The actor came under fire after the first footage from the upcoming Netflix film saw him sporting a prosthetic nose while playing the West Side Story composer, who was Jewish. However, Bernstein's kids Jamie, Alexander and Nina Bernstein have come to his defense.
"Bradley Cooper included the three of us along every step of his amazing journey as he made his film about our father," they said in a statement posted to Instagram on Aug. 16. "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."
The trio noted they didn't have any issues with Cooper's appearance in the movie.
"It happens to be true that Leonard Bernstein had a nice, big nose," they continued. "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. 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."
And the siblings further expressed their excitement over the film's release this year.
"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," they concluded. "We feel so fortunate to have had this experience with Bradley, and we can't wait for the world to see his creation."
After Netflix dropped the teaser and several photos of Cooper in Maestro—which he also co-wrote and directed—on Aug. 15, social media users shared their objections to his portrayal of Bernstein.
"Hollywood cast Bradley Cooper - a non Jew - to play Jewish legend Leonard Bernstein and stuck a disgusting exaggerated 'Jew nose' on him," the organization StopAntisemitism wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, Aug. 16. "All while saying no to Jake Gyllenhaal, an actually Jewish man, who has dreamt of playing Bernstein for decades. Sickening."
A social media user also wrote "that fake nose is offensive," while another added, "What is going on with Bradley's face! That is wrong in so many ways and is insultingly close to a caricature of a Jewish nose. oh my gods."
However, not everyone found the criticism to be warranted. "Throughout history, Jews were often portrayed in antisemitic films and propaganda as evil caricatures with large, hooked noses," the Anti-Defamation League told People in a recent statement. "This film, which is a biopic on the legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein, is not that."
Others pointed out that Bernstein's family was consulting on the movie, with one social media user noting, "I don't see an issue, Bernsteins kids support Cooper using make up etc to obtain a physical resemblance to the conductor." Another agreed, "This should be the final word in the whole controversy, honestly. The buck literally stops with them."
According to Netflix, Maestro tells the "towering and fearless love story chronicling the lifelong relationship" between Bernstein—whose other famous works include the music from On The Town and the opera Trouble in Tahiti—and his wife Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein (played by Carey Mulligan).