Bradley Cooper wanted to completely immerse himself in the role of Leonard Bernstein in his second directorial work “Maestro”.
This meant that after much prep work, Cooper, who co-wrote, directed, produced and starred in the Netflix film, would often appear before the cast and crew only after physically transforming himself to resemble Bernstein. Makeup artist Kazu Hiro told Weekly entertainment that Cooper spent over five hours wearing hair, makeup and prosthetics to transform himself into the older composer/conductor, with “Maestro” spanning most of his adult life.
“On the last leg, our call time was 1 a.m. the entire time,” Hiro said. “The other thing was that he wanted the makeup to be done before the crew called so he could act as Lenny and set up filming and everything. This also meant that we had to call two hours earlier than usual, which was quite difficult.”
The two-time Oscar-winning makeup artist added: “By the final stage he had almost everything covered, the bodysuit and the arms. That took over five hours.”
Cooper also had to endure a two-and-a-half-hour process to play Bernstein in his 20s.
“[We had to] “Keep adding, because the older he gets, the more elements we need to add,” Hiro said. “The younger stage consisted of a nose, lips, chin and a wig. After the third stage he started to get jowls and neck [additions].”
Bernstein’s signature prominent nose caused controversy in early clips from “Maestro.” The film premiered in Venice and was shown as the centerpiece of the NYFF.
“I didn’t expect this to happen,” Hiro said of mixed reactions to Cooper’s prosthetic nose during the Venice Film Festival press conference. “I’m sorry for hurting some people’s feelings.”
Hiro continued: “My goal and Bradley’s goal was to portray Lenny as authentically as possible. Lenny had a truly iconic look that everyone knows. There are so many pictures out there because he is also photogenic. [He was] Such a great person and also inspires so many people, so we wanted to respect the inner look too. So we did various tests and made a lot of decisions and this was the result of the film.”
The late composer Bernstein’s children, Jamie, Alexander and Nina Bernstein, issued a statement shortly after the first trailer premiered defending the prosthetic nose and acknowledging Cooper’s non-Jewish heritage when portraying a Jewish musician.
“Bradley Cooper accompanied the three of us every step of his amazing journey making his film about our father,” the statement said. “It breaks our hearts to see misrepresentations or misunderstandings of his efforts. It’s true that Leonard Bernstein had a nice, big nose. Bradley chose to use makeup to enhance his likeness, and we’re totally okay with that. We are also sure that our father wouldn’t have minded either. Any harsh complaints on this subject seem to us, above all, to be disingenuous attempts to belittle a successful person – a practice we have seen all too often in our own father.”