The makeup artist for “Maestro,” Bradley Cooper’s biopic of famed conductor Leonard Bernstein, feels bad about the controversy over the nose prosthetics he gave the film’s lead. Kazu Hiro spoke about the backlash over the large nose at a Venice Film Festival press conference for the film.
“I wasn’t expecting that to happen. I feel sorry that I hurt some people’s feelings,” Hiro said at the press conference. “My goal was, and Bradley’s goal was, to portray Lenny as authentic as possible. Lenny had a really iconic look that everybody knows — there’s so many pictures out there because he’s photogenic, too.”
The nose was an issue for some due to the feeling that it played to antisemitic tropes and that the Jewish composer’s actual nose wasn’t as large as what Cooper was seen wearing in photos from the film. Cooper himself is not Jewish.
Hiro continued to praise Bernstein, describing him as “such a great person” who “inspired so many people.”
“We wanted to respect the look,” Hiro said. “So that’s why we did several different tests and went through lots of decisions, and that was the outcome in the movie.”
Hiro has experience with transformational makeup — he was also behind Gary Oldman’s transformation into Winston Churchill for 2017’s “Darkest Hour,” winning Academy Awards for both that film and 2019’s Fox News drama “Bombshell.”
He described the process of Cooper getting into prosthetic makeup for Bernstein, noting that it could take nearly three hours a day in the makeup chair for young Bernstein — and five hours for the older version of the conductor. Cooper had to start the process around 2 a.m. each day.
Bernstein’s children also defended the prosthetics following the public criticism, praising Cooper and releasing a statement that noted, “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. We’re also certain that our dad would have been fine with it as well.”
The family, which was involved in the making of the film, did not have kind words for those who brought particularly strong criticism against the prosthetic choice.
“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,” the statement reads.
Jamie Bernstein, daughter to the conductor, continued to praise Cooper at the same “Maestro” press conference. She said that her and her siblings were “overwhelmed by the degree to which Bradley was committed to telling a really authentic story about our parents and their relationship.” She also expressed thanks for how Cooper involved Jamie and her siblings.
Cooper himself was absent from both the press conference and the festival due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA actors’ strike.