Critics Roar as Bradley Cooper’s Startling Transformation Sparks Controversy in Upcoming Film: Is Hollywood Crossing the Line
Actor Bradley Cooper is currently facing a growing wave of criticism due to his apparent use of a prosthetic nose in his portrayal of composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein in the upcoming movie “Maestro.”
In the biographical romance film, which Cooper co-wrote, produced, and directed, the focus is on Bernstein’s life, particularly his role in co-creating “West Side Story” and his 25-year marriage to Felicia Montealegre.
After Netflix released the trailer for the film, social media users quickly noticed Cooper’s altered appearance, with some expressing concerns that his use of a prosthetic nose could be seen as insensitive to Jewish audiences.
A user on the platform formerly known as Twitter, now called X, questioned, “Is it appropriate for Bradley Cooper to wear an exaggerated prosthetic nose to play a Jewish character in Maestro? Are we supposed to overlook this?” Another user commented, “Comparing Bradley Cooper’s portrayal to the real Leonard Bernstein, it’s clear that the exaggerated prosthetic nose was unnecessary and could be seen as antisemitic.”
Criticism also extended to Cooper’s dual role as both an actor and director. A social media post pointed out, “Cooper played the Elephant Man on Broadway without prosthetics. Yet, for this role, he decided to use a significantly altered nose to depict a Jewish character?”
Discover the fearless love story between cultural icon Leonard Bernstein and Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein.
Maestro — starring Carey Mulligan and Bradley Cooper — is in select theaters November 22 and on Netflix December 20. pic.twitter.com/fWT2YoRzef
— Netflix (@netflix) August 15, 2023
Addressing Cooper’s responsibilities in the film’s production, the user added, “As the director, he bears the responsibility for this decision.” Numerous voices on social media labeled the film as an instance of “Jewface,” a term used to criticize the use of stereotypical and inauthentic portrayals of Jewish characters. Some also questioned the casting of Cooper, who is not publicly identified as Jewish, in the role of a well-known Jewish figure.
Another post stated, “Bradley Cooper’s choice to add a noticeable prosthetic nose to play Leonard Bernstein raises questions. His natural nose is actually longer! Moreover, giving Jewish actors a chance to audition before automatically selecting a more famous individual would have been a better approach.” The hashtag “#JewFace” was included in this discussion.
Neither Cooper nor Netflix has responded to inquiries from NBC’s “TODAY” show. Concerns surrounding the issue of “Jewface” in Hollywood were previously highlighted by comedian Sarah Silverman in 2021, as she criticized the practice of non-Jewish actors portraying Jewish characters.
Silverman defined “Jewface” as the portrayal of a Jewish character by a non-Jewish actor, with their Jewish identity emphasized through makeup, altered features, and exaggerated linguistic traits.
Despite the ongoing emphasis on representation, the violation of these principles persists. Silverman questioned, “Even in today’s climate where representation is crucial, why does our industry continue to neglect it?”
The Media Diversity Institute emphasizes that the depiction of Jewish individuals with “large, hooked” noses perpetuates an antisemitic stereotype ingrained in modern culture. This stereotype traces back to antisemitic and Nazi propaganda from the 1930s and continues as a prevalent trope today.
This discussion about Cooper’s portrayal of Bernstein, who passed away in 1990, arises during a period of heightened antisemitic incidents in the U.S., as reported by the Anti-Defamation League. In 2022, the ADL documented a record-breaking 3,697 reports of antisemitic incidents across the U.S., marking the highest number recorded since their tracking began in 1979.