Makeup artist clarifies backlash over Bradley Cooper's prosthetic nose

11:15 03.09.2023

Oscar-winning makeup artist Kazu Hiro found himself at the center of controversy after his prosthetic nose design for actor Bradley Cooper in the upcoming Leonard Bernstein biopic, "Maestro," sparked accusations of Jewface and antisemitism. Hiro, 54, expressed his sincere apology during a press conference at the Venice Film Festival, stating that he did not expect the backlash and that he was sorry if he hurt anyone's feelings. He emphasized that his intention was to portray the iconic composer as realistically as possible and that the use of prosthetics was part of the team's efforts to respect and honor Bernstein's appearance. Hiro confirmed his apology when contacted by The Post, reiterating his regret for any offense caused.

The film "Maestro," directed by Bradley Cooper himself, tells the "fearless love story" of Leonard Bernstein, renowned for his work on "West Side Story," and his wife, Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein, played by Carey Mulligan. Despite receiving a 7-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival, the movie faced intense scrutiny since the release of its trailer, which depicted Cooper with a considerably exaggerated nose resembling a stereotype. This prompted actress Tracy-Ann Oberman and numerous fans on social media, notably X (formerly Twitter), to criticize the choice, questioning the need for prosthetics and drawing parallels to offensive practices like Black-Face or Yellow-Face.

However, Bernstein's children, who attended the film's premiere, showed support for Cooper's portrayal of their late father. In a statement shared on social media, Jamie, Alexander, and Nina Bernstein expressed their appreciation for the depth of Cooper's commitment and his genuine love for their father's music. They emphasized that Cooper's use of makeup to enhance his resemblance to Leonard Bernstein was a decision they were perfectly fine with, adding that they believed their father would have approved as well.

The controversy surrounding Maestro has reignited discussions about representation and cultural authenticity in the film industry. NBC News highlighted the backlash Cooper faced, with critics accusing him of appropriating Bernstein's Jewish heritage. The article also referenced a quote from Jewish actress and comedian Sarah Silverman, who criticized the tradition of non-Jewish actors playing Jewish characters, stating that it reduces Jewish identity to physical attributes.

However, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) defended Cooper and the film, stating that Maestro is a biopic about Leonard Bernstein and not an antisemitic portrayal. The organization highlighted the historical portrayal of Jews in a derogatory manner with exaggerated features, contrasting it with Cooper's portrayal, which seeks to pay homage to Bernstein's appearance.

Despite the controversy, Maestro is set to make its North American premiere at the New York Film Festival in October, followed by a theatrical release on November 22. The film will then be available for streaming on Netflix in December. With its release, the movie will continue to spark conversations about cultural representation, artistic choices, and the boundaries of authenticity in Hollywood.

Overall, the controversy surrounding the prosthetic nose in Maestro has raised important questions about representation, cultural sensitivity, and the responsibilities of filmmakers in portraying historical figures. While some critics have accused the film of perpetuating stereotypes, others, including Bernstein's own children, have shown support for Cooper's portrayal. As the film prepares for its release, audiences and industry professionals will closely examine the impact of such choices in the broader context of diversity and inclusion in Hollywood.

/ Sunday, September 3, 2023, 11:15 AM /

themes:  New York (state)  Hollywood

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