Bradley Cooper ripped for fake nose in Netflix Leonard Bernstein biopic: ‘Jewface’ – TheFantasyTimes

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By Jitin Gambhir

Bradley Cooper ripped for fake nose in Netflix Leonard Bernstein biopic: ‘Jewface’

Bradley Cooper has sparked a controversy surrounding his portrayal of Leonard Bernstein in the upcoming biopic “Maestro.” The film’s teaser trailer, released by Netflix, showcases Cooper wearing a prosthetic nose, reigniting a debate on the use of “Jewface” in Hollywood. “Maestro” is described as a “fearless love story” between Bernstein and his wife, Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein, portrayed by Carey Mulligan. Directed by Cooper, the film has gained attention for its depiction of the iconic composer. Despite winning the rights to the project over Jewish actor Jake Gyllenhaal, Cooper has faced criticism for his use of prosthetics. Jewish actress Tracy-Ann Oberman compared the portrayal to blackface or yellowface, arguing that Cooper should be able to play a Jewish character without relying on physical alterations. However, Jewish actor Joshua Malina defended Cooper, stating that the prosthetic nose was necessary to accurately portray Bernstein, who did have a distinct nose. The debate has overshadowed the film’s teaser and has sparked further discussion on the portrayal of Jewish characters in Hollywood. Meanwhile, Irish actor Cillian Murphy is also expected to be a strong contender in the upcoming Oscar race for his role as J. Robert Oppenheimer in “Oppenheimer.” Despite the controversy, “Maestro” is anticipated to be a critical success and is being positioned for Oscar recognition. The film will delve into Bernstein’s love story with his wife, spanning 30 years and exploring the complexities of their relationship amidst his numerous affairs with men. Cooper co-wrote the script with Oscar-winning writer Josh Singer and collaborated closely with Bernstein’s children. The film is set to premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September before hitting theaters in November and streaming on Netflix in December.

Bradley Cooper has reignited a “Jewface” debate — as the first teaser for his Leonard Bernstein biopic features him wearing a large prosthetic nose.

Netflix released the trailer for the film “Maestro” on Tuesday, describing the movie as a “fearless love story” between the brilliant composer, played by Cooper, and his wife, Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein, played by Carey Mulligan.

Cooper, 48, who is of Irish-Italian descent and was raised as a Catholic, directed the Netflix film.

It is produced by Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese after winning the rights to the project over Jewish actor Jake Gyllenhaal.

The Oscar nominee first came under fire when he was spotted wearing the fake nose on set last summer.

Bradley Cooper in "Maestro."
Cooper wore the prosthetic nose to play Bernstein for the Netflix movie which will be shown at the Venice Film Festival next month.

Leonard Bernstein
Bernstein, who died age 72 in October 1990, is the subject of the biopic, Cooper’s second feature as a director.
Getty Images

Now it is overshadowing the teaser.

Jewish actress Tracy-Ann Oberman, known for appearances in “Doctor Who”, told us: “If Bradley Cooper is able to play the Elephant Man without any prosthetics, he should be able to play a Jewish man without any need for prosthetics – especially a ‘Jewish’ nose.”

Oberman, who’s currently playing Shylock in the “Merchant of Venice” in the UK to great acclaim, added, “If he needs to wear a prosthetic nose then that is, to me and many others, the equivalent of Black-Face or Yellow-Face.”

Jewish “West Wing” star Joshua Malina, who recently appeared on Broadway in the Tony-winning play “Leopoldstadt” told TheFantasyTimes, “I do not take issue with Bradley Cooper being made to look like a real person.”


Bradley Cooper in "Maestro."
Cooper plays Bernstein through stages of his life in the movie, which Netflix is being seen as setting up for Oscar buzz.

Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan
Cooper shows off his large fake nose in the trailer for “Maestro”, in which he plays Leonard Bernstein, alongside Carey Mulligan as his wife Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein.

Malina, who railed against antisemitism, and has frequently called on Hollywood to cancel Mel Gibson, added: “Were an actor to don a big hooked nose to play Shylock, or a random, fictitious Jew, I think I’d have a problem with the propagation of a well-worn antisemitic stereotype. 

“Jews do not, in fact, have bigger noses than other people do; Leonard Bernstein did. That’s the end of the story for me.”

Irishman — and non-Jew — Cillian Murphy will likely be Cooper’s big threat in the upcoming Oscar race for his role as Jewish scientist and father of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, in “Oppenheimer.”

Leonard Bernstein, Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein
“Maestro” will tell the love story of Leonard Bernstein and his wife Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein.
Popperfoto via Getty Images

Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein
Cooper donned the prosthetic to play the American icon, who composed “West Side Story” among other iconic pieces of music.

However, Oberman said, “Cillian could play Oppenheimer because he looks like Oppenheimer and could get the power of the man’s story and Jewishness through the power of his acting, ditto Tom Conti as Einstein didn’t have to ‘wear’ a nose.”

TheFantasyTimes has reached out to Cooper and Spielberg for comment.

The nose drew ire from Twitter, as one tweeted, “Just looked up a picture of the real leonard bernstein…. the big antisemitic prosthetic nose on bradley cooper was definitely not necessary….”, and another wrote, “He’s using this bulls–t to win an Oscar.”

Tracy-Ann Oberman
British actress Tracy-Ann Oberman railed against the use of Cooper’s prosthetic nose – telling TheFantasyTimes it was akin to “black-face” or “yellow-face”.
Alan Chapman/Dave Benett/Getty Images

Gyllenhaal, 42, made it clear he was heartbroken at the loss of playing Bernstein, famed for composing “West Side Story”, back in September 2021, told Deadline he had harbored the dream for 20 years.

The Bernstein estate ultimately decided to assign exclusive rights to Cooper as Gyllenhaal said, “No one likes to admit this, but we got beat at our own game.

“Sticking your neck out, hoping to get to tell the stories you love and that have been in your heart for a very long time is something to be proud of,” he added.

Joshua Malina
“Scandal” and “West Wing” star Joshua Malina, however, said he had “no issues” with Cooper’s fake nose.
Nathan Congleton/NBC via Getty Images

Bradley Cooper
Cooper – seen on set in NYC – won the rights to the Bernstein project over Jewish actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who said it was his dream to play the conductor.
Christopher Peterson / SplashNews.com

 “And that story, that idea of playing one of the most preeminent Jewish artists in America and his struggle with his identity was in my heart for 20 some odd years, but sometimes those things don’t work out. In this business, if you’re lucky enough to stick it out for a while, we can easily forget that getting to tell the story isn’t the most important thing. I mean, this is our life.”

Cooper co-wrote the script with Oscar-winning “Spotlight” screenwriter Josh Singer, working closely with Bernstein’s children, Jamie, Alexander and Nina. 

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The film will span 30 years and focus on the complex story of Bernstein’s marriage to Chilean-born actress Felicia Montealegre amid his multitude of affairs with men.

At the time of their marriage, she wrote to him, “You are a homosexual and may never change—you don’t admit to the possibility of a double life, but if your peace of mind, your health, your whole nervous system depends on a certain sexual pattern, what can you do? I am willing to accept you as you are, without being a martyr or sacrificing myself on the L.B. altar.”

Leonard Bernstein, Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein, Jamie Bernstein, Alexander Bernstein
The Bernsteins had three children. They’re seen here in 1957 with sons Jamie (pointing) and Alexander.
Bettmann Archive

Leonard Bernstein
Bernstein was the man behind “West Side Story” and considered an American icon.
Getty Images

The beloved musician died aged 72 in his Upper West Side apartment just five days into his retirement in 1990.

The film is Cooper’s second directorial effort after “A Star is Born,” starring Cooper and Lady Gaga, which was nominated for the Academy Award for best picture in 2019 and won the best original song Oscar for “Shallow”.

“Maestro” will premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September. In November it will hit theaters and it will stream on Netflix from December 20.

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