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Bradley Cooper Explains Why He Wore a Prosthetic Nose to Play Leonard Bernstein in ‘Maestro’

Bradley Cooper defended and explained the decision to wear a prosthetic nose while portraying Leonard Bernstein in his new film about the composer and conductor, Maestro.

The critiques about the prosthetic nose quickly followed the release of the Maestro trailer in August, with some arguing the prosthetic actually detracted from Cooper’s resemblance to Bernstein, while others argued it bordered on antisemitic caricature (Cooper is not Jewish, while Bernstein was). When asked about the backlash on CBS Mornings, Cooper said he wasn’t caught off by it, adding, “I’ve done this whole project out of love, and it’s so clear to me where I come from.”

As it turned out, Cooper almost didn’t use a prosthetic at all. Noting that his “nose is very similar to Lenny’s, actually,” he said, “I thought, maybe we don’t need to do it because we can take down time of prep. But it’s all about balance. And my lips are nothing like Lenny’s, and my chin… It just didn’t look right.”

Cooper went on to explain that when he’s playing Bernstein as a younger man, the prosthetic is very thin and tight to his nose. As the composer ages, the prosthetic expands, with Cooper explaining, “By the time he’s older, it’s the whole face.” For consistency, he argued, “We had to do it, otherwise I wouldn’t believe he’s a human being.” 

At the time the original controversy broke, Cooper wasn’t able to speak on it because of the SAG-AFTRA strike. Bernstein’s three children did, however, rush to his defense, saying, “It breaks our hearts to see any misrepresentations of misunderstandings of his efforts. It happens to be true that Leonard Bernstein had a nice, big nose…. We’re also certain that our dad would have been fine with it as well.” 


Cooper said after he read the statement, he called one of Bernstein’s children, Alex, to thank him. “I couldn’t believe it, but this huge emotional exhalation came out, and I just was crying so hard,” Cooper said. “I couldn’t even thank him, and then he started crying. It was an incredible moment. I couldn’t believe that gesture. It was very moving to me.”  

Along with starring as Bernstein, Cooper directed and co-wrote Maestro. The film also stars Carey Mulligan as Bernstein’s wife, Felicia Montealegre, as well as Matt Bomer, Maya Hawke, Sarah Silverman, Michael Brie, and Gideon Glick. The movie opens in theaters on November 22 before hitting Netflix on December 20.

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