Jake Gyllenhaal to Play Leonard Bernstein in Cary Fukunaga's 'The American'

Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images; Photofest
Jake Gyllenhaal (left), Leonard Bernstein

The movie is based on Humphrey Burton's biography of the legendary composer.

Jake Gyllenhaal will play legendary conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein in The American from director Cary Fukunaga. 

The feature, which is set to begin production in the fall, is based on Humphrey Burton's biography, and will follow Bernstein's meteoric rise after conducting the New York Philharmonic at 25, all the while struggling with the fame of a career that included penning the score for On the Waterfront and the ground-breaking musical West Side Story. Michael Mitnick wrote the screenplay.

Gyllenhaal will also produce through his Nine Stories banner, along with producing partner Riva Marker. Aaron L. Gilbert will produce for Bron Studios, which is also backing the film. Fukunaga’s Parliament of Owls and Martha Parker will also produce. 

Mitnick, Jason Cloth of Creative Wealth Media, and Adam Gopnik will executive produce.

Sierra/Affinity is handling international sales on the project, which will be introduced in Cannes. Endeavor Content will represent North American rights.

“Like many people, Leonard Bernstein found his way into my life and heart through West Side Story when I was a kid,” Gyllenhaal said Tuesday 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.”

Added 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."

Gyllenhaal, who is repped by WME, will next be seen in Paul Dano's directorial debut Wildlife and the Annapurna Western The Sisters Brothers.