Makeup artist sorry for feelings hurt by Bradley Cooper’s prosthetic nose in ‘Maestro’

Kazu Hiro says he was surprised by swift, intense backlash to early images of actor in character as Leonard Bernstein

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)

JTA — The makeup artist who styled Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein says he’s sorry he stuck a nose in things.

Kazu Hiro said at a Venice Film Festival press conference on Saturday that he was not expecting the swift and intense backlash to early images of Cooper in character that surfaced last year and intensified earlier this month when the trailer for “Maestro,” a Bernstein biopic, was released.

The backlash centered on Cooper’s nose, which was elongated on the non-Jewish star with the help of a prosthetic.

Some who saw it said the prosthetic’s size perpetuated stereotypes about Jews.

“I feel sorry that I hurt some people’s feelings,” said Hiro, who has won two Oscars, including for his work transforming Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill for 2017’s “The Darkest Hour.”

He said he and Cooper would show up at 2 a.m. most days to start early on pre-filming makeup sessions that took anywhere from three to five hours.

“My goal was and Bradley’s goal was to portray Lenny as authentic as possible,” Hiro said.

“Lenny had a really iconic look that everybody knows — there’s so many pictures out there because he’s photogenic, too — such a great person and also inspired so many people. So we wanted to respect the look too, on the inside. So that’s why we did several different tests and went through lots of decisions and that was the outcome in the movie.”

Kazu Hiro attends a red carpet for the movie ‘Maestro’ at the Venice International Film Festival, Sept. 2, 2023. (Franco Origlia/Getty Images via JTA)

Both Bernstein’s family and the Anti-Defamation League defended Cooper, who also directed the film, and said they did not consider the elongated nose antisemitic.

Also at the festival, where the film debuted, Bernstein’s daughter Jamie called the uproar over the prosthetic nose “an annoying distraction.”

Jamie Bernstein, left, Mina Bernstein and Alex Bernstein pose during the red carpet of the movie ‘Maestro’ presented in competition at the 80th Venice Film Festival on September 2, 2023 at Venice Lido. (GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

“The people who were waiting to get mad about something were just waiting to pounce,” she told Vanity Fair.

The film drew seven standing ovations during its premiere at the festival, a suggestion that it will be critically acclaimed before its eventual theater release.

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