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Bradley Cooper Practiced Conducting for Six Years for Scene in 'Maestro'

By Michael Vincent on November 20, 2023

Bradley Cooper Maestro
Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein in Maestro (Image via Netflix)

At a New York screening of “Maestro,” Bradley Cooper shared with panel host Lin-Manuel Miranda and fellow cast members Carey Mulligan and Matt Bomer the details of his extensive six-year preparation.

The actor, poised to portray the musical titan Leonard Bernstein, said he needed six years to ensure he got a crucial six-minute and twenty-one-second segment of conducting in the film exactly right.

Now that is method-acting

This dedication underscores his portrayal in the biographical drama, which promises to shed light on the complexities and genius of Bernstein’s character.

In a testament to Cooper’s commitment, the actor revealed during a New York screening event that he felt a significant weight of responsibility in recreating Bernstein’s historic 1976 performance of Gustav Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony.

The original performance was a momentous event in classical music history, with Bernstein at the helm of the London Symphony Orchestra. Recapturing its essence required not just a study of conducting as a technical skill but a understanding of Bernstein’s unique conducting style.

Why was it so challenging?

This was a serious undertaking. Cooper had to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra in front of a live audience, seamlessly blending acting with the authentic conduct of an orchestra. This would have been difficult for a professional conductor, let alone an amateur.

To achieve the precision required, Cooper delved into extensive practice sessions. He also benefited from the guidance of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, a renowned conductor who provided consultancy for the film, ensuring that Cooper’s performance was not only convincing but musically accurate.

Lifelong affair

Details about Cooper’s preparation for the role have emerged, painting a picture of an actor deeply invested in his craft. From requesting a conductor’s baton for Christmas when he was eight, to engaging in hundreds of hours of practice as an adult, Cooper’s relationship with music and conducting has been a lifelong affair. His approach to the role was methodical and thorough, aiming to understand the nuances of Bernstein’s conducting style and the music he so masterfully presented to audiences.

The filming process itself was elaborate. Shot in the historic Ely Cathedral, the scene demanded authenticity not just from Cooper but from the entire London Symphony Orchestra. Musicians were asked to make personal adjustments to their appearance, such as growing beards and not cutting their hair, to fit the period. Some wore custom-made prescription glasses to maintain the visual authenticity of the 1970s.

Cooper’s performance, along with the meticulous attention to detail by the production, has already begun to garner critical acclaim. The film received a lengthy standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival, an early indicator of its potential impact. Moreover, the emotional response from Bernstein’s family, moved to tears by Cooper’s portrayal, speaks volumes about the film’s authenticity and the actor’s ability to capture the essence of the legendary conductor.

While the general public awaits the release of “Maestro,” the buzz generated by these early reports suggests that audiences will witness a film that pays homage to Bernstein’s legacy with great respect and fidelity.

“Maestro” is scheduled for a limited theatrical release on November 22, 2023, before streaming on Netflix on December 20, 2023.

Michael Vincent
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