Bradley Cooper under fire for ‘Jewface’ in Leonard Bernstein biopic

Actor uses prosthetic nose in upcoming film, which one social media user says ‘looks like Nazi propaganda’

Bradley Cooper plays Jewish composer Leonard Bernstein in the 2023 biopic 'Maestro.' (YouTube screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Bradley Cooper plays Jewish composer Leonard Bernstein in the 2023 biopic 'Maestro.' (YouTube screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Actor Bradley Cooper has come under allegations of “Jewface” for using a prosthetic nose to play Jewish conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein in the upcoming biopic film “Maestro,” after the trailer for the movie was released Tuesday.

Cooper, who isn’t Jewish, was accused on social media of fueling antisemitic stereotypes by wearing an exaggerated nose that appears larger than the real Bernstein’s.

“All actors should be able to play any part with their skill. however, we are living in times where there is huge sensitivity and debate over ethnic & minority representation,” British Jewish star Tracy Ann Oberman wrote in an online post.

“If Bradley Cooper green lights your film to play the Jewish composer Bernstein and you want him over a Jewish A-Lister who can equally play that role – then let Bradley Cooper’s acting be so magnificent and truthful that the character of Bernstein shines through what he already looks like,” she said, referring to the fact that Jewish actor Jake Gyllenhaal and director Cary Fukunaga failed to secure the music rights from Bernstein’s estate for their version.

Oberman said Cooper’s use of prosthetics was equivalent to blackface or yellowface. She noted that Cillian Murphy and Tom Conti, who aren’t Jewish, didn’t need prosthetics to successfully portray J. Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein in Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer.”

“If Bradley Cooper can’t do it through the power or acting alone then don’t cast him – get a Jewish Actor,” she wrote. “Bradley Cooper managed to play the ELEPHANT MAN without a single prosthetic then he should be able to manage to play a Jewish man without one.”

One social media user said Cooper “looks like Nazi propaganda.”

“It seems completely unnecessary to have gone in that direction given the uncanny resemblance,” another user stated. “The real Leonard Bernstein did not have the funny nose that Bradley Cooper is wearing in Maestro.”

“Given the striking resemblance, it seems entirely gratuitous to have taken this path. The real Leonard Bernstein did not possess the comical nose that Bradley Cooper sports in ‘Maestro,'” another said.

Sarah Silverman, a prominent voice on Jewish representation in Hollywood roles, plays Leonard’s sister Shirley Bernstein in the film.

Two years ago, Silverman angrily opposed a planned miniseries about Jewish comedian Joan Rivers that would have starred non-Jewish actor Kathryn Hahn.

“There’s this long tradition of non-Jews playing Jews, and not just playing people who happen to be Jewish, but people whose Jewishness is their whole being,” Silverman stated on her podcast. “One could argue, for instance, that a gentile playing Joan Rivers correctly would be doing what is actually called ‘Jewface.’”

“Maestro,” to be released on Netflix on December 20, will span multiple decades of Bernstein’s storied career and tumultuous personal life, and also stars Carey Mulligan, Jeremy Strong, and Maya Hawke; Steven Spielberg is a producer.

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