A true West Side Story is coming to the neighborhood. Leonard Bernstein’s biographical film Maestro — starring, directed, and co-written by Hollywood leading man and frequent Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper — will be filming today in Hell’s Kitchen.
Setting up shop on W44th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue (near Marseille) and on W45th Street, the biopic depicts the life and times of the legendary composer and conductor known for his symphonies, film scores, and Broadway musicals — including On the Town, Candide, Wonderful Town, and of course, West Side Story. Filming notices have been using the code name, “Rybernia”, a sly reference to a secret language that Bernstein created as a child.
Quite a few bold-faced names are attached to the project, including producers Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Todd Phillips as well as Oscar-nominated Carey Mulligan (playing Bernstein’s wife Felicia), Matt Bomer (playing Bernstein’s love interest), and comedian Sarah Silverman (slated to portray Bernstein’s sister).
Filming began locally earlier this week, when Cooper, Bomer, and others were spotted shooting scenes on the Upper West Side near W68th Street and Central Park West. Previously circulated production shots of Cooper have recently caused a stir, as many noted the use of a significant prosthetic nose used to make him look more like Bernstein. Critics have maintained that there are troubling antisemitic implications behind the decision and that Cooper, who is not Jewish, had been styled to “appear more Jewish”. “If you’re tempted to enlarge someone’s nose to make them look more Jewish … just don’t,” tweeted Baruch Performing Arts Center Interim Director Howard Sherman.
The film details the Kennedy Center honoree’s rise to stardom in the arts while acknowledging the complicated love story between Leonard and Felicia. Though the two were married and had three children, it was said that Bernstein, who was gay, wed the actress to dispel rumors surrounding his private life and to secure a conductor’s appointment in the conservative classical music world of the 1950s. Though he left Felicia in 1976 to live openly as a gay man, when Felicia became ill with lung cancer Bernstein moved back in and cared for her until her death in 1978.
It appears that casting is still accepting submissions for background actors to appear in a shoot later this month, should you want to throw your hat in the ring to appear as a 1970s-era audience member. Exact filming locations have yet to be determined, though the posting states that production will be in New York and New Jersey. For now, be sure to keep an eye out in Hell’s Kitchen today for signs of the Silver Linings Playbook star!