Steven Spielberg is producing a Leonard Bernstein movie biopic that Bradley Cooper will headline and direct. Cooper will also write the script for Bernstein - as the project is currently titled - based on an earlier draft by Spotlight cowriter Josh Singer (who also worked on Spielberg's own true story journalism drama, The Post). Paramount Pictures and Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment are financing the project, which Cooper will further produce alongside big names like Martin Scorsese.
If this news sounds familiar, that's because Jake Gyllenhaal and Cary Fukunaga's own Bernstein movie in the making was announced last week. That film is titled The American and is seeking distributors at the Cannes Film Festival, with a fall production start date in mind. Back in March, Spielberg did a table read for a Bernstein biopic script that, at the time, was not believed to be Singer's screenplay. However, based on the latest turn of events, it seems fair to assume that Spielberg's table read was indeed for Singer's script draft after all.
According to Deadline, Singer set to work on the Bernstein script five years ago, around the time Scorsese was interested in directing. The project was put on hold after its deal to the rights with the Bernstein family expired, but was then revived by Spielberg and Cooper. Spielberg has had Bernstein on the brain in general of late, and is even moving full speed ahead with a West Side Story remake now (based on Berstein's classic stage musical turned movie).
Cooper is fresh off making his directing debut with the musician melodrama remake A Star is Born (which he also stars in with Lady Gaga). The film is already generating positive buzz ahead of its theatrical release in October, thanks to the impressionable footage that Cooper showed off at CinemaCon last month. If Cooper manages to impress with his direction on the actual film, that should only further boost Bernstein's already high profile and ensure that it remains on the fast-track for development.
Gyllenhaal was in a similar position back in 2017, when his Boston Marathon Bombing drama Stronger hit theaters 9-10 months after Mark Wahlberg's Boston Marathon Bombing film, Patriots Day. As different as Stronger and Patriots Day are from one another, the latter was far more popular at the box office than the former (though Stronger earned more critical acclaim than Wahlberg's docudrama). It remains to be seen if things play out differently between The American and Bernstein, but odds are one of them either falls apart in pre-production or emerges as the clear victor in Hollywood's latest battle of the biopics.
We will bring you more details on Bernstein as the story develops.