(LOS ANGELES) The family of Jewish composer Leonard Bernstein on Wednesday defended Bradley Cooper’s controversial decision to wear a large prosthetic nose to play the legendary conductor in a new film.
The American actor, who wrote and directed himself Maestro, his new film in which he plays Mr. Bernstein, caused controversy this week when the trailer was published online.
At issue: the wearing of a prominent false nose accused of fueling stereotypes about Jews.
Some critics have denounced this artistic choice as “Blackface”, a practice long used by white actors, who darkened their faces to portray black male roles. They believe that Bradley Cooper is guilty of “Jewface”.
But the three children of the composer of the musical West Side Story came to the defense of the actor on Wednesday on the social network X – formerly Twitter.
They say they “completely agree” with his decision to “use tricks to amplify his likeness” to their father.
“Leonard Bernstein happens to have a nice big nose,” Jamie, Alexander and Nina Bernstein wrote in their statement. “We are also certain that our father would not have had a problem with this. »
The son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, Mr. Bernstein died in 1990 but remains one of the best-known composers and conductors of all time.
The American notably conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and is remembered for his score of West Side Story, a major Broadway hit.
With Maestro, Bradley Cooper tackles Mr. Bernstein’s tormented relationship with his wife, Felicia Montealegre, played by Carey Mulligan. The film, which is due to premiere at the Venice Film Festival, could make him a contender for the Best Actor Oscar.
The question of whether or not actors, especially white actors, should embody real characters from ethnic minorities has agitated Hollywood for several years and has recently extended to the roles of Jewish characters.
Helen Mirren, for example, sparked controversy by playing former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in the film Golda, released this year.
The Bernstein children praised Mr. Cooper for “the depth of his commitment.”
“It breaks our hearts to see any misrepresentations or misunderstandings of his efforts,” they added. Rather, they see criticism as “a dishonest attempt to downgrade a successful person – a practice we have seen too often against our own father.” »