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Leonard Bernstein’s family defends Bradley Cooper’s portrayal in ‘Maestro’

<i>Bettmann Archive/Getty Images</i><br/>Leonard Bernstein in 1957.
Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
Leonard Bernstein in 1957.

By Scottie Andrew, CNN

(CNN) — The children of composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein are defending the actor Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of their late father in an upcoming film.

After the first trailer for “Maestro” released this week, some critics on social media raised concerns the makeup worn by Cooper to portray Bernstein in the film reinforced hurtful antisemitic stereotypes.

Other critics raised questions about the casting considering Bernstein’s heritage. He was born in Massachusetts to Jewish immigrants from Russia. Cooper is not known to be of Jewish ancestry.

Bernstein’s three children Jamie, Alexander and Nina took to Instagram to share a statement about the backlash Cooper has faced since the release of the trailer on Wednesday.

“Bradley Cooper included the three of us along every step of his amazing journey as he made his film about our father,” their statement reads. “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. It breaks our hearts to see any misrepresentations or misunderstandings of his efforts.”

They also directly addressed criticism about Cooper’s physical appearance as their father.

“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,” the statement continues. “We’re also certain that our dad would have been fine with it as well. Any strident complaints around this issue strike us above all as disingenuous attempts to bring a successful person down a notch — a practice we observed all too often perpetrated on our own father.”

Cooper also co-wrote, co-produced and directed “Maestro,” according to IMDb, his first directorial work since 2018’s “A Star is Born.” The story follows Bernstein and his 25-year marriage to Felicia Montealegre, played by Carey Mulligan. Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg are also among the film’s producers.

Cooper has not yet publicly commented on the controversy. CNN has reached out to his representatives.

“At all times during the making of this film, we could feel the profound respect and yes, the love that Bradley brought to his portrait of Leonard Bernstein and his wife, our mother Felicia,” the family statement concluded. “We feel so fortunate to have had this experience with Bradley, and we can’t wait for the world to see his creation.”

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