Steven Spielberg told Bradley Cooper he ‘must’ direct Maestro after watching 20 minutes of A Star Is Born

Leonard Bernstein biopic was originally set to be directed by Martin Scorsese, then Steven Spielberg before finally falling to Bradley Cooper

Tom Murray
Thursday 31 August 2023 06:32 BST
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Maestro trailer

One of the producers behind Maestro, Netflix’s forthcoming biopic about the late American composer Leonard Bernstein, has divulged the way in which Bradley Cooper came to produce, direct, and star in the movie.

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 (played by Carey Mulligan).

Both Scorsese and Spielberg were, at various points since the rights were acquired in 2008, attached to direct the film before it fell to Cooper.

Speaking to Deadline ahead of Maestro’s Venice Film Festival premiere on 2 September, co-producer Kristie Macosko Krieger revealed that Spielberg passed directing duties to Cooper after watching his 2018 directorial debut, A Star Is Born.

“Steven was moving towards making West Side Story [the 2021 reboot starring Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler],” Krieger explained.

“So Steven was no longer going to direct and Bradley like right at that time, I feel like it was March or April of 2018, Bradley said ‘Steven if you’re not going to direct this can I throw my hat in the ring? I just finished A Star Is Born. I’m just putting the finishing touches on it, can you watch the movie, and if you like the movie I’d love to do the job.”

Krieger said she, Maestro co-writer Josh Singer and Spielberg were all invited over by Cooper for a screening of his musical drama, which he starred in opposite Lady Gaga.

Bradley Cooper in ‘Maestro’ (left) and Steven Spielberg

“Steven watched the movie and like 20 minutes into the film sort of creeped over and he said, ‘You are directing this movie, you must direct Maestro,’” she said.

The producer added that Spielberg continued to work closely with Cooper on the movie. “[Spielberg] was the sounding board for Bradley. He read every draft for the script,” she said.

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“He watched every cut of the film with Bradley. He was involved in all of it.”

Following the release of the film’s first trailer on 15 August, Cooper has courted controversy for wearing a prosthetic nose to portray Bernstein, who was Jewish.

Cooper, who is not of Jewish descent, was accused of reinforcing an antisemitic trope that Jewish people have big noses.

He has since been defended by the children of Bernstein and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). “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,” Bernstein’s children, Jamie, Alexander and Nina said in a joint statement.

“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.”

Actor and producer Jake Gyllenhaal, who is of Jewish heritage, previously spoke of his disappointment upon losing a bid for the film’s rights 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.

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