Bradley Cooper’s accent in Netflix’s biographical drama film ‘Maestro’ is an integral part of his portrayal of Leonard Bernstein, one of the greatest American composers of all time. Cooper plays the conductor with a “cultivated accent” to make sure that he is portraying the legendary figure as authentically as possible. The actor paid attention to the voice of the musician to transform into the latter impeccably. He even sought the help of the specialist who dealt with his prosthetic makeup to design the pieces that would enable him to speak like Bernstein. Cooper’s transformation elevates the believability of his performance!
Speaking Like Leonard Bernstein
It was very important for Bradley Cooper, the director, to speak like Leonard Bernstein while playing the musician. Although Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, he spent a major part of his life in New York City, regularly interacting with some of the most well-regarded artists of his time. Thus, Cooper’s highly refined accent does justice to the life Bernstein lived as a very popular composer in the elite spheres of the city. Cooper incorporated such an accent along with his version of Bernstein’s impactful voice. To make it possible, he reached out to his makeup designer Kazu Hiro.
“We made a nose plug. He wanted to talk like and sound like Lenny,” Hiro said in a press conference about Cooper’s desire to “change his voice.” Hiro made a nose plug with different-sized holes for the actor to wear inside his prosthetic nose piece to ensure the vocal transformation of the latter into Bernstein. “Lenny’s nose was wider than Bradley’s, so I made it wider at the same time to change his nose shape and voice too,” Hiro added. Throughout the production of the film, Cooper remained as Bernstein. He was particularly inspired by his ‘American Hustle’ co-star Christian Bale’s way of “staying in the voice of a character.”
“‘American Hustle’ was the first time I saw an actor stay in the voice of a character. It was Christian Bale. I had heard stories about Daniel Day-Lewis. I couldn’t figure out how someone could do that. Then I realized I was overthinking it. […] Ever since ‘American Hustle,’ that’s how I’ve done it as an actor,” Cooper told Spike Lee about his acting method. The actor-director even interacted with his cast and crew using the voice of Bernstein. “If you ask the crew or cast, Lenny directed the movie,” he added.
It is not the first time Cooper changed his voice entirely for a performance. For playing Jackson “Jack” Maine in his directorial debut ‘A Star Is Born,’ the actor changed his voice extensively. “I knew I wanted to lower my speaking voice an octave. So I hired [dialect coach] Tim Monich early on — I mean, like, a year before we shot the movie,” Cooper told EW about changing his voice for the film. He modeled his new voice after the voice of Sam Elliott, who plays Jack’s older half-brother and manager in the movie.
Cooper is not the only performer who worked on the accent for ‘Maestro.’ Carey Mulligan made sure that her original English accent didn’t surface while playing Bernstein’s cosmopolitan wife Felicia Montealegre. “Her [Felicia’s] accent was so specific because she was born in Costa Rica. She moved to Chile as a child. She did most of her education there, and then she went to New York. Her father was American, but she also wanted to be a New York actress. There was a real kind of mid-Atlantic, kind of Katharine Hepburn thing,” Mulligan told Michael Fassbender about her accent in the film, as per Variety.