Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, a remake of A Star Is Born starring Cooper and Lady Gaga, has been making waves around Hollywood. It’s being positioned as a major awards movie, with an October release date and a significant studio push behind it, and Cooper’s already reaping the rewards. Specifically: he’s just signed on to direct and star in a biopic of Leonard Bernstein - entitled Bernstein - for Paramount, Amblin, and producers Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese (among others).
In case you’re unaware, Leonard Bernstein is widely considered one of the greatest American composers and songwriters of the twentieth century. He wrote the music for West Side Story and On the Waterfront, among other films, and also worked in ballet, opera, stage musicals, and “pure” orchestral composition, leaving an influence broad enough to merit an affectionate joke in the Zucker Brothers’ Top Secret. Outside music, he was a vocal supporter of the Black Panther Party, struggled with his sexuality in a time before queerness was broadly accepted, and was even blacklisted by the US State Department. There’s plenty to work with here, and given that Spielberg is also working on a remake of West Side Story himself, his involvement in the project seems a genuine labour of love.
Believe it or not, this project is the second Bernstein biopic to be announced just in the last week. Jake Gyllenhaal and True Detective’s Cary Fukunaga were recently announced to be starring in and directing, respectively, an entirely separate and likely edgier Bernstein film entitled The American. Given the proximity of the projects to one another, it seems we’ve got another Deep Impact / Armageddon scenario on our hands, with the two teams racing to get their film underway first. Bernstein certainly has the weight of names on its side: though Gyllenhaal and Fukunaga are major players, they’re not Spielberg and Scorsese major.
Of all the duelling projects to emerge from Hollywood, I bet you never thought Leonard Bernstein biopics would be among them. But that’s show business. Which project gets your juices flowing? Sound off below.