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May 19, 2024

Bradley Cooper Addresses Backlash Over Prosthetic Nose in ‘Maestro’

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Nov 23, 2023

Bradley Cooper has responded to the criticism surrounding his use of a prosthetic nose to portray composer Leonard Bernstein in the new film "Maestro". The prosthetic became a point of controversy, with some accusing Cooper of using insensitive stereotypes about Jewish appearances. However, Cooper and the film’s creative team have defended the creative choice as necessary for historical accuracy.

Background on the Film and Prosthetic Controversy

"Maestro" is a Netflix biopic directed by Cooper, chronicling the life of legendary composer Leonard Bernstein. To convincingly portray the older Bernstein, Cooper worked extensively with makeup artist Kazu Hiro to transform his appearance. This included a prosthetic nose and aging makeup on Cooper’s face and neck.

When images were released showing Cooper’s transformation, it immediately sparked backlash on social media. Some critics accused Cooper and the filmmakers of perpetrating harmful stereotypes about Jewish noses. Others called it an inappropriate case of "Jewface".

The controversy deepened when Bernstein’s children Jamie and Alexander publicly defended Cooper’s portrayal, saying the nose was essential to depict their father truthfully. But demands continued for Cooper to address the concerns directly.

Bradley Cooper’s Response

Speaking on the Smartless podcast this week, Cooper offered his first lengthy comments on the controversy:

"Every single thing I did in terms of the prosthetics was from [images of] Lenny himself. His nose, his teeth – all that stuff is him. So it wasn’t about, ‘Let’s think up big Jewish things’. It was specifically to Leonard."

Cooper says he was initially "baffled" by the criticism, but soon realized why the portrayal bothered people, given Hollywood’s long history of Jewish stereotypes.

"I started to think, ‘Oh I see. Representation matters so much. If you have a group that’s marginalized and they’ve been actively marginalized, obviously that matters and needs to be fixed.’"

The actor says when Bernstein’s children made their public statement supporting the nose, he broke down in tears of gratitude:

"It just put the flag down on all this chatter. It shut everybody up, because everything I did was in service to make Jamie and Alex happy as the representatives of Lenny."

Makeup Artist Kazu Hiro Defends the Transformative Process

The mastermind behind Cooper’s physical transformation was legendary makeup artist Kazu Hiro, best known for his Oscar-winning work on films like ‘Bombshell’ and ‘Darkest Hour’.

In a detailed breakdown for Variety, Hiro revealed how meticulously he studied images of Bernstein to replicate his distinct features in silicone prosthetics:

“For three or four months prior to shooting ‘Maestro’ I was looking at lots and lots of photographs of Bernstein throughout his life and I made clay sculptures of what his nose looked like, what his chin looked like, exactly what his teeth looked like. And from the sculptures I made molds and from the molds we created prosthetic pieces for Brad to wear."

Hiro emphasizes that every aesthetic choice came directly from Bernstein himself, not generalized ideas of what a Jewish nose should look:

"It was very specifically Lenny. We didn’t say ‘Let’s make him more Jewish or less Jewish’ — it was literally looking at photographs saying this is who this character is we have to transport it.”

The following table summarizes some of the key prosthetic pieces Hiro crafted for Cooper’s transformation:

Prosthetic Piece Description
Nose Latex prosthetic extending from nostril to bridge, matching Bernstein’s bumpy shape
Teeth Full upper teeth prosthetic carefully sculpted from moldings
Neck Latex prosthetic to recreate Bernstein’s loose hanging neck skin
Head Custom bald skull cap with carefully crafted hairline and wisps of hair
Hands Silicone prosthetics for prominent veins and liver spots

This combination of customized facial features, aging makeup, and body appliances enabled Cooper’s striking resemblance to Bernstein himself at various life stages.

What Impact Will This Have on the Film?

Now that Bradley Cooper has directly addressed the controversy, it appears to be smoothing over criticism leading up to the film’s wider release on Netflix December 30th.

Early critical reviews have been strong, with particular praise for Cooper’s committed performance as the dynamic and flawed maestro. There is also excitement over Cooper’s impressive directorial vision bringing Bernstein’s epic life to screen.

Netflix will likely heavily market "Maestro" as a major Oscar contender, especially given Cooper’s remarkable physical transformation. The convincing age progression could earn Kazu Hiro his third Academy Award for makeup.

For Cooper, his extensive comments on the Smartless podcast seem to have satisfied those offended by his initial appearance in the Bernstein role. It remains to be seen whether the film itself, as an honest portrayal of the legendary composer’s Jewish identity and cultural impact, will inspire applause instead of outrage when audiences finally view the finished work.

Conclusion

The controversy over Bradley Cooper’s prosthetic nose nearly overshadowed "Maestro" before audiences had a chance to actually see the film and judge for themselves.

But Cooper’s earnest explanations and Bernstein’s family support puts the focus back on honoring the maestro’s legacy with authenticity and care. The film aims to capture both his genius and humanity over a turbulent life full of dizzying heights and private pains.

Rather than criticism of stereotypes, perhaps the discussion can shift to appreciation for this ambitious portrayal of a pivotal 20th century artist. If Cooper and Hiro’s meticulous character study enables viewers to better understand Leonard Bernstein the man, then their mission will be accomplished.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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