Bradley Cooper on “Maestro” – CBS News

On Thursday, Nina Bernstein Simmons, Alexander Bernstein and Jamie Bernstein gathered at their family’s home in Connecticut to talk about “Maestro,” the movie Bradley Cooper made about their late parents. Much of the film was shot in this house, where the children share fond memories of their father, the composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, and their mother, the actress Felicia Montealegre.

Rocca asked, “How much time do you all spend in the house now?”

“Every chance we get,” Jamie said. “Weekends and lots of summer time. It’s heaven here.”

Cooper not only co-stars, he also wrote the film and directed it. It is his second film as a director, the first being the hit “A Star Is Born” with Lady Gaga. Still, he needed the consent of the three living Bernsteins to make the film.

He met the first-born Jamie at a restaurant in New York. He recalled, “I eat with my hands all the time, and I eat the spinach with my hands. And I recognize it, and then I either apologize or something, and you said, ‘That’s what my dad used to do.’ And I remember thinking at that moment: Oh, it can happen.”

“Corn on the cob was his favorite thing!” Jamie said.

Bradley Cooper, star and director of “Maestro”, with the three children of Leonard Bernstein and Felicia Montealegre: Nina Bernstein Simmons, Alexander Bernstein and Jamie Bernstein.

CBS News

Cooper delved into the life of Leonard Bernstein, who from the age of 25 was a bold name in American culture: The longtime conductor of the New York Philharmonic—the man who made classical music accessible through his televised “Young People’s Concerts” on CBS— and the composer of symphonies and landmark musicals, including “West Side Story” and “Candide.”

To become Bernstein meant to resemble him at various stages and the transformation is sensational. “It took four years, four years of testing,” Cooper said.

You may have read that Cooper’s makeup includes a prosthetic nose that the non-Jewish actor used to portray the Jewish Bernstein. The Bernsteins themselves more than fine with it. “I just want to point out that Bradley has a very substantial nose,” Jamie said. “And I don’t think anyone noticed until the riots happened. It’s the absolute non-issue of the time.”

Bradley Cooper in “Maestro”.


But “Maestro” is not a womb-to-tomb biopic. Instead, Cooper decided to explore the relationship between Bernstein and his lesser-known wife, portrayed by Carey Mulligan. “Our mother was the most elegant, delicious person,” said Nina Bernstein Simmons.

Theirs was a love story, but complicated by the fact that Bernstein also had affairs with men.

“She didn’t go into the marriage blindly?” Rocca asked.

“Not at all,” Nina replied.

Jamie added: “She knew exactly what the deal was.”

Alexander Bernstein said, “They obviously loved each other to death. They never fought in front of us. We never saw any darkness. We felt a lot. They kept everything very well cleaned up and pretty well hidden.”

Bernstein, Leonard - Conductor, USA/ mit Ehefrau Felicia
Felicia Montealegre and Leonard Bernstein in Berlin, 1959.

Berlin-Bild via Getty Images

But as a young woman, Jamie had questions about the rumors about her father, as depicted in the film. Her father did not tell her the truth.

In her 2018 memoir, “Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein,” Jamie reported that shortly after their wedding, her mother wrote to her father, “I’m willing to accept you as you are without being a martyr and sacrifice myself on the LB altar.” But according to Jamie, she had done exactly that.

“Yes, I do,” she said. “I feel like it cost her everything to hold on to it. It was really hard on her and I think it kind of contributed to her early death.”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Alexander said. “I think, you know, she probably regretted a lot of things in retrospect.”

Felicia Montealegre died of lung cancer in 1978 at age 56. “She had a wonderful, rich life and mostly wonderful marriage and a lot of love,” Alexander said.

Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein and Carey Mulligan as Felicia Montealegre in “Maestro”.

© 2023 Jason McDonald/Netflix

As much as “Maestro” is a love story about a marriage, it is also a story about Leonard Bernstein’s love for music. Cooper actually conducted the musicians during the recording of Mahler’s Second Symphony: “It took me six and a half years to work on it for six minutes and 25 seconds of music,” he said. “I have never experienced anything like this in my life, and I may never again.”

Bernstein died of a heart attack in 1990 at the age of 72. He and Bradley Cooper never met.

Nina asked Cooper if he missed Bernstein. “Oh yeah, man,” he replied. “It’s hard to talk about. I don’t know, we shared something very special, the four of us. It’s hard to even articulate. But he was with us, he was with me the whole time. His energy has somehow way it found its way to me that I really feel like I know him.”

To watch a trailer for “Maestro” click the video player below:

Maestro | Official Trailer | Netflix by
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Story produced by Jay Kernis. Editor: Joseph Frandino.

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