How Bradley Cooper's 'Maestro' started a 'Jewface' controversy months before its release on Netflix

  • Bradley Cooper's "Maestro" has already caused controversy, though it won't be out until November.

  • The actor's use of a prosthetic nose to play conductor Leonard Bernstein has been criticized.

  • Bernstein's family has defended him amid accusations of "Jewface" by social media critics.

When the first trailer for "Maestro," Netflix's new movie directed by and starring Bradley Cooper, hit the internet last week, social media was immediately flooded with posts criticizing the actor for wearing a prosthetic nose to play the conductor Leonard Bernstein.

The resulting controversy over whether Cooper's prosthetic was necessary, and whether it's appropriate for non-Jewish actors to play Jewish people, continues more than a week later, even though the movie is not out until December.

Here's what you need to know about "Maestro," and the "Jewface" debate that has engulfed it.

'Maestro' is about Leonard Bernstein's relationship with his wife Felicia

While the composer and conductor wrote the music for numerous Broadway productions over the years including "West Side Story," the movie will mainly focus on his marriage to Felicia Montealegre, played by British actor Carey Mulligan.

The film will premiere at the Venice International Film Festival in September before a limited theatrical release beginning on November 22. It'll later arrive on Netflix on December 20.

Bradley Cooper wore prosthetics to play Leonard Bernstein, drawing heavy criticism and accusations of 'Jewface'

Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein in "Maestro," and a portrait of Bernstein circa 1945.
Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein in "Maestro," and a portrait of Bernstein circa 1945.

Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein in "Maestro," and a portrait of Bernstein circa 1945.Netflix/Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images

While some audiences were impressed with how "Maestro" looks as a film, the movie has also faced early criticism due to Cooper donning a prosthetic nose to play Bernstein, the son of Jewish-Ukrainian immigrants.

Critics Cooper accused of "Jewface,"which is when non-Jewish actors portray Jewish people in a manner that reinforces demeaning stereotypes.

As the comedian Sarah Silverman once described it, "Jewface" is when a character's Jewishness is played "front and center — often with makeup or changing of features, a big fake nose, all the New York-y or Yiddish-y inflection."

A spokesperson for the Community Security Trust, a UK charity that works to protect British Jewish communities from antisemitism, told Insider that the backlash "isn't about making a non-Jewish actor look more like Leonard Bernstein; it's about making a non-Jewish actor look more like a Jewish stereotype."

Leonard Bernstein's family said they stood by Bradley Cooper's choice to enhance his nose

American Composer Léonard Bernstein (Photo by Jean Pimentel/Kipa/Sygma via Getty Images)
American composer Leonard Bernstein is the subject of Netflix's upcoming biographical drama.Jean Pimentel/Kipa/Sygma via Getty Images

While some social media users were critical of Cooper's decision to wear a prosthetic nose, the composer's family gave him their support.

The conductor's children, Jamie, Alexander, and Nina Bernstein, said in a statement that they're "perfectly fine" with the actor and director's choice.

"Bradley chose to use makeup to amplify his resemblance, and we're perfectly fine with that. We're also certain that our dad would have been fine with it as well," they said.

"Any strident complaints around this issue strike us above all as disingenuous attempts to bring a successful person down a notch — a practice we observed all too often perpetrated on our own father," Bernstein's children added.

The siblings also said that they were "touched" by Cooper's "commitment" to telling their father's story with a "loving embrace."

The Anti-Defamation League also defended the actor and said his appearance in the movie isn't antisemitic

Bradley Cooper in "Maestro," and Leonard Bernsteinat the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, February 1970.
Bradley Cooper in "Maestro," and Leonard Bernstein at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, February 1970.Netflix/Peter King/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Earlier this week, the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that works to combat antisemitism, also issued a statement to the press.

"Throughout history, Jews were often portrayed in antisemitic films and propaganda as evil caricatures with large, hooked noses. This film, which is a biopic on the legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein, is not that," the organization said.

Read the original article on Insider