Bradley Cooper Faces Criticism over ‘Jewface’ in New Film ‘Maestro’; Leonard Bernstein’s Family Releases Statement

By Francisco Salazar

Actor Bradley Cooper is receiving backlash over his use of a prosthetic nose in his new film “Maestro” in which he plays Leonard Bernstein.

Following the release of the trailer on Tuesday, August 16, 2023, social media users were quick to criticize the prosthetic nose and some labeled it “antisemitic.”

According to NBC News, X users said, “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 user wrote, “Just looked up a picture of the real Leonard Bernstein…. the big antisemitic prosthetic nose on Bradley Cooper was definitely not necessary…”

Other social media users labeled the nose “Jewface,” which is a term used to characterize stereotypical or inauthentic portrayals of Jewish people.

One of the film’s stars Sarah Silverman criticized the practice in 2021 and said, “There’s this long tradition of non-Jews playing Jews, and not just playing people who happen to be Jewish but people whose Jewishness is their whole being. One could argue, for instance, that a Gentile [a non-Jew] playing Joan Rivers correctly would be doing what is actually called ‘Jewface.’”

She added, “It’s defined as when a non-Jew portrays a Jew with the Jewishness front and center, often with makeup or changing of features, big fake nose, all the New York-y or Yiddish-y inflection. And in a time when the importance of representation is seen as so essential and so front and center, why does ours constantly get breached even today in the thick of it?”

Regarding the criticism, Leonard Bernstein’s family has released a statement noting, “Bradley Cooper 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. It breaks our hearts to see any misrepresentations or misunderstandings of his efforts. It happens to be true that Leonard Bernstein had a nice, big nose. Bradley chose to use makeup 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. 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.”

“Maestro” is set to make its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and is set to be released on Nov. 22 in theaters before hitting Netflix on Dec. 20, 2023.