Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro” receives standing ovation at Venice Film Festival premiere

Five years after the acclaimed A Star is Born hit the screens, Bradley Cooper is back in the director’s chair, with his highly anticipated film “Maestro.” 

The Netflix drama, which delves into the life of legendary stage composer Leonard Bernstein, made its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and received a rapturous seven-minute standing ovation at the Sala Grande Theatre on Saturday night.

According to Variety, Cooper, who also stars as Bernstein, couldn’t attend the premiere, along with his co-star Carey Mulligan, due to the SAG-AFTRA strike. However, the spotlight shone on Bernstein’s three children — Jamie Bernstein, Alexander Bernstein, and Nina Maria Felicia Bernstein — who emotionally acknowledged the audience’s warm reception. Their heartfelt wave to the crowd, tears in their eyes, was followed by a jubilant celebration of their father’s life as they mimicked conductors during the film’s credits, dancing in joy.

While a small group of Netflix executives, including Scott Stuber, chairman of the streaming giant’s film division, attended the premiere, it’s expected that “Maestro” will become Netflix’s major Oscar contender this year. Bradley Cooper is expected to compete in four categories: director, actor, producer, and screenplay, while Carey Mulligan aims for a best actress nomination for her portrayal of Felicia Montealegre, Bernstein’s wife.

“Maestro” takes a unique approach by focusing on Bernstein’s relationship with Montealegre, rather than his well-known achievements like composing “West Side Story.” The ensemble cast includes Matt Bomer, Maya Hawke, and Sarah Silverman. Cooper co-wrote the script with Josh Singer. The film competed at Venice alongside other Netflix originals, David Fincher’s “The Killer” and Pablo Larrain’s “El Conde.”

Before its premiere, much of the attention around “Maestro” centred on Cooper’s decision to don a large prosthetic nose for the role, which sparked some controversy on social media. Kazu Hiro, the Oscar-winning makeup artist behind the prosthetic, addressed the backlash during a press conference, expressing regret for unintentionally hurting people’s feelings. He explained that their goal was to authentically portray Bernstein’s iconic look, not to offend anyone.

In an interview with Variety, Bradley Cooper revealed that Steven Spielberg had originally planned to direct a Bernstein biographical drama and approached him to star in it. However, Cooper proposed to direct and write the film, leading Spielberg to pass the project to him. Spielberg remains a producer on “Maestro.”

Netflix has a history of launching its Oscar contenders at the Venice Film Festival, with films like “Roma” and “The Power of the Dog” earning critical acclaim and nominations. “Maestro” is set to stream on Netflix starting December 20, and its triumphant premiere at Venice suggests it may follow in the footsteps of its streaming predecessors to become a major awards contender.

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