The family of Leonard Bernstein have defended actor Bradley Cooper in a row over his biopic of the late composer.

The first trailer for Maestro, which Cooper directs and stars in, was released on Wednesday, this week.

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It attracted some criticism over the size of Cooper’s nose, which some social media users said played up to offensive Jewish stereotypes.

But Bernstein’s family said they were “perfectly fine” with Cooper using make-up to “amplify” his appearance.

There has also been criticism that a Jewish actor was not cast to play the West Side Story composer.

“It breaks our hearts to see any misrepresentations or misunderstandings of [Cooper’s] efforts,” wrote Jamie, Alexander and Nina Bernstein in a statement posted online.

“It happens to be true that Leonard Bernstein had a nice, big nose. Bradley chose to use make-up 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.”

They continued: “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.

“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. We feel so fortunate to have had this experience with Bradley, and we can’t wait for the world to see his creation.”

Bernstein’s family added that Cooper had “included the three of us along every step of his amazing journey as he made his film about our father”.

“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.”

When the first images of Cooper were seen last year, the Hollywood Reporter’s film critic Daniel Feinberg said Cooper’s appearance could be “problematic”, suggesting the movie featured “ethnic cosplay”.

Writing on Instagram, English actress Tracy-Ann Oberman, who is Jewish, compared Cooper apparently using a prosthetic nose to the use of blackface makeup.

“If Bradley Cooper can’t do it through the power [of] acting alone then don’t cast him – get a Jewish actor,” she wrote.

Binyomin Gilbert, a spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism, said it was “astonishing that nobody thought twice about sticking a big nose on a non-Jewish actor playing a Jew”.

“The filmmakers here need to show that they understand why this is a problem,” he said. “A failure to do so would indicate that there is a double standard when it comes to the portrayal of Jews on screen.”

Maestro is set to premiere at the Venice Film Festival next month, before being released on Netflix in December.

Another film scheduled for release in the coming months, Golda, has attracted similar controversy.

Dame Helen Mirren will play former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in Guy Nattiv’s film, which will be released in US cinemas at the end of this month.

Last year, actress Maureen Lipman told the Jewish Chronicle she “disagreed” with Dame Helen’s casting “because the Jewishness of the character is so integral”.


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