On the heels of Oscar nods for The Irishman and Marriage Story, Netflix has secured the rights to the in-development biopic of Leonard Bernstein from Bradley Cooper. The Oscar nominee will direct and star in the film; he also co-wrote the script with Josh Singer and is among the producers. The deal marks Paramount's departure from the Amblin project.
Producing alongside Cooper, according to Deadline, are Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg (who's also directing another upcoming Bernstein-related project: West Side Story), Todd Phillips (under his and Cooper's Joint Effort banner), Kristie Macosko Krieger, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Fred Berner, and Amy Durning. Production is expected to begin early next year.
The movie will focus on the relationship between the celebrated composer and his wife, Felicia Montealegre. The two wed in 1951, despite Bernstein's homosexuality being widely uncontested. About 25 years later, Bernstein left to be with a male partner, returning to his marriage when Montealegre was diagnosed with cancer. He was with her until she died in 1978. They had three children together—Jamie, Alexander, and Nina—who have worked closely with Cooper to develop the project.
Cooper, Tony-nominated for his performance in the 2014 revival of The Elephant Man, has given some nods to Bernstein in recent months. He narrated a presentation of Candide with Carey Mulligan in Philadelphia last year as part of the worldwide Bernstein centennial celebration, and was also spotted donning a “Hunky Brute” t-shirt as a reference to an anecdote from Bernstein's time as New York Philharmonic's music director. The actor of course also tapped into his musical side with his feature directorial debut: the Cooper- and Lady Gaga-led remake of A Star Is Born.
A separate biopic had also been in the works with Jake Gyllenhaal set to play Bernstein. That film, to be directed by Cary Fukunaga, was scrapped after the Bernstein estate boarded the Cooper project.
From On the Town to West Side Story: Celebrate the Work of Leonard Bernstein