Netflix steps in to save Spielberg’s Bernstein biopic

Netflix steps in to save Spielberg’s Bernstein biopic


norman lebrecht

January 21, 2020

It has just been announced that Netflix will co-finance Bradley Cooper’s Leonard Bernstein biopic, produced by Steven Spielberg, Todd Phillips, and Martin Scorsese.

Presumably no major studio thought it was viable.


  • Mock Mahler says:

    I shudder to imagine any script that these people could possibly come up withl

  • carld says:

    Not sure why you presume that. He essentially sold half the pic to Netflix, which is mega-acquisitive these days and probably paid a pretty penny.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      Indeed. A list of Emmy, Oscar, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and other nominees over the past few years shows that Netflix is very much a “major studio.” And it’s not a charitable organization: if it bought into the picture, it expects to make money on it.

  • jakerton says:

    Can’t wait 🙂

  • Jofongo says:

    Where does this leave Jake Gyllenhaal’s competing Bernstein film? Relegated to Amazon Prime I suppose.

    • Esther Cavett says:

      It leaves the Jake film nowhere because the Bernstein estate, jealously guarded by the offspring, won’t allow any of Lenny’s music to the played in it.

    • Carld says:

      Scrapped. As Playbill recently noted: “A separate biopic had also been in the works with Jake Gyllenhaal set to play Bernstein. That film, to be directed by Cary Fukunaga, was scrapped after the Bernstein estate boarded the Cooper project.”

  • The View from America says:

    Get the popcorn.

  • Hilary says:

    Presume Michael Doulglas will play LB.
    A good likeness.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    I’m sure they paid good money and perhaps outbid other contenders but it’s an odd fit for Spielberg since he fundamentally dislikes the Netflix model.

  • fflambeau says:

    Lenny’s life “had it all” especially as seen from Hollywood: plenty of sex (from all sides–sorry about the dreadful pun); creator of some of the greatest music of all time (turned into films even); flamboyant people; tension; being an international super star; groupie/protoge to famous composers and conductors; moneymaker; author and Harvard star; hobnober of the rich, the famous and the powerful even to the extent of being one of all of them; and sets possible in just about any city in the world.

    My prediction is that it will be a big hit if it is done correctly.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    Catch up guys, Netflix IS a major studio these days !

  • fflambeau says:

    The only question (in my mind this will be a blockbuster that makes you ask, who was Schindler?) is who can play Bernstein? He was a very good looking man, hugely talented, and could do everything he did (from teaching to conducting to diplomacy) at the highest levels. Plus, Bernstein has lots of crossover potential (again a bad pun) and enjoyed some pop music groups. It’s a great way to introduce people of all walks to classical music.

    I have no idea; suggestions please? Who could do that little jig (with a trademarkws skip to ectasy) he did on the podium? Who could scoop up a baton with two hands and wave it at the orchestra like it was Merlin’s sword? Who could alter tempi as Bernstein very successfully did (with, for instance, Elgar’s Enigma Variations) thus turning something very good into something sublime?

    A younger Robert DeNiro had the looks and the acting chops but he is much too old now. Jude Law perhaps (but he is probably too British). Maybe DeNiro could play the final years of Bernstein?

    Speculation is invited.

  • fflambeau says:

    I’ve got it.

    The film opens with a mature Bernstein (played by Robert DeNiro) who reminisces about his past. It’s the same successful technique used in The Titanic.

    Then, a younger actor (Alec Baldwin? Robert Downey, Jr.?) plays him in his younger days. This in fact might recquire a 3rd man for the really younger days (remember, Lenny was a star at the age of 25).

    By the way, here’s more info on this project with Scorcese already set as the director.

  • Westfan says:

    Josh O’ Conner as the young Bernstein?