In this biographical film, Bradley portrays the life and career of Jewish-American composer Leonard Bernstein. It also centers around his relationship with his wife, Felicia Montealegre Bernstein, played by Carey Mulligan.
Bradley not only stars in the film, but he also co-wrote it, co-produced it, and directed it. This will be his first time in the director seat since his hit 2018 release of A Star Is Born.
Negative reviews of Bradley's involvement in the Netflix movie first began with the casting choices. The Hollywood Reporter film critic, Daniel Feinberg, pointed out that not only is Bradley a non-Jewish actor playing a historic Jewish figure...
...but Carey, a white English actor, is portraying his Costa Rican-Chilean wife.
"That's a lot of ethnic cosplay for one movie," Daniel tweeted.
My critiquing of Bradley Cooper converting to Latex Judaism caused me to fail to even notice Carey Mulligan as Leonard Bernstein's first wife, who was Chilean-Jewish.That's a LOT of ethnic cosplay for one movie.
— Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint) May 30, 2022
And as the trailer and more images from Maestro were released, people couldn't see past Bradley's decision to use a prosthetic nose to increase the size of his natural nose, saying that it plays into Jewish stereotypes.
Hi, also a Jewish person and a makeup artist. The problem with this is they chose to accentuate Bradley Cooper’s nose so he could play a Jewish man. The hooked/large nose is a stereotype that has been used for centuries to depict us as demons, goblins, witches, and snakes. https://t.co/DYNiU0SD27
— (((Robin Elise))) (@Burd_Elise) August 17, 2023
The prosthetic wasn’t needed. If you’re going to portray a Jewish man, the least you can do is not perpetuate stereotypes. Bradley Cooper’s natural nose is larger than Bernstein’s. Yet he used a prosthetic? Make it make sense. Just embody the character. Ugh https://t.co/fdh8ezyBK5
— 𝑀𝑒𝑔𝒶𝓃 (@meganNwalsh) August 16, 2023
Well, Bradley is finally speaking out. During a recent interview with CBS Mornings, he admitted he was initially against using a prosthetic nose.
“I thought, ‘Maybe we don’t need to do it,'” Bradley said. “But it’s all about balance, and, you know, my lips are nothing like Lenny’s, and my chin. And so we had that, and it just didn’t look right [without the prosthetic].”
Leonard's three children, who were involved in the making of the movie, also chimed in to support the film's use of prosthetics, adding that their late father would've agreed with the choice as well, because he did in-fact have a "nice, big nose."
“It happens to be true that Leonard Bernstein had a nice, big nose," they wrote in a joint statement on Twitter. "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.” They also noted that the critiques were “disingenuous attempts to bring a successful person down a notch — a practice we observed all too often perpetrated on our own father.”
Bradley spent six years preparing for this role, which included learning how to properly conduct an orchestra and mastering Leonard's mannerisms.
And despite the recent backlash, when Maestro first premiered at the 80th Venice International Film Festival it was met with predominantly positive reviews (currently holding an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes).
How will this controversy surrounding the film play out during awards season? Only time will tell. Maestro is expected to hit Netflix on Dec. 20.