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Bradley Cooper Looks Unrecognizable Playing This Hollywood Icon

The actor stars as Leonard Bernstein in the upcoming biopic Maestro.

All actors change their look at least a little bit to play a role, whether it's through wearing period costumes or changing their hairstyle. But, for some roles, stars have to transform themselves in a much more significant way. In the upcoming movie Maestro, Bradley Cooper plays Leonard Bernstein. And because he portrays the late conductor and composer at various ages, he moves from still looking like himself in 1950s-style clothes to playing Bernstein in his later years and looking unrecognizable in makeup and hair that ages him. Read on to see newly released first look photos of Cooper in the movie and to learn more about the upcoming biopic.

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Cooper stars in, directs, and co-wrote the movie.

Cooper is not only playing Bernstein, he's also directing Maestro and co-wrote the movie with Josh Singer. The A Star Is Born filmmaker was originally asked about playing the West Side Story composer when Steven Spielberg was interested in helming the movie; he later passed off directing duties to Cooper.

During an interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in January, Cooper said that Spielberg told him he should direct the movie after Cooper shared some footage with him from his directorial debut. At one point during the A Star Is Born screening, Cooper said Spielberg stood up, which made him think he hated the movie and was leaving the room. But, instead, the director walked over to him and said, "'You're [expletive] directing Maestro.'" Cooper continued, "And then he sat back down. And it was amazing."

He's been fascinated by conductors since he was a child.

Bradley Cooper at the National Board of Review Gala in March 2022
lev radin / Shutterstock

In his Late Show interview, Cooper shared that the project was a good fit, because he's always been fascinated by conducting. "When I was eight years old, I asked Santa Claus for a baton because I was obsessed with conducting classical music," he said.

The actor added, "Steven Spielberg knew that. He happened to know that I had this obsession with conducting. Like, in grad school, I did an MFA and [you] create a character and I created a conductor and then wrote a monologue. So, it was really something that was always inside of me."

Bernstein is among the most famous composers and conductors of the 20th century. He's most famous for writing the music for West Side Story, but he also composed the musicals On the TownCandide, and Wonderful Town, and wrote the score for On the Waterfront.

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He looks unrecognizable in the film.

The newly released photos of Cooper in the movie show the result of the transformation he underwent to play Bernstein. In photos of Cooper as an older Bernstein, he has white hair, he's wearing facial prosthetics, and his hands even look as though they've been aged with makeup. Netflix's UK and Ireland Twitter account posted the photos with the caption, "From the set of Maestro."

In December 2021, Scott Stuber, Netflix's head of global films, told Variety of the movie, "We've done a lot of work on the makeup. We've done a lot of work on the voice. I'm excited to see someone so deeply focused on creating a story that means so much to him."

The movie is expected to be released next year.

Bradley Cooper in "Maestro"
Netflix UK & Ireland / Twitter

Maestro only began shooting in May, as reported by Variety, so fans still have quite a long time to wait for the finished product. As for what else we know about the movie: Carrie Mulligan will co-star as Bernstein's wife, actor Felicia Montealegre. The cast also includes Succession star Jeremy Strong, Stranger Things star Maya Hawke, and White Collar star Matt Bomer. Maestro is expected to be released on Netflix in 2023.

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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