Bradley Cooper’s Leonard Bernstein Biopic Snags Exclusive Musical Rights | Film News
While the world was gearing up for a cinematic battle of the titans, by which I obviously mean the competing Leonard Bernstein biopics that were heading toward production at the same time, it seems we might not get another classic Armageddon vs Deep Impact or Capote vs Infamous after all, as one of the films may already be DOA.
It looked as if the first Bernstein biopic announced, titled The American and set to star Jake Gyllenhaal and be directed by Cary Fukunaga (True Detective), originally had the edge, but the film announced ten days later, Bernstein, with Bradley Cooper on board to star with both Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese producing, just got a massive leg up.
Cooper’s film has reportedly snagged the exclusive rights to use the famous composer’s music. That means Gyllenhaal and Fukunaga’s biopic won’t be able to use any music Bernstein composed, including West Side Story. Naturally, this is a massive blow to The American and gives Bernstein the inside track to being the definitive biopic.
Cooper reportedly got the edge thanks to Spielberg’s involvement. THR reports that the legendary director was recently shown a cut of Cooper’s upcoming directorial debut, A Star Is Born, and was impressed enough to offer him the directing gig for Bernstein.
Spielberg and Cooper then met with the Bernstein estate, where they also showed A Star Is Born, and with Paramount and Amblin Entertainment behind them, were able to get the musical rights. It also helps that Spielberg is no stranger to the Bernstein clan, as he already has a separate rights deal in place for his planned West Side Story remake.
Bernstein isn’t expected to start shooting until next year, as Cooper wants more time to work on the script with screenwriter Josh Singer (Spotlight).
Despite the massive setback, the team behind The American are still set to move ahead as planned, meaning that their biopic should reach cinemas first, potentially giving them a chance to make the competing film look like a poor imitator if their film turns out to be any good.
That will be a tough ask when trying to make a biopic about a legendary composer and not being able to use a single one of his notes. However, THR also notes that insiders close to Gyllenhaal and co. say “they note that Bernstein was just as famous for being a conductor, and that much of the music he conducted is in the public domain”. However, they likely can’t use any of his orchestral recordings.
There’s a good chance both films get quite big exposure considering the names attached to them, so it will be intriguing to track the development of both projects and see how they eventually stack up against each other when finally released. Despite focusing on the same famous figure, they will likely end up being quite different from one another.
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