Bradley Cooper defended and explained his decision to wear a prosthetic nose when playing Leonard Bernstein in his new film about the composer and conductor, Conductor.
Criticism about the nasal prosthesis quickly followed the launch of the Conductor trailer in August, with some arguing that the prosthetic actually detracted from Cooper’s likeness to Bernstein, while others argued that it bordered on anti-Semitic caricature (Cooper is not Jewish, while Bernstein was). When asked about the reaction CBS MorningsCooper said he wasn’t surprised by this, adding, “I did this whole project out of love and it’s very clear to me where I’m coming from.”
Ultimately, Cooper barely used any prosthetics. Noting that his “nose is a lot like Lenny’s, actually,” he said, “I thought, maybe we don’t need to do this because we can cut down on prep time. But it’s all about balance. And my lips don’t look anything like Lenny’s, and my chin… It just didn’t look right.”
Cooper explained that when he plays Bernstein when he was younger, the prosthetic is very thin and tight on his nose. As the composer ages, the prosthetic expands, with Cooper explaining, “When he gets older, it’s his entire face.” To maintain consistency, he argued, “We had to do this, otherwise I wouldn’t believe he’s a human being.”
At the time the original controversy broke, Cooper was unable to speak on the matter because of the SAG-AFTRA strike. Bernstein’s three sons, however, rushed to his defense, saying, “It breaks our hearts to see any misrepresentations or misunderstandings about his efforts. It turns out to be true that Leonard Bernstein had a big, beautiful nose…. We are also sure that our father would have accepted this as well.”
Cooper said that after reading the statement, he called one of Bernstein’s sons, Alex, to thank him. “I couldn’t believe it, but a huge emotional outpouring came out and I was crying my eyes out,” Cooper said. “I couldn’t even thank him and he started crying. It was an incredible moment. I couldn’t believe that gesture. It was very moving for me.”
In addition to starring as Bernstein, Cooper directed and co-wrote Conductor. The film also stars Carey Mulligan as Bernstein’s wife, Felicia Montealegre, as well as Matt Bomer, Maya Hawke, Sarah Silverman, Michael Brie and Gideon Glick. The film opens in theaters on November 22nd before arriving on Netflix on December 20th.