Bradley Cooper with prosthetic nose trailer The conductor’s children have come out in defense of the actor as the upcoming Leonard Bernstein biopic “The Master” sparks anti-Semitic criticism.
The trailer for “The Master,” which Cooper directed and starred in, premiered Tuesday, offering the first up-close look at Cooper’s make-up and performance as the great American composer and longtime music director of the New York Philharmonic. Cooper, who is not Jewish, wore a prosthetic nose as part of his transformation into Bernstein. Bernstein is Jewish.
To some, Cooper’s nose in the trailer looks like a kind of oversized caricature, a common feature of Jewish imagery throughout film history. The nonprofit Stop Anti-Semitism called it “disgusting”.
“Hollywood made non-Jewish Bradley Cooper play Jewish legend Leonard Bernstein and stuck a disgustingly exaggerated ‘Jewish nose’ on him,” The group tweeted on X.
Bernstein’s three children – Jamie, Alexander and Nina Bernstein – on Wednesday issued a statement in support of Cooper, Said they were “moved to witness the depth of Cooper’s commitment, his love for our father’s music and the sheer open joy he brought to his explorations.”
“We are heartbroken to see any misrepresentation or misinterpretation of his efforts,” the statement read. We’re totally ok with that. And we’re sure our dad would be happy with that too.”
Bernstein’s children added, “Sharp complaints about the issue first strike us as dishonest attempts to bring a successful person down a notch – a practice we’ve observed happen frequently in our on the father.”
A representative for Cooper declined to comment. Netflix, which distributed the film, also had no comment.
“The Master” is scheduled to premiere at the Venice Film Festival next month. It will be available on Netflix in select theaters on November 22 and on streaming platforms on December 20.
The Cooper-Bernstein situation is multi-layered. It’s not just about the issue of stereotyping, but also about the casting of certain groups. There’s been a lot of debate in show business in recent years about who can and should play certain roles, especially in an environment where some groups have struggled for decades to get formal and substantive jobs in Hollywood.
Emma Stone has faced criticism and apologized for her semi-Asian role in Cameron Crowe’s 2015 film “Aloha.” Tom Hanks has said that if “Philadelphia” (1993) was filmed today, it would be starring gay actors, “that’s right”. Some LGBTQ+ advocates have argued that trans characters like Jeffrey Tambor in “Transparent” and Eddie Redmayne in “The Danish Girl” should be played by trans actors.
Most of these discussions have focused on the realistic portrayal of minorities and LGBTQ+ characters, but some argue that the same should apply to Jewish characters as well. From Shakespeare’s Sherlock to Nazi propaganda, the stereotype of Jews with big noses has persisted for centuries. “While the hooked nose is just one of many anti-Semitic caricatures, it’s especially harmful because it’s believed to be true,” The Media Diversity Institute writes.
Earlier this year, “Jews Don’t Matter” author David Baddiel critical Irish actor Cillian Murphy plays Jewish physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer ), and Helen Mirren to play former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in the upcoming film Golda.
“Casting directors are now scared of casting unless it fits the minority they’re casting,” Badir told The Times. “But they’re not so worried about Jews.”
Others argue that transformation is an inherent aspect of acting. Hollywood writer and reporter Mark Harris dismissed the controversy.
“We won’t start the fall movie season with a silly ‘backlash’ controversy over an actor’s makeup so he can get closer to the historical figure he’s playing,” Harris wrote on X. “That’s what actors have done for decades and will continue to do.”