The debate over Bradley Cooper’s transformation into Leonard Bernstein for “Maestro” has been put to rest courtesy of Bernstein’s children Jamie, Alexander, and Nina Bernstein.
The trio issued a statement in response to the critiques that Cooper’s large nose onscreen could be viewed as antisemitic — or that it’s inappropriate for a non-Jewish actor to portray a Jewish subject. The Bernstein family said the “misrepresentations or misunderstandings” of Cooper’s appearance “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.”
The post continues, “It happens to be true that Leonard Bernstein had a nice, big nose. 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. We feel so fortunate to have had this experience with Bradley, and we can’t wait for the world to see his creation.”
“Maestro” is co-written, directed, and produced by Cooper, who stars as the legendary composer, conductor, and musician. Carey Mulligan portrays Bernstein’s wife Felicia Montealegre, the Costa Rica-born actress and activist he married in 1951. The film, which is being billed as decidedly not a biopic, charts the two-decade love story between them, as the couple stayed together until she died in 1978 even as Bernstein had affairs with men.
Matt Bomer, Maya Hawke, Sarah Silverman, Josh Hamilton, Scott Ellis, Gideon Glick, Sam Nivola, Alexa Swinton, and Miriam Shor round out the ensemble cast for the period piece. The Netflix film will make its North American debut as the Spotlight selection for 2023 NYFF.