Bradley Cooper and Jake Gyllenhaal are going head to head, starring in separate biopics that explore the life of famed American composer Leonard Bernstein, best known for writing the music for West Side Story and conducting the New York Philharmonic when he was just 25 years old. Today it was announced that Cooper will not only be stepping into the musical great’s shoes, he will also be directing the project, titled Bernstein, as Variety notes. Little is known about how Cooper will depict Bernstein, or who else will be featured in the cast, but Josh Singer of Spotlight and The Post fame will be handling the script. The film will also be produced by Cooper, along with Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese. While the logistics of starring in, directing, and producing a movie simultaneously seem daunting, Cooper has already shown he excels at multitasking. Take his directorial debut, for instance: A remake of A Star Is Born, in which he appears alongside Lady Gaga; the trailer, which debuted late last month, has already brought tears to some critics.
Gyllenhaal’s interpretation of Bernstein will be rooted in Humphrey Burton’s 1994 biography of the composer and titled The American. The film will be set during the time that Bernstein made his first appearance as a conductor for the New York Philharmonic, and will trace his success immediately thereafter, as The Hollywood Reporter notes. Like Cooper, Gyllenhaal will also be producing the film, which is being directed by Cary Fukunaga.
It was West Side Story, more than the Philharmonic, which drew Gyllenhaal into the project. “Like many people, Leonard Bernstein found his way into my life and heart through West Side Story when I was a kid,” he said in a statement, as THR points out. “But as I got older and started to learn about the scope of his work, I began to understand the extent of his unparalleled contribution and the debt of gratitude modern American culture owes him. As a man, Bernstein was a fascinating figure—full of genius and contradiction—and it will be an incredible honor to tell his story with a talent and friend like Cary.”
So which would you rather? Cooper’s Bernstein or Gyllenhaal’s?