The interview takes place on three continents. There is one virtual zoom window into four living rooms: two in New York, one in New Zealand, and one in Th romeOffice in Italy.
Artist, band leader, Bradley Cooper's film about the personal and professional lives of legendary orchestra conductor Leonard Bernstein and his wife Felicia Montealegre, played by Carey Mulligan, has just premiered worldwide on Netflix. Bernstein's three children, Jimmy, Alexander and Nina, gathered to talk about the film and their memories.
The siblings took center stage at this year's Venice Film Festival, where they jumped up after the film's screening to jokingly deliver the standing ovation that greeted the film's world premiere, imitating their father's unusual, colorful style.
“It was cathartic in a moment where the joy, the tears, the memories and the pain were overwhelming,” Alexander says. “We were children again. Naturally, we had to fill those seven minutes of applause with something!” Nina adds: “We just did what happens when the introduction to Candide was on TV, we watched our father and imitated him in the living room.”
The trio speaks in unison, finishing each other's sentences, catching a word or comment to move on in another direction. Always, incredibly, in tune. Small orchestra. They are separated by thousands of miles and two oceans, but they look like the children in the picture Artist, band leadergossiping on the lawns of the Bernstein family estate in Connecticut.
“Did you know they actually filmed there?” Alexander says. “It was weird for us, surreal. Nina said it's like those dreams you have when you're in your house, but it's not your house in a way. My parents were there, but they weren't kind of my parents. It was like a dream.”
“We would see Bradley and Carrie there, and they would actually come in with makeup and stage clothes, playing the character. “They would walk around in the garden, and around the rooms, and to us, it seemed weird and natural,” Nina says.
“At one of the screenings the other day, when we were photographed with Bradley and Carrie, Jamie and I looked at each other and said, ‘This is a very strange family photo, our parents are younger than us!’” Alexander says.
It's hard to get a word in on the edge. The three go back and forth, mixing personal nostalgia with their enthusiasm for a film that conjures up both sweet and painful memories. They reflect on the long journey of bringing their family's story to screen.
“They've been trying to make this movie for 15 years,” Alexander says. “Originally it was with Martin Scorsese. He kept renewing the option, but no decision was made. Fred Berner and Amy Durning were already attached as producers. We agreed with them, we just asked to be able to read the script, and talk to the writer or director who would be doing it.
“At some point, it became a joke between us, all this talk about life rights, about choices. We were resigned to the fact that this movie would never get made,” says Jimmy.
Alexander continues: “When everything stopped moving and seemed impossible to bring to the screen, the transformation came: Steven Spielberg. Well, before he remade it.” West Side StoryHe entered the production team, and it looked like he might go behind the camera as well. The idea to play Bradley in the lead role came from him. But the more Bradley was involved in the project, and the more he talked to us, the more he felt like the story belonged to him.
Jimmy was the first of the siblings to see Bradley Cooper's directorial debut, A star is born.
She just told us: Go see her. “We did it, and we fell out of our chairs,” Alexander says. “We were truly impressed by his work. When we found him in front of us, he was what we imagined him to be after watching the movie: focused, attentive, committed, and full of generosity.
“And respectful,” Nina adds. “His approach won us over. When Jimmy met him, too, and they connected, it was progressive. He involved us in his work, made sure we got, without saying anything, all the drafts of the script, and then showed us the work in progress at different stages of the project. He asked us A lot of questions, and we tried not to ask for a lot of corrections. In the end, it's his film, and if he wants to take a certain artistic license, that's up to him. And only if there's a blunder do we say, 'Actually, it happened that way.'
“There was an atmosphere of mutual trust,” Jimmy confirms.
The trio quickly dismiss the controversy surrounding the prosthetic nose Cooper wears to play Bernstein, dismissing the “scandal” as ridiculous and not worthy of further comment. What's even more painful, they say, is watching some of the darkest moments of their parents' lives on screen.
“The hardest part, of course, was when our mother got sick and then died,” says Jamie. “We had read the script, and we knew it was going to be in the movie, but seeing it was a real punch in the gut, even though Bradley handled everything with a wonderful delicacy. In his portrayal, in his narration, and especially in showing it to us: if only we had seen it all at once.” One, in a preview, would have ruined us, we would have collapsed.
“I don't know if by watching the movie you learned more about our family or about Lenny Bernstein,” Alexander adds. “But I know I've learned a lot about Bradley Cooper. Now we're far enough away from it all, I think I'm able to say that he and our father are a lot alike. Much more so than we ever imagined. There's the same intensity, focus, and perfection. The ability to be devoted to the art throughout… “The hour if necessary. The ability to handle stress better than anyone else, and not sleeping for days when inspiration strikes. The same charisma. And love.”
Stop. They smile at each other as if they were in the same room. And they hug, they say almost in chorus. They hug in the same way. They are both full of love and warmth and a desire to connect.
Artist, band leader Explores the incredible challenge Felicia Montealegre faced as the wife of the genius Lenny Bernstein. But what does it look like to be His children, to bear responsibility for His legacy?
“It's very difficult,” Nina admits.
“You have expectations of yourself that you can never meet,” says Jamie.
“We had a book when we were little kids,” Alexander recalls. “On the cover, it was titled ‘Just Like Mom.’ Then you would turn it upside down and the back cover would say: ‘Just Like Dad.’ It was all about a businessman who wakes up in the morning and has breakfast with his kids. And his wife makes breakfast. And he goes to work with his briefcase.” He takes the train and all that. Just what you'd expect. I was reading that book and saying, 'Wow. This sounds like an amazing life. But I also knew that there was something else going on in my life, that was very special. And that there was never going to be a book about being like my father.'
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