2018: The Year Two A-List Hollywood Stars Fought To Portray A Gay, Jewish Musical Theater Composer.
If Julia Louis-Dreyfuss’ historian great-grand-daughter doesn’t write a book by this title by 2098, I will eat my hat. In a bizarre cultural moment, movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Bradley Cooper have both been cast as legendary Jewish composer Leonard Bernstein, in two separate biopics.
That’s right — the upper echelon of privileged, masculine America is vying to portray Mr. Leonard Bernstein.
Gyllenhaal, whose project was announced on May 1, will producer and star in “The American,” based on the Humphrey Burton biography “Leonard Bernstein,” adapted by Jewish writer Michael Mitnick. It is, apparently, “structured in five movements, like a symphony.” So, as Bernstein-character Anita of “West Side Story” would say — “smoke on your pipe and put that in!”
This week it was revealed that Cooper will direct and star in yet another Leonard Bernstein biopic — “Bernstein,” with Paramount. Cooper will co-produced with a couple of unknowns named Stephen Spielberg and Martin Scorcese, with a script by Jewish writer Josh Singer, who gave us “Spotlight” and “The Post.”
So who would be the better Bernstein?
For those who don’t know, here is sensual Mr. Cooper, a man whose gifts for acting and comedy belie the fact that he has probably self-administered hair bleach since his earliest days. Cooper is a rich woman’s Matthew McConaughey. He is like a human Whole Foods grocery store.
For those who don’t know, this coiffed-headed meat stick is the actor known as Jake Gyllenhaal, an artist with Hollywood credentials and a gentle soul. Gyllenhaal is a proud Jew who has called the rumors about him being gay “a huge compliment.” He has sang off-Broadway in a Stephen Sondheim musical (Bernstein’s collaborator on “West Side Story,”) and once again, is an actual Jewish man.
Winner: Jake Gyllenhaal.
Mr. Cooper, how dare you? We’ll talk if you haven’t shamed us with your Judy Garland movie.
Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny