With a life as colourful as his was, it’s amazing that Leonard Bernstein’s story hasn’t been made into a film before. At last it is taking shape, and appears to be in very good hands…
The film was originally going to be called Bernstein, but the title then changed to Maestro. Netflix has not yet announced the final name of the film.
Who is directing the film?
Actor-director Bradley Cooper so impressed producer Steven Spielberg with his directorial debit, A Star is Born, that Spielberg suggested he take on the Bernstein project – which had been in development at Paramount Pictures for a while. So Cooper directs, and stars, with the likes of Martin Scorsese, Todd Phillips and Amy Durning joining Steven Spielberg as producers. Paramount Pictures is no longer involved, but Netflix has stepped in to take on the film and release it. Cooper has co-written the film with Oscar-winning screenwriter Josh Singer (Spotlight).
While specific plot details remain under wraps, at the heart of Maestro is said to be Bernstein’s complex relationship with his wife, Felicia. They met in 1946 and married in 1951, following not one but two engagements. He left her after 25 years of marriage, though it was an open secret that Bernstein was gay. Felicia was diagnosed with cancer soon after, and Bernstein returned to care for her until her death in 1978. With such a tumultuous and compelling personal life, we can expect an emotional drama, and that’s before we get to the music-making. During his life with Felicia, Bernstein became one of the most famous conductors and composers in the world… from the premiere of West Side Story to countless tours, not to mention his celebrated tenure with the New York Philharmonic, the Young People’s Concerts and his legendary Harvard lecture, there’s much to potentially plunder.
Who’s starring in the film?
Bradley Cooper stars as Leonard Bernstein and Carey Mulligan has been signed to play Felicia Montealegre. Coincidentally, the pair narrated a performance of Bernstein’s Candide in Philadelphia in 2019. The only other cast member to have been announced so far is Jeremy Strong as Bernstein biographer John Gruen.
Will Bernstein‘s music be featured in the film?
The Bernstein Estate has granted exclusive rights to the production, so we can expect plenty of Bernstein’s own music to be featured in the story; and if it focuses on the period 1946-78, then there’s a huge amount to choose from. There’s no news yet as to who is looking after the music for the film, what form an original score might take, or if they will adapt and re-record Bernstein’s works for the soundtrack. Anything is possible, and we can’t wait.
When is Netflix starting filming on the Bernstein biopic?
There are rumours circulating online that production is set to begin on the Bernstein biopic in April 2021, but Netflix is yet to make a statement.
Wasn’t there meant to be another Bernstein biopic?
Yes, The American was also in development for a time. It was to be directed by Cary Fukunaga (No Time To Die), based on Humphrey Burton’s biography, and was to star Jake Gyllenhaal as Bernstein. With the Bernstein Estate granting exclusive rights to Cooper’s film, things began to fall apart for the other production and it doesn’t look likely to materialise.
- Buy Humphrey Burton’s Bernstein biography from Amazon
- Buy Humphrey Burton’s Bernstein biography from Waterstones
- Buy Humphrey Burton’s Bernstein biography from Hive
- Buy Humphrey Burton’s Bernstein biography from Wordery
When will the Bernstein biopic be released?
Where can you watch the new Bernstein biopic?
The Bernstein biopic will be available to stream on Netflix. Sign up to Netflix now from £5.99 per month
Find out more about Bernstein and his works here