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Leonard Bernstein’s children respond to criticism of Bradley Cooper’s prosthetic nose in ‘Maestro’

This image released by Netflix shows Carey Mulligan as Felicia Montealegre, left, and Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein in a scene from "Maestro."Jason McDonald/Associated Press

Bradley Cooper is being criticized for using a prosthetic nose to portray legendary conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein in a new biopic.

In the trailer for “Maestro,” Cooper appears as Bernstein, who was Jewish, wearing a large prosthetic nose alongside actress Carey Mulligan, who plays Bernstein’s wife, Felicia Montealegre, in the film.

Commenters online took issue with Cooper’s makeup, saying it plays on antisemitic stereotypes. After the trailer’s release Tuesday, viewers shared side-by-side images of the real Bernstein alongside Cooper in makeup for the film. In the images, Cooper’s prosthetic nose looks exaggeratedly large.

Bernstein, who was born in Lawrence in 1918 and grew up in Boston, was one of the most acclaimed musicians in American history, and was especially well-known for musicals like “West Side Story” and “On the Town,” as well as his scores for films and ballets.


Leonard Bernstein in rehearsal, circa 1958.HANDOUT PHOTO

In response to the “Maestro” controversy, Bernstein’s three children shared a lengthy statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, defending Cooper, saying they believe any alterations to the actor’s appearance were made solely with the intention of “amplifying” his resemblance to the celebrated artist.

Jamie, Alexander, and Nina Bernstein wrote that Cooper, who is not Jewish, involved the three of them “along every step of his amazing journey as he made his film about our father.”

They continued: “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. 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.”

In a statement to the Globe, the Anti-Defamation League seemed to shrug off the criticism: “Throughout history, Jews were often portrayed in antisemitic films and propaganda as evil caricatures with large, hooked noses. This film, which is a biopic on the legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein, is not that.”


While non-Jewish actors often portray Jews in films and TV, the “Maestro” controversy comes amid an alarming rise in antisemitic incidents and rhetoric and a growing sensitivity to culture and race in casting. Similar concerns circulated last year, when it was announced Oscar winner Helen Mirren would play former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir in Guy Nattiv’s “Golda,” premiering in US theaters on Aug. 25.

In an interview with the Jewish Chronicle, actor Maureen Lipman said she “disagreed” with the choice to cast Mirren in the role. “The Jewishness of the character is so integral,” she said. “I’m sure she will be marvelous, but it would never be allowed for Ben Kingsley to play Nelson Mandela. You just couldn’t even go there.”

“Maestro,” which Cooper directed and cowrote with Josh Singer, is slated to be released in theaters Nov. 22, and comes to Netflix Dec. 20, according to Variety.

Emma Glassman-Hughes can be reached at Follow her @eglassmanhughes.