‘Maestro’ Makeup Designer Addresses Prosthetic Nose Backlash in Venice

The makeup artist for Bradley Cooper’s Leonard Bernstein biopic Maestro responded Saturday at the Venice Film Festival to the recent backlash over the film’s prosthetic nose.

Cooper was absent in Venice because he’s chosen to support the SAG-AFTRA strike by not walking the red carpet for his film, which he wrote, directs and stars in. But a large contingent of crew members — as well as Leonard Berstein’s daughter, Jamie Bernstein — were on hand at the festival to discuss Maestro and its creation. It didn’t take long at the press conference before makeup artist Kazu Hiro was asked about the backlash that has engulfed the film on social media in recent weeks. The Maestro team came under criticism in some quarters for Cooper’s decision to wear a prosthetic nose for his portrayal of the iconic Jewish composer, which some claimed was unnecessarily partaking in anti-Semitic stereotypes.

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“I wasn’t expecting it to happen; I feel sorry if I hurt some people’s feelings,” Hiro said. “My goal was —and Bradley’s goal was — to portray Lenny as authentic[ally] as possible. Lenny had a really iconic look that everybody knows. There are 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, too, on the 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 [actual] intention.”

Esteemed in the industry, Hiro has twice won the Oscar for best makeup and hairstyling, for the biographical films Darkest Hour (2017) and Bombshell (2019), after earning earlier nominations for the comedies Click (2006) and Norbit (2007). He also enthused during the press conference about Cooper’s devotion to the film, saying that the actor-director often arrived on set at 2 a.m. to begin the makeup process, which took about 2 hours and 50 minutes for the young years of Bernstein, and as long as five hours for the character when he was in his older years.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has defended Cooper’s decision to wear the prosthetic nose, as has Berstein’s family, who put out a statement of response that read: “It breaks our hearts to see any misrepresentations or misunderstandings of Bradley’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.”

Jamie Bernstein spoke up at the press conference to say how “honored” she and her siblings were to collaborate closely with Cooper on the film.

Maestro makes its world premiere in Venice Saturday night and will launch worldwide on Netflix on Dec. 20.

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