Hollywood actor Jake Gyllenhaal has been signed on to play legendary conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein in The American. The movie will be directed by Cary Fukunaga, according to an American outlet. The project will be based on Humphrey Burton’s biography on Bernstein and has been adapted for the screenplay by Michael Mitnick.

The film will follow the exponential rise of the composer after conducting the New York Philharmonic when he was 25, all the while struggling with fame. His career boasts of penning the score for On the Waterfront and the grand musical West Side Story.

Talking about playing the part of a lifetime, Gyllenhaal said it is “an incredible honour” for him to tell Bernstein’s story with his friend, director Fukunaga.

“Like many people, Leonard Bernstein found his way into my life and heart through West Side Story when I was a kid. But as I got older and started to learn about the scope of his work, I began to understand the extent of his unparalleled contribution and the debt of gratitude modern American culture owes him. As a man, Bernstein was a fascinating figure – full of genius and contradiction…” he said in a statement.

Fukunaga added the team will try to capture both sides to the music legend – of a person and an artiste.

“Bernstein’s artistic passions changed the way generations understood and appreciated music. It’s been wonderful collaborating with Michael and Jake on Bernstein’s story as we endeavour to capture both the iconic person and artiste. Jake is the perfect partner to help bring this story to life and to play this legend,” he said.

Gyllenhaal will also produce through his Nine Stories banner, along with producing partner Riva Marker. Aaron L Gilbert will produce for Bron Studios, which is also backing the film. Fukunaga’s Parliament of Owls and Martha Parker will also come on board as producer.