In a dispute over his biopic of the late composer, actor Bradley Cooper has received support from Leonard Bernstein’s family.
This week saw the debut of the Maestro trailer, which Cooper both directs and appears in.
Cooper’s large nose drew some criticism, which some social media users claimed played into unpleasant stereotypes about Jews.
Cooper’s use of makeup to “amplify” his appearance, however, was “perfectly fine” with Bernstein’s family, according to them.
The lack of a Jewish performer in the role of the West Side Story composer has also drawn criticism.
“It breaks our hearts to see any misrepresentations or misunderstandings of [Cooper’s] efforts,” wrote Jamie, Alexander and Nina Bernstein in a statement posted online.
“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.”
They continued: “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.”
Bernstein’s family added that Cooper had “included the three of us along every step of his amazing journey as he made his film about our father”.
“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.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s film critic Daniel Feinberg suggested the movie had “ethnic cosplay” when the first pictures of Cooper surfaced last year, calling Cooper’s appearance “problematic”.
Jewish English actress Tracy-Ann Oberman compared Cooper’s apparent usage of a prosthetic nose to the use of blackface makeup in an Instagram post.
“If Bradley Cooper can’t do it through the power [of] acting alone then don’t cast him – get a Jewish actor,” she wrote.
Binyomin Gilbert, a spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism, said it was “astonishing that nobody thought twice about sticking a big nose on a non-Jewish actor playing a Jew”.
“The filmmakers here need to show that they understand why this is a problem,” he said. “A failure to do so would indicate that there is a double standard when it comes to the portrayal of Jews on screen.”
Prior to its December debut on Netflix, Maestro is scheduled to make its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival the following month.
According to rumors, it will look at the marriage between Felicia Montealegre, an actress and activist, and Leonard Bernstein, who passed away in 1990.
The songs for West Side Story that Bernstein is best remembered for writing include America and I Feel Pretty. Additionally, he co-wrote the Broadway musicals Candide, Wonderful Town, and On the Town.
He won Emmy, Grammy, and Tony awards for his work throughout his illustrious career, which also saw him rise to become one of the most renowned orchestra conductors of the late 20th century.
Similar criticism has surrounded the upcoming release of Golda, another movie.
The movie directed by Guy Nattiv, which will be shown in US theaters at the end of this month, will star Dame Helen Mirren as the former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.
Dame Helen’s casting “disagreed” with actress Maureen Lipman, who had told the Jewish Chronicle that the character’s Jewishness was “so integral.”