In the centenary year of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, it seems that the iconic conductor, composer and pianist has once again re-emerged in the public consciousness. Two biopics about the life of Lenny seem to be in the works, with serious star power attached to both projects.
Bernstein. Photo © Arthur Umboh/DG
A Jake Gyllenhaal-produced biopic titled The American was announced in early May, with principal photography expected to commence later this year with the financial backing of Bron Studios. Cary Fukunaga is slated to direct, with a screenplay by Michael Mitnick adapted from Humphrey Burton’s biography Leonard Bernstein. Gyllenhaal will take up the baton as Bernstein, with the biopic charting the conductor’s life from the age of 25, when he first led the New York Philharmonic.
“Like many people, Leonard Bernstein found his way into my life and heart through West Side Story,” Gyllenhaal said in a statement. “But as I got older and started to learn about the scope of his work, I began to understand the extent of his unparalleled contribution and the debt of gratitude modern American culture owes him. As a man, Bernstein was a fascinating figure – full of genius and contradiction – and it will be an incredibly honour to tell his story with a talent and friend like Cary.”
The American will be vying with Paramount’s Bernstein, produced, directed by and starring Bradley Cooper in a deal which was finalised this week. With a script by Spotlight screenwriter Josh Singer, Cooper’s co-producers include Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. The creative team have secured the music and life rights from the Bernstein estate.
“In our father’s centennial year celebration, we are delighted to form an exclusive and unprecedented partnership with Paramount Pictures, Amblin and this extraordinary group of filmmakers to create a Leonard Bernstein biographical film,” said Jamie, Alexander, and Nina Bernstein. “They understand our father and are passionate about telling his story. We are proud to announce we are collaborating closely to help them achieve their vision and granting them unique access to his fascinating life story and his diverse body of music.
The script reportedly remains unfinished, with no word yet on a production timeline.