Bradley Cooper Defended By Bernstein’s Children  – Deadline

August 16, 2023 - Culture

Bradley Cooper was hit pretty much immediately with controversy as he unveiled a first look at his forthcoming Netflix pic Maestro, when the internet encountered the large prosthetic nose he’d adopted to portray legendary composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. But Bernstein’s children have now come to his defense.

“Bradley Cooper included the three of us along every step of his amazing journey as he made his film about our father,” wrote Jamie, Alexander and Nina Bernstein in a statement posted to their late father’s X page. “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,” the trio continued, “to see any misrepresentations or misunderstandings of his efforts. 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.”

The Bernsteins further expressed their belief that their father would have been “fine” with the use of prosthetics, and that “any strident complaints around this issue” are perhaps “disingenuous attempts to bring a successful person down a notch — a practice we observed all too often perpetrated on our own father.”

Added the Bernsteins, “At all times during the making 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.”

Cooper’s use of prosthetics attracted controversy given its apparent embodiment of “Jewface” — the stereotypical, or otherwise offensive portrayal of Jewish people by a Gentile. Among other actors who have encountered scrutiny for their portrayal of Jewish figures are Helen Mirren and Kathryn Hahn, who with the indie Golda and series Comeback Girl, were set to play Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and comic Joan Rivers. (The latter project, in development at Showtime, never came to fruition.)

Among the most visible critics of this cultural phenomenon is comedian Sarah Silverman, who went public with her thoughts in 2021. “There’s this long tradition of non-Jews playing Jews, and not just playing people who happen to be Jewish but people whose Jewishness is their whole being…” said Silverman. “And in a time when the importance of representation is seen as so essential and so front and center, why does ours constantly get breached even today in the thick of it?”

A buzzy awards prospect set to world premiere in Venice — most likely, without Cooper in attendance — Netflix’s Maestro is the actor-filmmaker’s second directorial vehicle on the heels of his Oscar winner A Star Is Born. The film telling the complex love story of Leonard Bernstein and Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein (Carey Mulligan) is due to hit select theaters November 22nd, and will bow on Netflix December 20th.

View the Bernstein children’s statement below.

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