Leonard Bernstein’s Family Addresses Bradley Cooper Nose Prosthetic In ‘Maestro’ Biopic

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HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 27: Bradley Cooper attends the World Premiere of Marvel Studios' "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" on April 27, 2023 in Hollywood, California.
(Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Bradley Cooper was accused of antisemitism for wearing a nose prosthetic to fulfill his role as the late acclaimed composer Leonard Bernstein. Cooper will star alongside Carey Mulligan, Matt Bomer, Jeremy Strong, Maya Hawke and more in the film.

The legendary music multi-hyphenate passed away in 1990, but his legacy in the worlds of cinema and theater is still felt. Bernstein famously composed the score for Broadway musical turned two-time blockbuster film “West Side Story.”

The late American-born Ukrainian-Jewish composer and conductor’s life is now soon to be memorialized in the upcoming “Maestro,” in which Bradley Cooper will star as the titular Bernstein. The musical icon led an extraordinary life, having grown up in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts and going on to attend Harvard University. He was a skilled pianist, composer, conductor, and more, working with acclaimed Broadway productions and filmmakers.

Throughout his numerous powerful career moves, Bernstein’s Jewish identity remained at the heart of his work and family life. Cooper is notably not Jewish. The Irish-Italian-American actor wore a nose prosthetic to step into the role of Bernstein, which can now be seen in the newly released “Maestro” trailer.


Cooper attracted criticism for the prosthetic nose due to the longstanding antisemitic stereotypes associated with the facial feature in Jewish people. During the Holocaust, Nazis would often measure the noses of Jewish people, with larger measurements being seen as “unfit” with the Aryan race that Adolf Hitler desired. This was typically a component in deciding who was sent to a deadly concentration camp.


It is this practice that led to widespread antisemitic caricatures of Jewish people with comically large noses, sparking a stereotype that continues to exist today. This history in mind, viewers were not happy that Cooper and the “Maestro” team boiled down a Jewish historical figure to a large nose. Additionally, some felt that Cooper’s natural nose would have fit the role properly anyway.


“Maestro” Defenders

On the other side of the spectrum, some felt that the prosthetic should not be criticized, as Cooper is an actor and could have been simply going to great lengths to get into character.


Some recount other successful films in which actors relied on prosthetics, including Robin Williams’ role in “Mrs. Doubtfire”.

Bernstein Family Response

The late Bernstein’s family responded to the claims that the prosthetic was antisemitic. The statement appeared to defend the production’s choice to include it in Bradley’s Bernstein transformation.

The statement came from Bernstein’s three children, who defended Cooper’s performance and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to work alongside the actor. Despite the family’s approval of the creative choice, some still feel that it was inappropriate.

“Maestro” comes to select theaters on November 22 and Netflix on December 20. Cooper is yet to comment on the controversy at this time.

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