The family of Leonard Bernstein has defended Bradley Cooper’s controversial decision to wear a large prosthetic nose while playing the Jewish composer in a new film. Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper – who wrote, directed and stars in Maestro – has received criticism since a trailer for the upcoming Netflix film was released online this week. Critics said the decision to wear a fake nose plays up to Jewish stereotypes, and have dubbed it “Jewface,” in reference to the historic “Blackface” practice of non-Black performers darkening their faces for roles.
Others have questioned whether non-Jewish actors, like Cooper, should even play Jewish roles.
But the late Bernstein’s three children said they were “perfectly fine with” with Cooper’s decision “to use makeup to amplify his resemblance” to their father.
“It happens to be true that Leonard Bernstein had a nice, big nose,” wrote Jamie, Alexander and Nina Bernstein in a statement on social media.
“We’re also certain that our dad would have been fine with it as well,” they added.
Leonard Bernstein, the son of Jewish-Ukrainian immigrants, died in 1990 but remains one of the best-known composers and conductors of all time.
He served as music director of the New York Philharmonic, and wrote the Broadway musical West Side Story.
Cooper, a nine-time Oscar nominee, is best known for A Star Is Born and The Hangover films.
Maestro is a biographical romance about Bernstein and his wife Felicia Montealegre, who is played by Carey Mulligan.
Questions about whether actors, particularly white performers, should play real-life figures from ethnic minorities have long roiled Hollywood.
In recent years, the casting of non-Jewish actors to play Jewish roles has come to the fore.
For instance, Helen Mirren drew controversy for portraying former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in this year’s Golda. But the Bernstein family praised Cooper for “the depth of his commitment” to the project.
“It breaks our hearts to see any misrepresentations or misunderstandings of his efforts,” they wrote.
“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.”
Maestro is due to premiere at next month’s Venice Film Festival.
Cooper has already said he will not attend the premiere because of the ongoing Hollywood strike, which prevents actors from promoting their movies.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)