Lady Gaga is as mega as you can get as a rock star and Bradley Cooper knows the best and worst about the movie business. She’s got the vocal chops; he’s got the acting chops. You might wonder in making A Star Is Born if she was putty in his hands or if he just let her loose to run wild.
Like the characters they play, she says, “We relied on each other in every single way. We were truly in this together. We approached every scene, every song as partners.” He states, “As a storyteller, you want to make sure you cast the right person. Her talent and work ethic honed from years of performing exploded every time we did a musical number. I saw this undeniable force in her, and knew there was no one else who could’ve played the part. There’s something about acting and singing that’s so honest, you can’t hide at all. I thought that those two things could be put together in a way that maybe I’d find my point of view.”
Putting his stamp on the a thrice-told story to make its timeless nature of human feelings and failings appeal to today’s diverse audiences and music lovers, Cooper says, “I never thought, ‘How do I make it original?’ I just knew I had to make it authentic. I wanted to tell a meaning story filled with lots of raw emotion.”
Though she loved his take on the story, Gaga was nervous taking on a role of such depth. It was my first feature film. When somebody has talent inside them, brewing for years, ready to move into another medium and it finally happens, it’s a huge explosion, an opus. I’m so insecure. I had to get past the nerves. When Ally talks about how ugly she feels, that was real. Bradley was not only at the helm but also always by my side. He knew the ropes, and as we created the songs, I watched him become a real musician. He was meant to direct, and I got lucky to be in his first film.”
Cooper states, “You’re going to say, ‘This is her first feature?’ Stefani [Gaga] has done incredible work as an actress, but to make this huge transition was brave of her. Actually, we were at the same point individually in our work, and we both needed the same thing from each other, essentially, in order to jump the tracks to this other place.”
In the film, when they first meet, Jackson tells Ally, “Talent comes from everywhere, but having something to say and a way to say it so that people listen, that’s a whole other bag. And unless you get out there and you try to do it, you’ll never know. That’s just the truth.” “I always wanted to direct,” informed Cooper, “but I knew I needed to have a point of view to know why I was doing it. I always wanted to tell a love story, because it’s something everyone can relate to — love, the loss of it, the high of it. It’s the thing that makes you feel the most alive. I wanted to explore the complexity of intermingling lives along with fears, joys, doubts, anger, hopes. Coupled with that is music — not just music, but singing. I was ready to dive into something that would challenge and push me to be relevant and current.”
To enhance the immediacy of Jackson and Ally’s first connection, while dancing and is lying on the bar looking at him for the first time, to really get the impact of that moment, Cooper shot at 48 frames per second instead of 24. Another thing was to go close up on Ally in the beginning of the relationship – when Jackson touches her nose, when he’s wrapping her hand after a bar brawl, when she touches his ear. You always remember the first touch of somebody, because it either sends a chill down your spine or it’s a dead fish. But for them it’s chills!”
“I wanted to pull back the curtain on what it means to be a star and a rising star in today’s industry,” observes producer Lynette Howell Taylor. “And Bradley isn’t your typical first-time feature director. He’s business been in the business for years, soaking up knowledge from directors David O. Russell, Clint Eastwood, and Todd Phillips and honing his own craft as a producer. He’s paid attention”.
Though they’d never met, Cooper conceived the role of Jackson’s brother, his surrogate father, manager, counselor, and talented singer who sacrificed his aspirations for the more driven Jackson. “We discussed his vision and how I might fit in. He shared footage on his phone of working with Stefani at her piano. I was dumbfounded at the beauty of it.”
“It’s all about the work with Bradley,” he adds. “Getting at the truth, being honest. He’s such a collaborator, so generous, and filled with trust that you want to give it back to him.”