Bradley Cooper Spent Over Five Hours in Makeup Prep to Play Leonard Bernstein in ‘Maestro’
Bradley Cooper spent more than five hours having his makeup and prosthetics applied in order to play famed Jewish conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein in a new movie about Bernstein’s life called Maestro, the film’s makeup artist revealed on Monday.
“The last stage, he had covered pretty much everywhere, the bodysuit and arms. That took over five hours,” two-time Oscar-winning makeup artist Kazu Hiro explained to the audience at the New York Film Festival (NYFF) screening of the film, according to Entertainment Weekly. He added that Cooper — who also co-wrote, directed, and produced Maestro — moved up some of the film’s already early morning call times to 1 am so the Oscar nominee could appear to the cast and crew after he had already physically transformed into Bernstein.
“[Bradley] wanted makeup to be finished before the crew call, so he would appear as Lenny to set up the shoot and everything. That also kind of made our call time two hours earlier than normal, so that was quite tough,” Hiro said.
Hiro further noted that Cooper’s time in the makeup chair varied depending on what part of Bernstein’s life they were filming that day, and that at one point it took two-and-a-half hours to lift the actor’s face to make him look like he was in his twenties. It took between two and three hours to transform Cooper into some other stages of Bernstein’s life, but the most challenging part was turning the actor into a man over 70 years old, according to the makeup artist.
“[We had to] keep adding because as he gets older, we had to add more elements,” Hiro said. “The younger stage was the nose and lips and chin and a wig. After the third stage, he started having cheek and neck [additions.]”
Cooper’s use of a large prosthetic nose to portray Bernstein in the film was criticized by some, who said it promoted the antisemitic stereotype that Jews have noticeably larger noses. However, Bernstein’s children defended Cooper, saying they approved of his portrayal. “We’re also certain that our dad would have been fine with it as well,” they added. The American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League also said they did not consider the use of the prosthetic nose in the film to be perpetuating Jewish stereotypes.
The controversy was not addressed by the film’s cast and crew at NYFF, but Hiro said during the Venice Film Festival press conference: “I wasn’t expecting that to happen. I feel sorry that I hurt some people’s feelings.”
Maestro received a seven-minute standing ovation when it made its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in early September. The film — also starring Carry Mulligan, Matt Bomer, Sarah Silverman, and Maya Hawke — will have a limited theatrical release on Nov. 22, before it premieres on Netflix on Dec. 20.