Leonard Bernstein’s Family Defends Bradley Cooper’s ‘Maestro’ Nose

There may be another nose-related controversy at the Oscars this year. Netflix’s Maestro, starring Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein, has inspired the internet’s ire due to Cooper’s choice to wear a prosthetic nose in the biopic to portray the legendary musician. (Cooper also cowrote and directed the movie.) Bernstein’s estate has released a statement in support of Cooper, saying they are “perfectly fine” with Cooper’s use of a prosthetic. 

The backlash began shortly after the first trailer for Maestro dropped on Tuesday. The clip finally revealed Cooper’s take on Leonard Bernstein, the composer, music educator, and conductor who composed West Side Story. Internet detractors called Cooper’s use of a prosthetic nose to portray Bernstein, who was Jewish, “antisemitic.” “Bradley Cooper should not be playing Leonard Bernstein,” reads one tweet. “He should not be wearing a prosthetic nose. This is Jew-face & is as serous & offensive as Black-face or the racializing of other minorities. Stop erasing Jews. Stop erasing Jew-hate. Jews do count.”

By Wednesday, Bernstein’s three children—Jamie Bernstein, Alexander Bernstein, and Nina Bernstein—had released a joint statement standing behind Cooper. “Bradley Cooper included the three of us along every step of his amazing journey as he made this film about our father,” began the statement. “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.”

The statement went on to directly address Cooper’s use of a prosthetic. “It happens to be true that Leonard Bernstein had a nice, big nose,” the statement continues. “Bradley chose to use makeup to amplify his resemblance, and we’re perfectly fine with that. We’re also certain that our dad would be 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.”

Cooper directs and stars in Maestro opposite Carey Mulligan, who portrays his wife, Felicia Montealegre Bernstein. The film has already scored Oscar buzz for both Cooper and Mulligan, who portray the couple over the course of their tumultuous 25-year marriage. It was recently announced that the film will premiere at New York Film Festival at David Geffen Hall alongside a performance from Bernstein’s beloved New York Philharmonic on October 2.

Maestro is a bravura achievement for its director and star, a work of conviction and imagination that does justice to the brilliance and complexity of its subject,” said Dennis Lim, artistic director of the New York Film Festival. “We are honored to have Bradley Cooper’s enthralling film as a gala presentation at this year’s festival, and doubly so to be showing it in a venue that is synonymous with Leonard Bernstein.”

The Bernsteins ended their statement by noting that Cooper had a “profound respect” for both of their parents. “We feel fortunate to have had this experience with Bradley, and we can’t wait for the world to see his creation.”

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