Director and actor Bradley Cooper is facing criticism for wearing a prosthetic nose to portray the Jewish conductor Leonard Bernstein in the film “Maestro.”
In the Netflix trailer released on August 15th, the appearance of the character Leonard Bernstein (Bradley Cooper) with a tall and prominent nose caught attention. Some viewers have referred to the actor’s transformation as “Jewface,” a term that describes the inaccurate or stereotypical portrayal of Jewish people, dating back to the late 1800s.
Maestro from Netflix
Actress Tracy-Ann Oberman, known for her roles in “Friday Night Dinner” (2011) and “Toast of London” (2012), wrote on Instagram: “For me and many others, Cooper should wear a fake nose, similar to how white actors would wear makeup to play people of color.”
She also mentioned Cooper’s role in the play “The Elephant Man” in 2004, where the actor successfully portrayed a character with disabilities without using artificial parts. Therefore, Oberman believes that the actor could have portrayed Leonard Bernstein without the need for a prosthetic nose.
Back in late May, when the studio released the first look images of the film, Daniel Fienberg from The Hollywood Reporter described Cooper’s work as “ethnic drag.” Fienberg wrote on Twitter: “How many kg of latex does it take to turn Bradley Cooper into an old Jewish man?”
However, Bernstein’s children support the actor’s decision to use the prosthetic. They wrote on Twitter: “We are heartbroken to see people misunderstanding the artist’s efforts. Bradley used makeup to emphasize the resemblance between the character and reality.”
Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) was an American composer born into a Jewish immigrant family. He was acclaimed by The New York Times as one of the most talented and successful composers in the U.S. He conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and was renowned for works like “West Side Story,” “Candide,” and “On the Town.”
Bradley Cooper’s portrayal in the film “Maestro.” Image: Netflix
Previously, some artists have faced negative reactions for portraying Jewish characters. Last year, Helen Mirren faced controversy for her portrayal of former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in the film “Golda.” According to the Jewish Chronicle, actress Maureen Lipman disagreed with Mirren’s involvement in the film, stating that it lacked a “Jewish spirit.”
“Maestro” is Bradley Cooper’s second film as a director and is competing for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. The film revolves around the love between the American conductor and pianist Leonard Bernstein and Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan), from their first meeting at a party in 1946 to their 25-year marriage. The film also reveals Bernstein’s same-sex relationship.
The production team includes heavyweight figures in the film industry, such as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Todd Phillips. Harper’s Bazaar noted that Cooper is a top contender for the Best Actor Oscar next year.
Bradley Cooper, 48 years old, is a renowned American actor and film producer. He directed and acted in “A Star is Born” (2018) and has appeared in blockbusters like “The Hangover” (2009) and “American Sniper” (2014). With over 20 years in the industry, he has won awards including Grammy and BAFTA. In 2015, Time magazine listed him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.