers weighed in with polarizing reviews before the play officially opened. “We were in previews for ten months and it was like a twelve-hour day job every single day.”

Though he repeatedly voices his gratitude for the experience and for the acceptance the Broadway community has shown him, the reluctant actor maintains that it is his band that he hopes will keep him occupied for the rest of his life. It was his music, after all, that landed him the gig in the first place. “I was playing a concert at the Mercury Lounge,” he says. “Julie Taymor was invited by a friend of mine and ended up being intrigued by what we do as a band. She said, ‘I think you should audition for my film, The Tempest.’” Carney landed the part of Ferdinand. Following this, he auditioned for three months for the role of Peter Parker before he was cast.

Speaking with Reeve Carney, his fortuitous thrust into the limelight doesn’t come across as a colossal shock. With chiseled features, disarming friendliness, and an earnest attitude toward work, he wouldn’t seem out of place in a Tiger Beat centerfold, or brooding in a Twilight film. On the day we sat down, the media continued a running commentary on Mr. Carney’s relationship with Twilight saga actress Ashley Greene—a topic he politely prefers to keep out of the conversation.

Romantic and gymnastic opportunities aside, Carney has also found himself playing to a massive stadium of people, opening for U2 on the final stop of their infamous 360 tour, after Bono and the Edge—who composed Spiderman’s musical numbers—extended the invite to him and his band. Even the supposed jinx that ushered Spiderman into the press seems to have worn off, with the play reportedly bringing in a million dollars per week at the start of 2012. Faced with the opportunity to move on as a free agent, Carney chose to extend his contract through May. “I was having a good time,” he says. “I hope that the show runs for as long as possible, so the people who invested can make all of their money back…and then some.”

Next, the emerging star will tackle another big on-screen role, that of the late singer Jeff Buckley. “I don’t want to mimic what he did, but I want to capture his essence. The role is a step forward but also represents something of a blissful stasis for a now-established performer and musician. “I get to sing, act, and play guitar all at once,” he marvels. “If I could play music 365 days a year—write songs, perform them live, and record them, I would be so happy.”

Meanwhile, at around seven fifteen p.m. on any given week night, if you emerge from the back of the Foxwoods Theater you’ll see hordes of excited ticket holders lining up around the block.

Grooming Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel
Photo assistants Michael Murphy, Joe DiGiovanna,
Jeff Tautrim, Chris Domurat, John Beecroft
Stylist assistants Michaela Dosamantes,
Vincent Ciarlariello, Julian Antetomaso
Hair assistants Takashi Yusa and Naoko Suzuki
Grooming assistant Imane Fiocchi
Production and casting Gwen Walberg (Little Bear Inc)
Production assistant Chris Butler
Location Milk studios, New York