The makeup artist who worked on Bradley Cooper’s movie Maestro has apologised to anyone who felt hurt by the use of a prosthetic nose, which has been criticised by some as an example of “Jewface”.
Speaking at a press conference at the Venice film festival – where Maestro, a biopic of composer Leonard Bernstein, will premiere – Kazu Hiro said he was surprised by the backlash.
He said: “I wasn’t expecting it to happen. I feel sorry if I hurt some people’s feelings. My goal was and Bradley’s goal was to portray Lenny as authentically as possible. 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, including what’s going on inside. So that’s why we did several different tests and went through lots of decisions and that was the outcome in the movie. That was our only intention.”
Bernstein – the son of Jewish-Ukrainian immigrants to the US – was an influential composer and conductor, best known for writing the music to West Side Story.
Cooper directed, co-wrote and stars in the Netflix film, which centres on Bernstein’s complicated relationship with his wife, Felicia Montealegre, played by Carey Mulligan. But criticism over its use of prosthetics arose when pictures first emerged of Cooper as Bernstein.
Bernstein’s children, Jamie, Alexander and Nina, who are also depicted in the film, were quick to defend Cooper against what they called “disingenuous” criticism. They said: “It breaks out hearts to see any misrepresentations or misunderstandings of [Cooper’s] efforts.
“It happens to be true that Leonard Bernstein had a nice, big nose. 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.”
The Anti-Defamation League also defended Cooper, saying the use of prosthetics was not inherently antisemitic.
The actor and film-maker was absent from Saturday’s press conference due to the actors and writers strike that prohibits talent from promoting films if they have been made by large studios.
Jamie Bernstein paid tribute to Cooper’s artistry, emphasising that she and her siblings were “honoured” to be part of the “inclusive” process of making the film.
She said: “[We] were overwhelmed by the degree to which Bradley was committed to telling a really authentic story about our parents and their relationship. He could have done it any number of ways, but he chose to involve us.”
The film, Bernstein added, was not a typical biopic. “It’s a love story, a relationship, a portrait of a marriage, about both our parents. I think it’s always a good moment to tell that story, because it’s a story about love. And both of our parents were very generous with sharing their love with the rest of the world, and with our family.”
Asked about a scene when her character asks her father about rumours of his bisexuality, Bernstein confirmed the moment did happen.
She said: “I wrote about it in my memoir. Bradley read my book. We don’t know whether our mother encouraged him to obfuscate these rumours. We don’t know exactly why my father decided to deny everything. It’s my speculation that perhaps our mother encouraged him to that direction.
“I wrote quite a bit in my book about what we went through as a family in relation to my father’s sexuality. It was challenging and confusing but the love and connectedness that our family always had was able to tide us through the difficult moments.”