How Bradley Cooper convinced Spielberg to let him direct his Leonard Bernstein biopic

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HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 09: Director Steven Spielberg speaks onstage during the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Dan Buffa, Special For The Jewish Light

Imagine screening a movie for legendary Jewish director Steven Spielberg. You’re not showing mom and dad your movie; it’s just one of the best filmmakers of all time getting ready to watch your movie in your home.

The thing you spent countless hours working on, putting into action, and then ruminating over to the point of extreme stress. A movie that consumed three years of your life and shut off all other work.

The film that Bradley Cooper had planned for Spielberg was a screening of his new (at the time) movie, “A Star Is Born.”

The 2018 film, which won Cooper and Lady Gaga an Oscar for Best Original Song among other Academy Award nominations, was gut-wrenchingly beautiful. The kind of real, cold and honest take on show business, depression and mental illness mixing together for the most powerful drink an alcoholic could handle. Cooper starred in the film as Jackson Maine, a fading rock star who finds rebirth in Gaga’s Ally, a young musician who falls for Jack’s chaotic grace.

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In an interview this week on the “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” Cooper recounted this story and what it led to.

“I’ll never forget this. He came, we were sitting there and I’m showing him ‘A Star Is Born’ and he’s all the way on the other side on the front row, it’s a pretty huge screen,” Cooper told Stephen Colbert. “It’s the scene where Jackson calls Ally up on the stage, it’s the biggest scene in the movie. And right as she just is going on the stage he gets up and I’m like, ‘Oh he’s going to the bathroom now?’ and I was like, ‘That’s it, it’s over. If he’s going to the bathroom at this point in the movie… and he gets up, he walks over, and I’m putting my head down and the next thing I know I feel his face here (next to his) and he says, because it’s loud, ‘You’re f—ing directing ‘Maestro!’”

What Is “Maestro”

“Maestro” is Spielberg’s newest project. In interviews, he’s said that the famous Jewish composer Leonard Bernstein had been on his mind since he started his remake of Bernstein’s musical, “West Side Story.”

His plan to direct the biopic changed after Cooper came along and floored him with his directorial debut. Yes, “A Star Is Born” was the first foray behind the camera for the eight-time Oscar nominee, who many believe was wrongly left out of the Best Director category. This upcoming Bernstein film could change that.

“Maestro” is expected to stream on Netflix sometime later this year.