Synopsis : Maestro is a towering and fearless love story chronicling the lifelong relationship between Leonard Bernstein and Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein. A love letter to life and art, Maestro at its core is an emotionally epic portrayal of family and love.
Rating: R (Some Language and Drug Use)
Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance, Music, Lgbtq+
Original Language: English
Director: Bradley Cooper
Writer: Josh Singer, Bradley Cooper
Release Date (Theaters): Limited
Release Date (Streaming):
Production Co: Fred Berner Films, Sikelia Productions, Lea Pictures, Amblin Entertainment
@Photo by Jason McDonald/Netflix – © 2023 Netflix, Inc.
Press Conference with Actor/Writer/Director/Producer Bradley Cooper and Actress Carey Mulligan
Q : What was the genesis of creating a film, “Maestro”?
Bradley Cooper – When I was a kid, I had an absolute obsession with fake conducting, like truly, oddly obsessed with it. I spent hundreds of hours conducting, so I always felt this was my calling quite honestly. I did not know about Leonard Bernstein and when this project started circulating, I asked Steven Spielberg who was in control of the property at the time. That’s how it began. After that I started researching to figure out what script I could write, what kind of story I felt I could tell. I instantly understood it was about these two wonderful characters, Felicia and Leonard, it was their relationship.
Q : What kind of preparation have you done in order to portray Felicia Montealegre?
Carey Mulligan – You need to maintain that character as a person you’re portraying. At some point, you should actually feel like you’ve become Felicia. The character should become something you can truly inhabit. It can happen during a scene or maybe in costume. Bradley asked me to be a part of the film in 2018, we worked really hard together in Philadelphia in 2019. After that, every time I went to Los Angeles, our dialect coach, Tim Monich, would be a Bradley’s house, so I’d go over and then we’d just start reading the script together. Josh Singer would come over too. And then we did this incredible dream workshop together, and I think by the end of that, we were ready. I knew that at a certain point we were having their children come on set. It was a bit daunting.
Q : When did you realize that you’re transformed into Felicia?
Carey Mulligan – Thank goodness it was before we even ever started shooting. I believe that it was simply the outcome of the years of work we did together, culminating in a certain level of awareness. The moment, though, I’d say is after we finished this six-day dream workshop, which was a really intensive exploration of the subconscious through dreams. We knew it: ‘Okay, now we’re absolutely ready.’ During that workshop, we sat back to back and spent time just talking openly. That led to Lenny and Felicia just sitting back to back and talking for a minute, a beautiful and intimate scene. We decided to include it in the script because it was a visual metaphor for their extraordinary relationship.
Q : Could you talk about collaboration with writer Josh Singer?
Bradley Cooper – I was great honor for me to able to come aboard. Josh had already been a part of a project about Leonard Bernstein. Then when I came on, I asked him if he would want to go on this new journey. So we just started doing research and meeting people who had known Lenny and Felicia. They were really powerful people and they were always spoken about as Lenny and Felicia. They never said Lenny and his wife: it was always clear that both have really had an impact on people. I was just so happy that Josh stayed with the project because it went into the direction of a movie about marriage. He wanted to explore this unorthodox, mysterious, and also very open relationship that is wistful, haunting, and funny.
Photo by Jason McDonald/Netflix – © 2023 Netflix, Inc.
Q : What was the element that did you find it difficult to become Leonard Bernstein?
Bradley Cooper – It was absolutely terrifying at first, but in time it just became a little bit easier. When I started working on this project six years ago, I thought I was never going to get the voice, so I just worked so hard all the time. I had the benefit of six years of preparation. I started working on Lenny’s voice before “A Star Is Born” even came out. I met this incredible dialect coach, Tim Monich, who I started working with on “American Sniper,” “A Star Is Born,” and “Nightmare Alley.” We have a wonderful way of working together and basically he moved into my house in New York. We worked five days a week for four and a half years. And then there is the astonishing make-up work: Kazu Hiro is an incredible makeup artist, we worked for years doing tons of tests on film before we ever even started shooting.
Q : And did you have a terrifying moment during the shooting?
Bradley Cooper – On the first day of shooting, we shot the scene where older Lenny teaches William how to conduct. I felt terrifying just because it was my first time being Lenny in front of a crew. And I also had to direct. So I asked some of my best friends to be there: Gabe Fazio, who I went to grad school with. I knew that I had an anchor there. He played Lenny’s assistant who arrives in the Jaguar. Just knowing Gabe was there, I thought I was going to be okay.
Another terrifying scene was the concert in the cathedral, conducting the London Orchestra, one of the best in the world: luckily I had Gustavo Dudamel who helped me and trained me for years. And there was a video of Leonard conducting that orchestra in that space in the 70’s. But even with all that, conducting was impossible. So the first day I messed up, I kept getting behind the tempo. So the next day I came back very early, when the cathedral was still empty, when I reflected on the scene, I understood that the core was Felicia watching him with no hate in her heart. So we did that shot one more time and that’s what’s in the movie. It was crazy.
Q : When you’re working with Bradley as co-star and director? Have you ever seen him exhausted?
Carey Mulligan – I saw him tired, it must’ve been because he had to get to work at two in the morning to do his make-up and become Lenny. Every day, he started five hours before anyone else got there. And yet, I’ve never seen Bradley really tired. I was talking with Sarah Silverman about this last night, the joy of doing Maestro, the way Bradley approached the film every day.
We were all delighted to be able to make it and to be able to tell the story. It was energizing to be around him. The work done in preparation has been outstanding, so by the time we got to set I didn’t ever sit through a thought process. In terms of being directed by your co-star, it’s just so much fun because he could elicit the response in me that he knew he would get from my portrayal of the character.
Q : By wearing many hats as Actor/Writer/Producer, would you say this was challenging film as a director?
Bradley Cooper – I don’t storyboard anything, instead, I always try to imagine the movie in my head, making every cut and seeing how far I can go. And then the day arrives when I can imagine the movie from the first shot to the last shot in my head. That’s when I start to feel comfortable that I can walk onto a set, At that moment, I can be absolutely free: suddenly you have all these people and you’re in the location and maybe the light isn’t hitting exactly where you’d thought. And then, new ideas start to pop up. If I decide to change something, how does that affect everything else? When I have to shoot, I sort of play the movie out of my head. This is my process.
Q : How much of your learning experience from A Star Is Born as a director helped you to apply anything new to”Maestro”?
Bradley Cooper – I’ve learned so much making “A Star is Born” but also shooting “Nightmare Alley” with Guillermo Del Toro and then “Licorice Pizza” with Paul Thomas Anderson. I spent three weeks with Guillermo just looking at lenses, watching camera tests and just soaking up everything I could.
The way Guillermo uses the techno crane, for example, I completely inhabited and utilized for this film. Each project I’ve ever been involved with, I’ve just soaked up everything I could. Hopefully, I’ll just keep evolving as a filmmaker. My major takeaway from “A Star Is Born” was:”I finally have found my center as an artist”.
Here’s the trailer of the film.