10 Things to Know About Composer Leonard Bernstein, Subject of Bradley Cooper’s New Film ‘Maestro’


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After making his directorial debut with a remake of A Star Is Born, Bradley Cooper this week releases his second film as a director, Maestro, about legendary composer, conductor, author and pianist Leonard Bernstein.

The film is scheduled for a limited theatrical release on Wednesday (Nov. 22), before streaming on Netflix on Dec. 20.

Maestro isn’t a standard music biopic. It isn’t primarily concerned with the peaks and valleys of Bernstein’s career. Instead, it focuses on Bernstein’s relationship with his wife, Felicia Montealegre, who is played by Carey Mulligan, a two-time Oscar nominee for An Education and Promising Young Woman. Cooper plays Bernstein.

Their marriage was complicated by the fact that Bernstein was bisexual. An early scene has Bernstein, ever musical, playing bongos on Matt Bomer’s bottom.

In addition to directing and acting in the film, Cooper co-wrote it with Josh Singer (who won an Oscar for best original screenplay for Spotlight), and co-produced it with Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Fred Berner, Amy Durning and Kristie Macosko Krieger.

Cooper served in all those same capacities on A Star Is Born, and wound up with four Oscar nominations (among eight that the film received).

Maestro makes generous use of Bernstein’s music, which includes the Broadway musicals On the Town, Wonderful Town, Candide and West Side Story. Among the most famous songs that he co-wrote: “New York, New York” (which continues “a helluva town/ The Bronx is up, but the Battery’s down”) from On the Town; and many classic songs from West Side Story, including “Somewhere,” “Something’s Coming,” “Maria,” “Tonight,” “I Feel Pretty” and “America.”

Bernstein died of a heart attack brought on by mesothelioma in 1990 at age 72. Here are 10 things you should know about this towering figure of American music.

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