There’s a small history in Hollywood of very similar films being in production at the same time and going on to battle for supremacy at the box office. Think Antz vs A Bug’s Life, or Deep Impact vs Armageddon. The next big fight looks set to be…duelling Leonard Bernstein projects?
Last week, it was reported that Cary Fukunaga had signed on to direct Jake Gyllenhaal in a biopic of the legendary composer, after the project had been eyed by big names such as Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg over the years.
On the heels of that news though, Bradley Cooper has now decided to forge ahead with his own biopic of Bernstein. Cooper will co-write, direct and star in the film, which is being co-financed by Paramount and Amblin Entertainment, with both Scorsese and Spielberg on board as producers.
Cooper will write the movie with Oscar-winning Spotlight scribe Josh Singer, who also penned Spielberg’s The Post and the upcoming Damien Chazelle film about Neil Armstrong, First Man.
There doesn’t seem to be any explanation as to why Bernstein has suddenly become a hot property. He was a child prodigy who went on to compose works for West Side Story and Peter Pan, and he’s highly revered and influential in the world of music composition.
It isn’t a case of Cooper quickly putting this biopic together in order not to be overshadowed by the Gyllenhaal/Fukunaga project, as Cooper’s film has been in the works for a while. He and producers Fred Berner and Amy Durning worked hard to secure the rights with the Bernstein family and had to deal with the rights lapsing thanks to script delays.
It’ll be interesting to see if both movies do in fact get made and we end up with competing Bernstein biopics led by two big stars, though it’s possible one of them falls away.
Before that, Cooper’s directorial debut A Star Is Born is set to hit cinemas later this year and looks to be an Oscar contender, possibly setting up the Gyllenhaal/Fukunaga biopic to go first as production begins this autumn, while Cooper likely can’t move ahead with his Bernstein film yet if he’s got an awards race ahead of him.