Leonard Bernstein's Children Address Bradley Cooper's Prosthetic Nose for 'Maestro': "We're Perfectly Fine with That"

The composer's family write, "It breaks our hearts to see any misrepresentations or misunderstandings of his efforts"

Photo (right): Dutch National Archives [ANeFo]

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Aug 16, 2023

Bradley Cooper will portray Leonard Bernstein in the forthcoming biographical drama Maestro, and upon the trailer's arrival, faced criticism for wearing a prosthetic nose to play the late Jewish-American composer and conductor. Now, Bernstein's children have issued a statement defending the film's star and director against allegations of antisemitism.

Some viewers of Maestro's trailer felt the makeup choice of Cooper, who is not Jewish, hewed closely to antisemitic caricatures, which exaggerate the facial features of Jewish people.

As Jamie, Alexander, and Nina Bernstein write in their statement, found below, the "misrepresentations or misunderstandings" of Cooper's appearance in the film "breaks our hearts."

"Bradley Cooper included the three of us along every step of his amazing journey as he made his film about our father," the statement reads. "We were touched to the core to witness the depth of his commitment, his loving embrace of our father's music, and the sheer open-hearted joy he brought to his exploration. It breaks our hearts to see any misrepresentations or misunderstandings of his efforts."

"It happens to be true that Leonard Bernstein had a nice, big nose," the siblings continue. "Bradley chose to use makeup to amplify his resemblance, and we're perfectly fine with that. We're also certain that our dad would have been fine with it as well. Any strident complaints around this issue strike us above all as disingenuous attempts to bring a successful person down a notch — a practice we observed all too often perpetrated on our own father."

The Bernsteins concluded: "At all times during the makeup of this film, we could feel the profound respect and yes, the love that Bradley brought to his portrait of Leonard Bernstein and his wife, our mother [Felicia Montealegre]. We feel so fortunate to have had this experience with Bradley, and we can't wait for the world to see his creation."

Maestro centres on the relationship between Bernstein — the award-winning composer behind the music of West Side Story who is forever immortalized in R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" — and Montealegre (Carey Mulligan), the social activist and actress who held roles in both television and theatrical productions.

The film's cast also includes Maya Hawke, Sarah Silverman and Matt Bomer.

Maestro arrives in select theatres November 22, ahead of its December 20 release on Netflix.

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