Bradley Cooper’s prosthetic nose in ‘Maestro’ is ‘not offensive’ according to the ADL and AJC

Black and white photo of Carey Mulligan leaning on Bradley Cooper's back in Netflix's 'Maestro'
Carey Mulligan and Bradley Cooper star in Netflix’s “Maestro.” Two prominent Jewish organizations have come to Cooper’s defense for his use of a prosthetic nose in the film.
(Jason McDonald / Netflix)

The Anti-Defamation League has joined Leonard Bernstein’s family in defending Bradley Cooper’s decision to use a prosthetic nose to play the legendary composer in “Maestro.”

The “A Star is Born” actor-director, who is not Jewish, has been accused of using “Jewface” to embody the famed “West Side Story” composer ever since first-look images from the Netflix biopic were revealed last year. Cooper not only stars in the film, but he co-wrote, directed and co-produced it too.

Bradley Cooper plays Leonard Bernstein in Netflix’s new film, ‘Maestro.’ He came under fire Tuesday for using makeup to enhance his nose to embody the composer.

Aug. 16, 2023

When the movie’s first teaser was released last week, the debate about Hollywood’s stereotypical and inauthentic portrayal of Jewish people began anew, with critics taking aim at Cooper for not casting a Jewish person in the role and bashing him for donning the image-altering prosthetic on his face. However, it also prompted several prominent Jewish organizations (and Bernstein’s children) to come to Cooper’s defense.


On Monday, the ADL firmly backed Cooper. The civil rights organization, which fights antisemitism, issued a statement saying that the use of prosthetics is not inherently tied to antisemitism.

“Throughout history, Jews were often portrayed in antisemitic films and propaganda as evil caricatures with large hooked noses,” a spokesperson for the ADL said in a statement to The Times. “This film, which is a biopic on the legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein, is not that.”

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The Emmy-, Grammy- and Tony Award-winning composer was the son of Jewish Ukrainian immigrants to the United States. The Netflix movie chronicles the renowned conductor’s relationship with his wife, Felicia (Carey Mulligan), whom he was married to for 25 years. (Bernstein died Oct. 14, 1990 of complications of progressive lung failure. He was 72.)

Last week, his three children — Jamie, Alexander and Nina Bernstein — rallied behind Cooper, revealing that the filmmaker had included them “along every step of his amazing journey” while making the movie.

“We were touched to the core to witness the depth of his commitment, his loving embrace of our father’s music, and the sheer open-hearted joy he brought to his exploration,” they said in a statement shared to the late composer’s X account. “It breaks our hearts to see any misrepresentations or misunderstandings of his efforts.”

They also said that Cooper “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.”


The American Jewish Committee agreed with the Bernsteins too, saying that “what Bradley Cooper did is not offensive, given that actors are routinely given makeup and prosthetics to appear more like their characters.”

Anti-Jewish incidents hit a record high in U.S. and California in 2022, the Anti-Defamation League says. Some harassers referenced Ye’s antisemitic remarks.

March 23, 2023

“We do not believe that this depiction harms or denigrates the Jewish community,” the committee said Tuesday in a statement to The Times.

“Maestro” is also produced by Oscar winners Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese. Last year, Cooper said on “The Late Show” that Spielberg hand-selected him to direct the film after seeing early cuts of “A Star is Born.”

The biopic premieres Sept. 2 at the Venice Film Festival. It opens in theaters Nov. 22 and begins streaming Dec. 20 on Netflix.

Times staff writer Alexandra Del Rosario contributed to this report.