Bradley Cooper accused of 'Jewface' as trailer for Leonard Bernstein biopic drops

Jewface, the concept of non-Jewish actors playing Jewish roles, is not new - but critics of 'Maestro' claim that the actor's prosthetic nose is much larger than the composer's ever was
Marcy Oster|

The trailer for 'Maestro' starring Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein
(Video: Courtesy of Netflix)

The "Jewface" debate has reared its big nose again with release of the trailer for the Netflix biopic of Leonard Bernstein, "Maestro," starring the decidedly not-Jewish Bradley Cooper. Cooper, 48, an Irish-Italian who was raised Catholic, also directed the film.
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The trailer has allowed viewers an up-close and personal look at the size of the prosthetic nose that Cooper donned to play the Jewish actor/director, and many are unhappy with what they say is its exaggerated size – which appears to be much larger than the actual size of Bernstein's nose.
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מתוך "מאסטרו"
מתוך "מאסטרו"
A scene from 'Maestro'
(Photo: Courtesy of Netflix)
Others have resurrected the debate over whether a Jewish actor should have been slated to play Bernstein, since there is no dearth of talented Members of the Tribe.
There are plenty of actual Jews involved in the production, including producer Steven Spielberg; Martin Scorcese, who is Italian American, is the other producer. They beat out the actor-director team of Jake Gyllenhaal and Cary Fukunaga in securing the music rights from Bernstein’s estate. Gyllenhaal is Jewish, and said at the time that it was one of the reasons he wanted to make the film.
“Sticking your neck out, hoping to get to tell the stories you love and that have been in your heart for a very long time is something to be proud of. And that story, that idea of playing one of the most preeminent Jewish artists in America and his struggle with his identity was in my heart for 20 some odd years, but sometimes those things don’t work out,” he told Deadline.
Jewface has been debated in Hollywood and in the Jewish community for years. In recent years, critics debated the appropriateness of Felicity Jones, who is not Jewish, playing late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the 2018 film "On the Basis of Sex."

The “Jewface” debate was renewed in 2021, after non-Jewish actress Kathryn Hahn was cast as the outspokenly Jewish comedy pioneer Joan Rivers in a series that was never. Comedian Sarah Silverman made headlines by berating the casting, saying “Right now, representation f***ing matters” on an episode of her podcast.
This did not stop Silverstein from joining the cast of "Maestro," where she plays Shirley Anne Bernstein, Leonard's sister.
Most recently, with the premiere of the firm "Golda," Helen Mirren was again criticized for being cast in the role of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir because she is not Jewish. "It's a legitimate discussion, and it's definitely a question I had before I got the role. Guy (Nativ) really wanted me to embody the character, and we set off," Miren said at a news conference in Jerusalem when asked about her casting.
One critic of Cooper's enlarged nose wrote on the X social media platform: "just looked up a picture of the real leonard bernstein…. the big antisemitic prosthetic nose on bradley cooper was definitely not necessary…."
"This 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," another critic wrote.
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לאונרד ברנשטיין
לאונרד ברנשטיין
This is a photo of the real Leonard Bernstein
(Photo: AP)
Another wrote on X: "Seriously. Bradley cooper shouldn’t be playing Bernstein. I have never said that Jews have to be played by Jews. But the idea of a queer Jewish legend being played by a straight white dude with a fake nose just makes me want to never watch a film again."
Bernstein, well-known for his score for "West Side Story," is considered one of the most important American composers of the 20th century. The film is a deep dive into Bernstein's 25-years marriage to actress Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein, played by Carey Mulligan, and deals with the fact that he was gay.
The film is expected to hit Netflix on December 20.
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