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‘Maestro’ Makeup Artist Responds to Prosthetic Nose Backlash: ‘I’m Sorry If It Hurt Some People’s Feelings’

Makeup artist Kazu Hiro is an Oscar winner for making astonishing actor transformations in films like “Darkest Hour,” which made Gary Oldman unrecognizable as Winston Churchill. But now, he’s mixed up with some unexpected backlash to the prosthetic nose that actor/director/co-writer Bradley Cooper wears in his new film “Maestro” to play Jewish conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein.

Members of the production team along with Kazu, plus Leonard’s daughter Jamie Bernstein (portrayed in her younger years in the film by Maya Hawke), spoke to the corps at the Venice Film Festival today ahead of the film’s Saturday night competition premiere.

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“I wasn’t expecting that to happen,” Kazu said when quizzed about the internet response to the first teaser. “I feel sorry that I hurt some people’s feelings.”

Kazu, who also made John Lithgow disappear into a six-piece fat suit to play Roger Ailes in “Bombshell,” explained the creative choice in his own words: “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. [He was] 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.”

Cooper was not present at the conference — or the festival at all due to the strike — to speak to the choice. But Hiro explained the time-consuming process Cooper endured for production, with two hours and 50 minutes spent in the makeup chair for playing Bernstein’s younger self, and five hours a day for his older self, with Cooper entering makeup around 2 a.m. to be ready for shooting.

Jamie Bernstein and her siblings Alexander and Nina previously defended the decision in a joint statement in response to accusations that the nose represents a stereotypical representation of a Jewish person.

“It happens to be true that Leonard Bernstein had a nice, big nose,” the earlier statement read. “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. 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.”

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