Bron Studios will produce and back the film, which begins principal photography in the fall. Sierra/Affinity will handle international sales of the project during the Cannes Film Market.
The screenplay, from Michael Mitnick, is based on the biography “Leonard Bernstein” by Humphrey Burton. In five movements, like a symphony, “The American” follows Leonard Bernstein from conducting the New York Philharmonic at the impressive age of 25 through the 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 project is an original idea, developed by Nine Stories, Gyllenhaal’s and Riva Marker’s New York-based production company. Gyllenhaal and Marker will produce alongside Bron’s Aaron L. Gilbert, Fukunaga’s Parliament of Owls and Martha Parker. Jason Cloth of Creative Wealth Media, Michael 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,” said Gyllenhaal. “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.”
“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,” said Fukunaga.
The role would mark another strong dramatic turn for Gyllenhaal who recently received rave reviews for another biopic, “Stronger,” in which he played a survivor from the Boston Marathon bombings.
Nine Stories’ most recently produced Paul Dano’s directorial debut “Wildlife.” The film, starring Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan, premiered to critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival and is the opening night film for the Cannes Critics’ Week.
Bron Studios’ “Leave No Trace” directed by Oscar nominee Debra Granik, premiered at Sundance and will be featured in this year’s Cannes Director’s Fortnight. “Tully,” directed by Jason Reitman and starring Charlize Theron, will be released by Focus on May 4.
Gyllenhaal and Nine Stories are represented by WME and Bloom Hergott. Cary Joji Fukunaga is represented by WME, Anonymous Content, and Lichter Grossman Nichols Adler & Feldman.