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Bradley Cooper faces backlash for new ‘Maestro’ prosthetic

The actor’s upcoming portrayal of Leonard Bernstein is drawing criticism for being an exaggerated makeup transformation. Many are suggesting it promotes antisemitic stereotypes of Jewish people. 

The lengths an actor will go to in physically transforming themselves for a role is often hailed as a testament to their craft.

Bradley Cooper’s upcoming portrayal of Leonard Bernstein in the highly anticipated film ‘Maestro’ is a striking example of such transformation, but instead of celebrating an artistic commitment, commentators are criticising Cooper’s prosthetic makeup with accusations of ‘Jewface’.

Bernstein was a globally successful composer who famously created ‘West Side Story’. ‘Maestro’ will focus on Bernstein’s career and relationship with his wife, Felicia Montealegre (played by Carey Mulligan).

Cooper co-wrote, produced, and directed the new biopic. Some are suggesting the actor is gunning for an Academy Award nod – and his dramatic makeover is another bid to get there.

The transformative power of cinema has allowed actors to transcend their own identities and bring to life characters that linger in our hearts and minds. Christian Bale’s skeletal frame in ‘The Machinist’ or Charlize Theron’s unrecognisable transformation in ‘Monster’ are emblematic of this dedication, with the latter winning her an Academy Award.

But netizens are questioning how appropriate Cooper’s ‘Maestro’ transformation is, sparking debate around Hollywood’s approach to representation across the board.

The change in Cooper’s appearance includes an exaggerate prosthetic nose, which many are claiming to be antisemitic.

One X user commented, ‘Bradley Cooper is putting himself in an insanely large prosthetic nose to play a Jewish man […] and we’re all just supposed to act like that’s cool and normal?’

Others are calling out the difference between Cooper’s new look and Bernstein’s real-life appearance, dismissing the prosthetic transformation as unnecessary.

‘I saw Bradley Cooper play the elephant man with no prosthetics on Broadway,’ another social media user said. ‘But then he plays a Jew and decides he needs a huge nose?’

Response to the new ‘Maestro’ trailer raises a crucial question: in the quest for artistic authenticity, do actors inadvertently cross boundaries and perpetuate harmful biases? And – perhaps more pertinent – are these dramatic transformations just attempts at major accolades, whether or not they discard authenticity altogether?

The argument again

st Cooper’s portrayal is a reminder that art, while often a source of inspiration and entertainment, also holds the power to influence and shape societal perceptions.

What makes this case particularly poignant is the intersection of an actor’s transformation, the broader cultural context, and the potential perpetuation of stereotypes.

Critics may assert that actors should have creative freedom to alter their appearances, yet the principle of ethical responsibility also deserves its place in the discourse.

While it’s unrealistic to expect actors to exactly resemble the historical figures they portray, it’s equally important to acknowledge that choices—such as exaggerated prosthetics—can inadvertently echo historical prejudices and reinforce negative associations.

Also – are they really necessary? Audiences don’t tune into biopics to see how closely the actor resembles the subject. Biopics work because they recreate fascinating aspects of a person’s life. The exact proportions of Leonard Bernstein’s nose certainly weren’t a factor in his illustrious career.

Navigating the intricate web of artistic expression, filmmakers should pursue the truth in storytelling guided by the principles of empathy, respect, and an unwavering commitment to dismantling harmful biases.

‘Maestro’s controversy is a poignant reminder that the transformative power of cinema should be wielded with the utmost care and consideration for the world it shapes.