Leonard Bernstein’s family defended Bradley Cooper’s comically offensive fake nose

We’re still talking about Bradley Cooper’s prosthetic nose in Maestro. Cooper directed, produced and stars in the bio-pic of Leonard Bernstein, the legendary American conductor. Bernstein was Jewish and it appears as if Cooper decided to “signal” Bernstein’s Jewish ancestry by wearing this huge and terrible prosthetic nose. As many pointed out, the nose doesn’t make Cooper look more like Bernstein whatsoever, and it’s not like Bernstein “famously” had a huge nose or anything. In Bernstein’s day, no one was like “hey that guy is handsome, it’s a shame about his huge nose.” Cooper should have ditched the prosthetics, but I guess he didn’t listen to the people telling him that. Well, the outrage has grown throughout the week (Cooper and his nose are still trending on Twitter) and the Bernstein family decided to chime in:

After Netflix released the first trailer for Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro,” a biographical romance about Leonard Bernstein and his wife Felicia Montealegre, many viewers took issue with Cooper’s large prosthetic nose, deeming it the latest example of Hollywood’s stereotypical or inauthentic portrayal of Jewish people, known as “Jewface.”

But in a statement posted to Bernstein’s Twitter account, the late conductor’s children defended Cooper’s decision to “use makeup to amplify his resemblance” to their father. Cooper directed “Maestro” and stars as Bernstein opposite Carey Mulligan as Montealegre.

“Bradley Cooper included the three of us along every step of his amazing journey as he made his film about our father,” wrote Jamie, Alexander and Nina Bernstein. “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 continued, “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. We feel so fortunate to have had this experience with Bradley, and we can’t wait for the world to see his creation.”

[From Variety]

“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.” There are literally photos of their dad and his nose was not the comically large BEAK worn by Bradley Cooper! Someone pointed this out on Twitter too – it’s not like Bernstein was famous for his look/image, so Cooper could have played it without any prosthetics and most people wouldn’t have even had an image of the real Bernstein coming into the movie.

Photos courtesy of Backgrid, Jason McDonald/Netflix.

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46 Responses to “Leonard Bernstein’s family defended Bradley Cooper’s comically offensive fake nose”

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  1. K says:

    First that terrifying prosthetic baby and now this snout…what is it with this guy??

  2. Elizabeth Phillips says:

    I fully expect the same to happen in a couple of months with Helen Mirren’s makeup for Golda.

  3. girl_ninja says:

    If Mr. Bernsteins family is fine with it then I don’t have issue with it either.

    • ArtFossil says:

      I do. Or as @BeeseJoe says on Twitter: “The Bernstein estate – which I assume is profiting from the music rights – doesn’t get to dictate my feelings about a non-Jewish actor donning a large nose prosthetic to play a Jew.”

      • pottymouth pup says:

        ditto – as a Jew, I find this to be something more akin to blackface than just trying to make the actor look a bit more like the person they’re playing. This is closer to having a white actor play a mixed-race person and then using a much darker shade of make up to emphasize the “hey look, we’re acknowledging the physical differences”).

        The prosthetic they’re using is an unnecessary over embellishment of the nose to draw attention to the feature. It doesn’t look real so it’s not making Cooper look more like Bernstein. It’s amazing how “Jews control all media” but we can’t find a Jewish actor to play a Jew and then will resort to overemphasizing a nose to make it bigger (as opposed to making the actor just look a little more like the real person they’re playing)

      • Tanguerita says:

        …and Jake Gyllenhaal has been there all along and he really fought for this role and lost out to pushy desperate Cooper

      • Satish More says:

        Art Fossil

        🎯!!! The Bernstein family has literally millions of reasons to be “ok” with Cooper’s outrageously offensive prosthetic, and they CERTAINLY do not speak for everyone, Jewish or not. I’m not Jewish, and I am horrified by this, esp considering that “large nose” has been one of the biggest, most offensive stereotypes regarding Jews for decades. And Bernstein’s looks nothing like Cooper’s aberration. Between the Tuowys and now Cooper this week ALONE, I don’t have the words to explain how fed up I am by blatant, in your face bigotry

      • Another Anna says:

        Same same. Given the way Jews are often depicted in antisemitic media (for those who don’t know: a big nose is de rigeur) combined with the fact that Leonard Bernstein’s actual nose didn’t look anything like that, it feels intentional to communicate “this man is a Jew!!!!” Combined with how antisemitism is on the rise, there is just no good reason for Cooper to do this. And on top of that, Cooper is beyond goyish, which makes all of this extra insulting.

        And Carey Mulligan playing his wife? Don’t think I’ve forgotten about you, ma’am.

    • MrsBanjo says:

      I mean who cares about something that’s continuing a centuries’-old bigotry that actively harms people if the family of the one portrayed – a family that’s got a personal financial benefit from this project – doesn’t care, right?


  4. Ocho says:

    I believe Bradley Cooper had great passion and admiration for Bernstein and this project. And I believe he made a very bad call about the prosthetic. Both things can be true.

  5. Amy Bee says:

    I mean if the family support this, who are we to be offended but he didn’t need to put on a fake nose.

    • C says:

      No, he did not.
      They can feel however they want about it regarding Bernstein himself but as a Jew I still have a problem with it because of the issues tying it to the larger picture.

    • MrsBanjo says:

      No. The family is trying to save face. We (especially those of us who are Jewish) can still be fucking pissed at this garbage. It’s old antisemitism dating back to Shylock and Shakespeare. And it’s easy to use his family’s statement as an excuse to ignore this and continue to act like this type of antisemitism is no big deal.

      Using this argument is bullshit.

    • Hannah Young says:

      As someone who’s worked with wives and children of uber famous and/or important musicians in a very American and now mostly niche music, I can tell you that for every member of the family who is trying to protect and promote their loved one’s art, there are dozens who are just trying to financially benefit. If they aren’t close enough to the source to see any real money, then their ability to rub elbows with other famous people are enough. I cannot tell you the disgust I feel for most of the family members, talking about what their mother or father would have wanted. They don’t know and they don’t care.

      They need the movie to do well in order to benefit, so they’ll go with this non-sense.

    • Satish More says:

      Amy Bee

      Really??? Besides the fact that it’s one of the most offensive stereotypes regarding Jewish people, it doesn’t even LOOK like Bernstein’s!
      If Bernstein did in fact have that nose, that would be one thing. But he didnt!!

  6. JW says:

    Bernstein’s family has an unquestionable personal interest in the success of a movie that will lionize the individual, their father. Their selfishness in allowing that motive to handwave anti-Semitic stereotyping in the movie makes my disgust with everyone involved with this film even greater.

  7. Eurydice says:

    It’s interesting to see how standards for what is big and small have changed. My mother’s nose is like Sophia Loren’s and she (mother) was always embarrassed to have a big nose with a slight bump. Later, it was considered interesting and exotic, and even later it became just a nose. So, I don’t doubt that Bernstein may have grown up with a “nice, big nose” in comparison to the “standard” button nose of the time – but our modern eyes see it as just a nose.

    • NJGR says:

      @eurydice – That’s a good point. (My mom always loved the fact that I have a smallish nose that turns up a bit at the end, which isn’t considered especially attractive now.)

      • Eurydice says:

        Oh, that’s funny. I have a short, straight nose, but it was definitely considered Mediterranean. All the “pretty” girls in my class had turned up noses.

  8. Lightpurple says:

    Not going to comment on the nose; more concerned about the attempt at the accent.

  9. robinathefirst says:

    Gee, I wonder how much of a financial incentive they have to be totally fine with whatever shenanigans BCoops felt like pulling.

  10. C says:

    I am sorry but the shots of him in color with the white hair show him looking like an Anthony Bourdain caricature more than anything to me.

  11. Bee (not THAT Bee) says:

    I think it’s tacky. And you can see the line at the top. And, yes, it is Jewface.

    Isn’t he Irina’s ex? She’s boinking Brady (not a catch but whatever, it’s her hot girl summer) and he’s getting dragged on twitter. LOL.

  12. MY3CENTS says:

    I guess he’s hoping for the Kidman effect?

  13. Caroline says:

    Noses grow as you get older. The picture used to compare noses shows a very young Bernstein. Look at a picture of him when he is older. The nose is much bigger.

    • Fancyhat says:

      The nose is offensive but I didn’t realize until this post that the movie was about Leonard Bernstein not Leonard Cohen. I have no idea why I thought this movie was about Cohen. I blame it on insomnia.

    • Brassy Rebel says:

      Yes, Caroline, noses grow with age but not that much.

      Well, Fancyhat, they’re both Leonards so there’s that! I would totally watch a Leonard Cohen biopic as long as they didn’t screw around with his nose.

  14. amadabasura says:

    Bernstein had brown eyes so unless Cooper is wearing brown contacts or his eye color is being changed after filming, then the nose wasn’t necessary. I will say the nose makes BCoop look more like a human and less like the tweaked elf he resembles after his bad plastic surgery.

  15. LIONE says:

    Yeah, it’s not going to save this trainwreck movie.
    It so clearly sucks

  16. C says:

    Also it’s cool if the family feels this way but it’s super weird how their statement goes so hard like “OMG THE HATERS ARE TRYING TO TAKE BCOOP DOWN!!” ..Ok. Lol.

    • Brassy Rebel says:

      Some have pointed out they have a financial interest in the picture. Apparently, that beats everything. Even anti-Semitic stereotypes.

  17. SM says:

    They should have beefed up his eyebrows, not his nose.

  18. SarahCS says:

    But, we have eyes? The side by side pictures of BCoop with and without the prosthetic are very clear, he did not need it to resemble Bernstein more closely. It also looks comically false.

    • Eurydice says:

      That’s the real problem for me. I wouldn’t be able to sit through the movie without being constantly annoyed by the big, fake nose. Like a high school production of The Merchant of Venice.

    • Jais says:

      He looks more like Bernstein without the nose. I can’t get over this. He added a nose that made him look less like the person he was playing!!!

    • Becks1 says:

      This is what has me scratching my head about this. The prosthetic nose just looks SO BAD. It’s so obviously a prosthetic nose!

      And yes, agree with @Jais, I think he looked more like Bernstein without the prosthetic nose. So its a weird, bad choice that also is very problematic for reasons discussed on here.

  19. jferber says:

    As a Jew I am deeply offended by this. He should surely NOT get an Oscar for this anti-Semitic bullshit.

  20. phlyfiremama says:

    Cyrano de Bernstein, what?!

  21. Ellen says:

    I agree that the prosthetic nose is horribly offensive in the ways the blogger and commenters described. Large noses portrayed in Nazi propaganda were used to facilitate the war and genocide against Jews. But a smaller issue is, why do we openly heap contempt on big noses? It is this very prejudice that the Nazis exploited. I have a big nose, and it hurts to read some of the adjectives used here to describe a prosthetic nose that’s actually smaller than my own! I’ve been able to live a happy life, but it would have been easier if people didn’t heap insults on big noses. So, I want to give a shout-out to anyone else reading this, with a real-life big nose of their own.