EXCLUSIVE: In what shapes up as another very strong Cannes title for next week, Jake Gyllenhaal is set to produce and star as Leonard Bernstein in The American, with Cary Joji Fukunaga directing and producing. BRON Studios will produce and finance a film that begins principal photography in the fall. Sierra/Affinity will sell international territories and Endeavor Content is repping North American rights.
Michael Mitnick adapted the script from the Humphrey Burton biography Leonard Bernstein. Structured in five movements, like a symphony, The American follows Bernstein from conducting the New York Philharmonic at the age of 25 and through a meteoric rise to fame, all while struggling both personally and publicly to be everything that everyone expected him to be, most of all himself.
The film was developed from scratch by Gyllenhaal and Riva Marker through their Gotham-based Nine Stories production banner. It marks another Nine Stories-produced vehicle for Gyllenhaal to play a non-fiction character, after he portrayed Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman in the critically acclaimed Stronger last fall. Gyllenhaal and Marker produce with BRON’s Aaron L. Gilbert, Fukunaga’s Parliament of Owls and Martha Parker. Jason Cloth of Creative Wealth Media, Mitnick and Adam Gopnik are executive producers.
“Like many people, Leonard Bernstein found his way into my life and heart through West Side Story when I was a kid,” Gyllenhaal said in a statement. “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.”
Said Fukunaga: “Bernstein’s artistic passions changed the way generations understood and appreciated music. It’s been wonderful collaborating with Michael and Jake on Bernstein’s story as we endeavor to capture both the iconic person and artist. Jake is the perfect partner to help bring this story to life and to play this legend.”
The latest film from Nine Stories, Paul Dano’s directorial debut Wildlife, is the opening-night film for Critics’ Week at Cannes. The film stars Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan, and it premiered to critical acclaim at Sundance in January. BRON Studios also has a film at Cannes, the Debra Granik-directed Leave No Trace, which will be part of Directors’ Fortnight. BRON bows the Jason Reitman-directed Charlize Theron-starrer Tully on May 4 through Focus Features.
Mitnick is currently writing Lily & The Octopus for Amazon.
Gyllenhaal and Nine Stories are represented by WME and Bloom Hergott; Fukunaga is with WME, Anonymous Content, and Lichter Grossman. Mitnick is repped at WME and Grandview.