The Anti-Defamation League has joined Leonard Bernstein’s family in defending Bradley Cooper’s decision to play the legendary composer with a prosthetic nose on Maestro.
The ‘A Star is Born’ actor and director, who is not Jewish, has been accused of using ‘Jewface’ to impersonate the famous ‘West Side Story’ composer since the first images from the Netflix biopic were revealed last year. In addition to starring in the film, Cooper co-wrote, directed, and co-produced the film.
When the movie is on first teaser Released in theaters last week, the debate over Hollywood’s stereotypical and inauthentic portrayal of the Jewish people began anew, with critics naming Cooper not cast a Jewish person for the role and beat him up for wearing the image-altering prosthesis on his face. However, it also prompted several prominent Jewish organizations (and Bernstein’s children) to defend Cooper.
On Monday, the ADL strongly supported Cooper. The civil rights organization that fights anti-Semitism issued a statement saying that the use of prosthetics does not necessarily mean anti-Semitism.
“Throughout history, Jews have often been portrayed as evil caricatures with big hooked noses in anti-Semitic films and propaganda,” an ADL spokesman said in a statement to the Times. “This film, which is a biography of legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein, is not.”
The Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award-winning composer was the son of Jewish Ukrainian immigrants to the United States. The Netflix film chronicles the famous conductor’s relationship with his wife, Felicia (Carey Mulligan), of whom he was married for 25 years. (Bernstein died of complications from progressive lung failure on October 14, 1990. He was 72 years old.)
Last week, his three children – Jamie, Alexander and Nina Bernstein – threw their weight behind Cooper, revealing that the filmmaker included them “at every step of his amazing journey” while filming the film.
“We were heartbroken to witness the depth of his dedication, his loving dedication to our father’s music and the sheer, open-minded joy he brought to his exploration,” the statement read opinion shared with the late composer’s X account. “It breaks our hearts to see any misrepresentation or misunderstanding of his efforts.”
They also said that Cooper “chose to use makeup to enhance his likeness, and we totally agree with that.” We’re also certain that our dad wouldn’t have minded either.”
The American Jewish Committee also agreed with the Bernsteins, saying that “what Bradley Cooper did is not offensive considering that actors routinely receive makeup and prosthetics to look more like their characters.”
“We do not believe this portrayal harms or denigrates the Jewish community,” the committee said in a statement to the Times on Tuesday.
“Maestro” is also produced by Academy Award winners Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese. Last year, Cooper continued “The Late Show” that Spielberg personally chose him to direct the film after seeing early cuts of A Star is Born.
The biopic will premiere on September 2nd at the Venice Film Festival. It hits theaters on November 22nd and begins broadcasting on Netflix on December 20th.
Alexandra Del Rosario, a Times contributor, contributed to this report.