Bradley Cooper defended against ‘Jewface’ criticism by Anti-Defamation League

Actor sparked backlash for wearing a prosthetic nose to portray Jewish composer Leonard Bernstein in forthcoming biopic ‘Maestro’

Inga Parkel
Tuesday 22 August 2023 08:35 BST
Maestro trailer

Bradley Cooper’s use of a prosthetic nose for his portrayal of renowned Jewish composer Leonard Bernstein in the forthcoming biopic Maestro has been deemed acceptable by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Following the film’s first trailer release on 15 August, the 48-year-old actor, who is not of Jewish descent, caused a stir online as he was accused of “fuelling antisemitic stereotypes”.

However, the ADL, the notable Jewish organisation fighting against all forms of antisemitism and bias, has come out in defence of Cooper.

“Throughout history, Jews were often portrayed in antisemitic films and propaganda as evil caricatures with large, hooked noses,” the ADL said in a statement to Variety. “This film, which is a biopic on the legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein, is not that.”

The organisation’s message of support comes shortly after Bernstein’s three children, Jamie, Alexander and Nina, also released a joint statement defending the Silver Linings Playbook actor last week.

“Bradley Cooper included the three of us along every step of his amazing journey as he made his film about our father,” they began.

“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.

Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein

“It breaks our hearts to see any misrepresentations or misunderstandings of his efforts,” they continued. “It happens to be true that Leonard Bernstein had a nice, big nose. Bradley chose to use make-up 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.”

Apple TV+ logo

Watch Apple TV+ free for 7 days

New subscribers only. £8.99/mo. after free trial. Plan auto-renews until cancelled

Try for free
Apple TV+ logo

Watch Apple TV+ free for 7 days

New subscribers only. £8.99/mo. after free trial. Plan auto-renews until cancelled

Try for free

They added: “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.”

Co-produced by Hollywood heavyweights Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, Maestro is described as a “love letter to life and art” and depicts the decades-long relationship between Bernstein and his wife, Felicia Montealegre Bernstein (Carey Mulligan).

In the teaser, Cooper looks aged as he portrays the composer at different moments of his life. Bernstein died aged 72 in 1990.

Former EastEnders actor Tracy-Ann Oberman, who is from a Jewish background, compared Cooper appearing to have “a prosthetic nose” as similar to the use of blackface makeup.

She told her Instagram followers: “Cillian (Murphy) could play Oppenheimer because he looks like Oppenheimer and could get the power of the man’s story and Jewishness through the power of his acting, ditto Tom Conti as Einstein didn’t have to ‘wear’ a nose.

“If Bradley Cooper can’t do it through the power or acting alone then don’t cast him – get a Jewish actor.”

Cooper’s representatives did not respond to The Independent’s request for comment.

Actor and producer Jake Gyllenhaal, who is of Jewish heritage, previously spoke of his disappointment upon losing a bid for the rights to a Bernstein film to Cooper, admitting he had been yearning to play “one of the most preeminent Jewish artists in America” for almost two decades.

Maestro will be in select UK cinemas on 24 November and on Netflix from 20 December.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in