Leonard Bernstein’s family have defended Bradley Cooper for using facial prosthetics to portray the late composer in biopic Maestro.
Cooper stars opposite Carey Mulligan in the upcoming film, which charts the relationship between Leonard Bernstein and his wife Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein.
After the trailer for Maestro was released on Tuesday (August 15), Cooper – who also co-writes and directs the project – faced some criticism for using a fake nose in his portrayal of Leonard, who was the son of Jewish-Ukraininan immigrants to the US.
In a post on Instagram, actor Tracy Ann-Oberman wrote: “If [Cooper] needs to wear a prosthetic nose then that is, to me and many others, the equivalent of Black-Face or Yellow-Face.”
She added: “If Bradley Cooper can’t do it through the power of acting alone then don’t cast him – get a Jewish actor. Bradley Cooper managed to play the Elephant Man without a single prosthetic then he should be able to manage to play a Jewish man without one.”
In response to the criticism on Wednesday (August 16), Bernstein’s children Jamie, Alexander and Nina released a statement to defend Cooper.
(1/6) From Jamie, Alexander, and Nina Bernstein:
Bradley Cooper included the three of us along every step of his amazing journey as he made his film about our father. pic.twitter.com/y9xZWDotJe
— Leonard Bernstein (@LennyBernstein) August 16, 2023
“It breaks our hearts to see any misrepresentations or misunderstandings of his efforts,” reads the statement. “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.”
They added: “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.”
Last month, the casting of non-Jewish actor Cillian Murphy in the lead role of Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, a Jewish nuclear physicist, faced scrutiny from David Baddiel.
In an article on the Jewish Chronicle, Baddiel wrote: “Yet again, a major movie has cast a non-Jew to play a famous Jew. This may be part of a deeper erasure of Jews – and antisemitism – going on under the surface of storytelling.”