You know his music even if you're unfamiliar with his name. On the Waterfront and West Side Story are two of the more incredible scores to ever emerge out of Hollywood cinema. Then there are the song compositions he helped put together - "New York, New York", "Lonely Town", "A Little Bit In Love", and "El Dorado" (just to name a few) - that became a veritable soundtrack to our lives. Leonard Bernstein is one of the greatest composers who ever lived, becoming a household name thanks to his pioneering New York Philharmonic Young People's Concerts during the '50s, helping mold the way many Americans appreciated music.
Now, Cary Fukunaga is going to tell Bernstein's life story via The American, and Jake Gyllenhaal has been cast to play the heralded musician. While this may seem like a strange choice for the True Detective and Maniac director (who's mostly known for hyper-stylized pulp), it's worth noting that Bernstein was also added to Richard Nixon's "enemies" list during the '70s, due to his hosting a massive fundraising party for the Black Panthers (documented in Tom Wolfe's book "Radical Chic"), so there's much more to the man than just standing at a podium and directing an orchestra.
The American was written as a "five-movement" screenplay by executive producer Michael Mitnick (The Current War), who used Humphrey Burton’s '01 biography Leonard Bernstein as his source for adaptation. No word on additional cast members yet, but we'll let you know when more breaks. In the meantime, start dreaming about Fukunaga's camera prowling the players' pit during one of his infamous long takes, all while Gyllenhaal whips the collection into a frenzy up front. That sounds pretty cool to me.
(Header image comes courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)