I AM A Star Is Born: Oscar buzz
A Star Is Born has received unanimous praise by critics celebrating Lady Gaga’s debut acting role alongside first-time writer-director and co-star, Bradley Cooper, who premiered his filmmaking debut at the 75th Venice Film Festival on August 31.
The film about an alcoholic musician (Cooper as Jackson Maine) who helps a young singer (Gaga as Ally) become a star at the expense of his own career, has been hailed as an emotionally satisfying and masterful update on previous versions of the Hollywood classic starring Judy Garland (1957) and Barbara Streisand (1976).
Cooper’s first foray as a filmmaker has birthed its own stars showcasing his most soulful cinematic performance to date, coupled with the revelation of his genuine directing and vocal talents, as well as Gaga as an actor—exposed like we've never seen her before—without makeup.
A Star Is Born Trailer (2018)
Gaga and Cooper discussed their experiences collaborating together on their respective debuts in Venice, which have already attracted Oscar buzz, after the film's world premiere:
LG: I think it’s safe to say, because we’ve seen so many incarnations of this film, we know already that this story has stood the test of time. It is a beautiful story. And a story I think people will be touched by all over the world.
It’s a story about love, it’s a story about what Bradley would refer to as the human plight and addiction. It’s a remarkable experience for me and I am very much looking forward to everybody seeing it.
What was the challenge for you in playing this role?
LG: The challenge for me in playing Ally is that, really, at the beginning of this film, Ally has completely given up on herself. And when I started out in the music industry, when I decided I wanted to be a singer and go for it professionally; I was about 19-years-old and I hit the ground running.
I was dragging my piano from dive bar to dive bar, trying to get jobs so that I could sing for people, and I really believed in myself.
Ally does not believe in herself at the beginning of this film. And it is her relationship with Jack and their love together, and how much he believes in her, that really brings her to life.
Where do you want your career to go next and what’s important to you?
BC: I am so lucky to have worked with her. Time: to answer your question. I am 43-years-old. And time—I don’t how you feel about it—is the biggest currency. And I just want to make sure that I utilise that time, to the best degree possible. This movie, all said and done, was over four years of my life, and every minute and every second was worth it.
So, I just hope to be able to be a part of projects that I love as much as I loved this one. And if I can continue to do that and people like Warner Bros. are willing to allow me to tell stories, then that’s what I’ll do.
Lady Gaga, did you ever feel pressure to change your look or appearance at the beginning of your career, as your character does in the film?
LG: At the beginning of my career; I have always loved to transform. I’ve always loved to shape-shift and become different characters. It’s part of my artwork, it’s part of my music. And what was so wonderful about this experience with Bradley and why he’s such an incredible director, is that he really wanted to see me with nothing.
And I remember very, very well—I walked down the stairs from my house before we filmed the screen test for A Star Is Born and he had a makeup wipe in his hand. And he put his hand on my face and he went like this (moving her hand down her face), and there was make-up. We had put just a little bit and he said: “I want no makeup on your face.”
And so, this vulnerability was something that he brought out in me. And for someone that doesn’t necessarily feel safe, that vulnerable all the time, it was such a special experience with him. He made me just feel so free, and at the same time, he is so laser-focused while he’s working, and such a visionary. So, I got to live my dream. I’ve always wanted to be an actress.
There’s a very touching scene where Ally, for the first time, plays her own music to the public. This is a very unforgettable moment for every musician, every songwriter. How did it feel when you performed in this part of the film?
LG: I have to say that me and Bradley were so entrenched in the characters, that this moment when we were filming felt so real, so alive. We had a live audience watching us. We sang the film live and because I have never done a film before, as an actress, for me, it was very easy to go to a place where I was saying to myself, “Ok I’ve never done this before. It’s my first time on film,” and get into that circumstance and then go out and play.
And she does—Ally takes a bit of liquid courage and she knocks down the shot glass and she goes out there and she gives it her all. And I remember very well that, it was, I think, the last take of the performance. We did many takes of it and it was the last take and Bradley came over to me right before and said, “Ok, now, on this one, I want you just to have fun.” And I performed and I’ll never forget it; it really did feel like I was performing my song for the first time. It was very, very special.
BC: I just have to add to that, and we can all (addressing his team) attest to that, you know, it was special for you (to Gaga), but I wish you had the opportunity to watch it happen because while we were filming this movie; we also had the opportunity of watching and being a part of and watching her sing every day. And literally—the whole crew—would sit back and forget we were doing a job every time she sang.
We would just sort of sit there watching it and feeling very grateful that we were there at that moment to watch this incredible artist do her thing, and that really never got old. I mean, it was insane. All of the sudden she starts and the temperature in the room changes.
How scary was it for you when Gaga suggested that you sing live in the film?
You know, this thing about people needing people… She made me feel so comfortable from the first day we met. In fact, we sang together that very first 15-20 minutes that we knew each other and I’d be lying if I said I was nervous, because she made me feel so comfortable. She really did. I mean, she’s very present and warm, and when you see an artist of that calibre treat you like a peer—it’s very emboldening. The true answer is; I didn’t. I felt like I was protected all the time.
LG: And he’s a great singer. Really, such a tremendous singer. And from the moment he opened his mouth, we were sitting at my piano in the living room and he started to sing and I just, I stopped, and said, “Bradley, oh my god you have an incredible voice.” He sings from his gut, you know, from the nectar, from the soul, and I think this comes across so strong in Jackson’s character.
And what I loved so much about working with Bradley is that there was a true exchange. He accepted me as an actress and I accepted him fully as a musician. And he spent so much time in the studio with musicians, studying music, and studying the behind-the-scenes, and everything that goes on in the music industry. It was just an incredible thing to watch and to be a part of.
You both sang in front of 60 or 50,000 people. Tell us about the first time you had to sing on stage.
BC: Talk about her as an actress: here’s a world superstar. To have a world superstar musician who just did the half-time at the Super Bowl, to have her act—because that is major acting—like she’s stepping on the stage for the first time—blew me away as a director, and as a fellow actor watching her because I fully believed that she had never stepped on a stage of that scope.
How does fame condition your daily life?
LG: At many times in the beginning of my career I said “No.” I write my own music and I work with other writers, as well, at times. But when I was starting out, you know, I was not the most beautiful girl in the room and there were a lot of women who were singers, but that did not write their own music. Many record executives wanted to take my songs and give them to other women to sing and I was like holding onto my music with my cold dead fingers, saying “You’re not going to take my songs from me.”
But, I was always very strong at the beginning of my career that I always had to take a left turn a little bit, no matter what they asked me to do. I always had to make sure it was done my way.
You know, I think it’s the same thing for Ally in this film. She’s navigating her career and she’s trying to find her place as she transforms.
BC: The thing that I love about Jackson Maine’s character is that he doesn’t really think about fame at all. And the opening scene of the movie, actually, it’s a sold-out venue, and you get the sense that there’s nothing dwindling on the outside.
It’s maybe on the inside when you see him go into that car and where you’re maybe expecting somebody to be filled with elation just coming off this very bombastic opening. He seems quite melancholic and takes a swig of a bottle of gin that’s in the backseat. So, that was one of the things that I wanted to portray with this character; that he’s operating from a completely different viewpoint.
So, that’s not something that he’s dealing with and he could have gone on and sold venues and he didn’t have any financial problems. If he got his own mind straight and work done himself, he could have continued to perform and be very successful.
Me personally: the thing about fame that I find fascinating is the sonic element of it and that’s what we have in the movie. Like, there’s tonnes of noise and then all of a sudden—silence. You’re alone.
And I didn’t want to have any sort of paparazzi or press conferences in the movie. But, to capture what it feels like from an experiential point and that’s why this kind of movie has that rhythm.
Although you’re both very accomplished, did you discover anything new? Can we say that new stars were born in the areas you had not ventured into before? (Bradley – director/singer and Lady Gaga – actress?) Do have any intention to do it again?
BC: And I have to say, I mean, I would be here for two-hours talking to you about all the things I learned in this experience.
And that all came about because somebody believed in me, you know, and she (Gaga) believed in me. And I think that that’s the key, you know—even in getting this movie made. Kroll believed in this movie when not everybody else did and she’s absolutely the reason we’re sitting here today—single-handedly.
So, it’s all about people believing in you. And I think that if I can go on and have another experience where I’m working with somebody who I feel believes in me that much, I think that’s when you have the opportunity to learn and grow, because you’re willing to face your fear, because learning usually comes with facing fear. I certainly faced it singing, directing, and writing a movie, for sure.
Susan (Sue Kroll, Executive Producer of A Star Is Born) , why did you think Bradley would be a good director for this film?
SC: There was no hesitation at the studio level and Bradley wanted to direct this film. Everybody bought into his vision, immediately. (To Cooper) You’re an incredible talent, we know that.
The dedication and focus that Bradley puts into everything he does is so meaningful and so unusual. And, of course, chemistry, and his belief in Gaga, and our belief. I’ve worked with a lot of wonderful filmmakers, you know, I’ve been very privileged in my job at Warner Bros. and now on the outside as a Producer.
(To Cooper)You’re one of the most talented and incredibly brilliant filmmakers that I’ve ever had the pleasure of working.
Bradley, can you discuss your stylistic choices behind the camera?
BC: There’s a lot to talk about, so, I’ll just make it simple. About six years ago, at a Metallica concert, I had met Lars Ulrick the night before and I said, “Oh, I’m a huge fan of Metallica,” and he said, “Come to our concert.” I think that was the first time I thought, “Wow, this composition is incredible and it’s not what many people feel.” What is it like to be on a stage performing music?
And so, that was where the idea compositionally was born of always being subjective. So, in the movie, you’re always on the stage. So, that was one of the major things I wanted to do.
One of my favourite things about the movie compositionally is that she’s a star before she even knows it. So the movie treats her like a star in the bathroom at the bottom of this hotel, because she walks up and the frame is as if she’s onstage, but she doesn’t even know it yet.
That’s one of the things: I just fell in love with her face and eyes. So, that wasn’t anything other than I just wanted to be as close as possible in shooting it, quite frankly.
But, the story point to that is Jackson’s constantly avoiding the camera and she’s willing, because she’s such a pure artist and a pure soul, to just to be able to be right there in front of it.
A Star Is Born will premiere at the Toronto film festival on the 9th of September and will be released in theatres later this year from the 4th of October.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER
Actor, Director, Screenwriter
Cooper received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor after starring opposite Jennifer Lawrence in David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook (2012). He then received two more consecutive Oscar nominations, Best Supporting Actor for playing Richie DiMaso in Russell's American Hustle (2013) (again opposite Lawrence, though their characters shared no significant screen time), and Best Actor for playing Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in Clint Eastwood's American Sniper (2014), the highest grossing film of 2014. During this time period, Cooper also reprised his role in The Hangover Part II (2011) and The Hangover Part III (2013), turned in another strong dramatic turn in The Place Beyond the Pines (2012), and voiced Rocket Raccoon in the third highest grossing film of 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).
In 2015, Bradley starred opposite Jennifer Lawrence again in David O. Russell's Joy (2015). Mini Bio courtesy of Pedro Borges (Source: IMDb).