Bradley Cooper Ignited Controversy With Prosthetic Nose for Role of Jewish Musician Leonard Bernstein

Bernstein's children defended the fake nose.

Kate Eastman, Bradley Cooper and Matt Bomer are seen filming "Maestro" in Central Park on June 06, 2022 in New York City.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In upcoming Netflix movie Maestro, Bradley Cooper portrays prominent 20th century musician, composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, opposite Carey Mulligan, who plays his wife Felicia Montealegre.

In order to play Bernstein over the decades, Cooper wears elaborate makeup throughout the film, which includes a large prosthetic nose—which struck onlookers as attempting to approximate a stereotypical "Jewish" nose. Cooper is not Jewish, while Bernstein was.

This move promptly stirred up controversy, with many people pointing out the harm that can be done when playing up to stereotypes in this way.

"This feels especially sinister because Bradley Cooper’s nose is already the same shape and size, if not slightly larger, than Leonard Bernstein’s was," tweeted one person.

Cooper's Wet Hot American Summer costar Michael Ian Black quipped, "As one of the few Jews who has made love to Bradley Cooper, it's fine."

Another person opined, "My larger contention re: the Bradley Cooper thing, really moreso than the ethnic questions (although it folds into this), is that movies do not have to force biopic actors to look 1-for-1 like their counterparts — if the actor is good, it won’t matter!"

Many Jewish writers have also published opinion pieces criticizing the prosthetic nose, with a Metro writer calling it a "kick in the teeth," and a Digital Spy writer calling it a potential "dog-whistle for, 'Look at his big Jewish nose!'"

See more

Following the backlash, however, Bernstein's three children released a statement defending the use of the prosthetic nose.

"Bradley Cooper included the three of us along every step of his amazing journey as he made his film about our father," Jamie, Alexander and Nina Bernstein wrote on Twitter.

"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. It breaks our hearts to see any misrepresentations or misunderstandings of his efforts.

"It happens to be true that Leonard Bernstein had a nice, big nose. 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.

"Any strident complaints around this issue strike us above all as disingenuous attempts to bring a successful person down a notch—a practice we observed all too often perpetrated on our own father.

"At all times during the making of this film, we could feel the profound respect and yes, the love that Bradley brought to his portrait of Leonard Bernstein and his wife, our mother Felicia."

Iris Goldsztajn
Morning Editor

Iris Goldsztajn is a London-based journalist, editor and author. She is the morning editor at Marie Claire, and her work has appeared in the likes of InStyle, Cosmopolitan, Bustle and Shape. Iris writes about everything from celebrity news and relationship advice to the pitfalls of diet culture and the joys of exercise. She has many opinions on Harry Styles, and can typically be found eating her body weight in cheap chocolate.