The forthcoming biographical film "Maestro," co-written, produced, and directed by Bradley Cooper, is stirring up a storm of criticism due to his use of a prosthetic nose in his portrayal of renowned composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein.
The movie, which delves into Bernstein's life and particularly his 25-year marriage to Felicia Montealegre, has taken center stage for reasons beyond its cinematic narrative. Netflix recently released the trailer for "Maestro," and eagle-eyed viewers were quick to spot Bradley Cooper's altered appearance, particularly the prosthetic nose he sports to embody Bernstein.
A social media uproar ensued, with some expressing concerns that the prosthetic nose perpetuated antisemitic stereotypes. On platforms like X (formerly known as Twitter), users voiced their discontent, questioning the need for such a portrayal and the authenticity of Cooper's approach.
Critics Question Cooper's Nose Choice
One commentator pointed out, "Bradley Cooper is putting himself in an insanely large prosthetic nose to play a Jewish man in Maestro and we’re all just supposed to act like that’s cool and normal?" Another post pondered, "Just looked up a picture of the real Leonard Bernstein….
the big antisemitic prosthetic nose on Bradley Cooper was definitely not necessary…" The term "Jewface" was invoked by several social media users to describe what they saw as a problematic depiction. The term refers to portrayals that perpetuate stereotypical or inauthentic representations of Jewish individuals.
Critics also questioned why Cooper, who is not publicly known to be Jewish, was cast to play a prominent Jewish figure in the first place, while Jewish actors may not have been given the same opportunity. These concerns resurfaced discussions surrounding diversity and representation in Hollywood.
Comedian Sarah Silverman, in 2021, highlighted the film industry's tendency to cast non-Jewish actors in Jewish roles, reinforcing harmful stereotypes. The ongoing debate on the use of prosthetics and makeup to transform appearances and identities has further heightened sensitivities.
The controversy surrounding Cooper's prosthetic nose portrayal of Bernstein adds another layer given the surge in antisemitic incidents in the U.S., as reported by the Anti-Defamation League. The organization documented a record number of incidents in 2022, emphasizing the need for responsible and accurate representations in the media.
As "Maestro" prepares for its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September and subsequent release on Netflix in December, the discussions sparked by the film's portrayal of Bernstein's identity and the use of prosthetics resonate beyond the cinematic realm.
They underscore the importance of thoughtful and respectful representation, especially in an era where diversity and inclusivity are paramount.