Bugs Bunny deserves all the credit for Bradley Cooper playing Leonard Bernstein

Bugs Bunny deserves all the credit for Bradley Cooper playing Leonard Bernstein

The 'Maestro' star and director's obsession with conducting has surprising origins.

Elmer Fudd's crusade against Bugs Bunny helped orchestrate Bradley Cooper's fascination with legendary composer Leonard Bernstein.

The Oscar-nominated actor and filmmaker, who plays the famed American conductor in Maestro, told CBS Mornings that his longstanding interest in Bernstein traces back to Saturday morning cartoons. "It started with Tom and Jerry and Bugs Bunny as a kid, watching them conduct," Cooper said. "And asking Santa Claus for a baton when I was about 8 or so, and then, just being obsessed with conducting."

Along with starring, Cooper also directed the romance musical, which centers on the relationship between Bernstein and his future wife Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan), the Costa Rican-Chilean actress. It marks Cooper's directorial follow-up to 2018's acclaimed A Star is Born remake starring Lady Gaga. Cooper prepared for the role of Bernstein for six years, adding that the challenge and thrill of conducting was more daunting than singing at the Oscars.

Netflix Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein in 'Maestro'
Netflix Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein in 'Maestro'

"All the orchestra, this is what they've done their entire life. And I'm sitting there talking like Leonard Bernstein, directing them. And they're going, like, 'Who is this guy?' You know, and, 'He's gonna conduct us?'" Cooper recalled. "And by the way, I messed it up the whole first day."

Bernstein's family was involved in the film's production, with the composer's children praising Cooper and coming to his defense after use of facial prosthetics stirred criticism. "We were touched to the core to witness the depth of his commitment, his loving embrace of our father's music, and the sheer open-hearted joy he brought to his exploration," they said of Cooper. "It breaks our hearts to see any misrepresentations or misunderstandings of his efforts."

The siblings could "feel the profound respect and yes, the love that Bradley brought to this portrait of Leonard Bernstein and his wife," they said. "We feel so fortunate to have had this experience with Bradley, and we can't wait for the world to see his creation."

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