Van Cliburn, the famous piano prodigy who won fame by winning the first Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow in 1958, in the middle of the Cold War, is about to get a big screen treatment, according to Deadline Hollywood.
Van Cliburn’s feat was all the more remarkable, leaving aside the fact that he was 23 years old, due to the fact that the Tchaikovsky Competition was designed to highlight the superiority of the Soviet Union in culture, just as Sputnik had demonstrated it in technology. His victory was partly due to the unorthodox style that his piano teacher mother had taught him, which impressed the Soviet judges so much that they feared being sent to Siberia in they gave him an honest evaluation. It took the intervention of then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to allow Van Cliburn to get the award he had honestly earned.
For a time his triumph in Moscow and his musical skills gave Van Cliburn a status that very few classical musicians have ever achieved, that of a rock star. He toured extensively and started his own piano competition still held today at the Bass Performance Hall.
Even though Van Cliburn’s super star status has somewhat faded by the 1970s, he was still very big in classical music circles. He had stopped touring altogether by the late 1970s, but could still be counted upon for special performances. He played for every president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. He died of bone cancer in 2013.
Ansel Elgort, who most recently played in the cancer romantic drama “The Fault Our Stars” will play the title role. Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen, who worked on “The Fault in Our Stars,” will produce the Van Cliburn biop. Elgort, who started as a dancer before he moved to acting, brings another particular talent to the role. He can play the piano.