STAR POWER

First-time di­rec­tor Bradley Cooper lifts the lid on rock ’n’ roll dreams and his siz­zling chem­istry with Lady Gaga

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ANY A-lis­ter once be­stowed with the friv­o­lous honour of Sex­i­est Man Alive might have his di­rec­to­rial de­but met with a level of scep­ti­cism. But Bradley Cooper’s take on A Star Is Born has been met with un­mit­i­gated ap­plause.

This am­bi­tious labour of love took the four-time Os­carnom­i­nated ac­tor four years to per­fect and for Cooper, 43, it was worth ev­ery painstak­ing mo­ment.

“I’ve al­ways wanted to di­rect, ever since I was a kid,” he says. “I knew I wanted to tell a love story but I never had the con­fi­dence,” he says. “And I have to tell you, as many movies as I’ve made as an ac­tor (40-plus) I have to ad­mit, I feel vul­ner­a­ble and over­whelmed,” he says.

In the clas­sic film’s fourth re-imag­in­ing, Cooper stars as Jack­son

Maine, an al­co­holic coun­try rock star com­ing to grips with a wan­ing ca­reer while dis­cov­er­ing a ris­ing tal­ent, Ally Cam­pana, played by Lady Gaga in a role pre­vi­ously made fa­mous by show­biz greats Judy Gar­land and Bar­bra Streisand. Ally’s raw abil­ity and star qual­ity quickly eclipses that of her men­tor’s and, at op­po­site ends of their ca­reer, they fall hard and fast for each other.

Ally’s on­screen climb to mu­sic star­dom par­al­lels Lady Gaga’s off-screen, from pop diva to se­ri­ous movie star. Cooper con­curs vig­or­ously. “Yes, Ste­fani — I call her Ste­fani be­cause that’s her name — is a great ac­tress and she has a voice that is touched by God. And she’s so re­lat­able; I just love her.”

Cooper il­lus­trates their some­what sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship. “I en­trusted my­self to her that I would be able to find my voice as a mu­si­cian as Jack­son Maine and she gave me that con­fi­dence. At the same time she trusted me enough that she gave her­self to me and flow­ered as an ac­tress.”

He pauses. “I got very lucky be­cause we had an in­cred­i­ble chem­istry as soon as we met. I think it’s the most chem­istry I’ve ever had with an ac­tress in a movie.”

And that’s no mean feat given that he fa­mously siz­zled the screen with fre­quent co-star Jen­nifer Lawrence, his part­ner in Sil­ver Lin­ings Play­book, Amer­i­can Hus­tle, Joy and Ser­ena.

Shot for $50 mil­lion, with a screen­play co-writ­ten by Cooper with Will Fet­ters and Eric Roth, the film also stars An­drew Dice Clay, Dave Chap­pelle, and Sam El­liott. Clearly, Cooper en­joyed the mu­si­cal se­quences, which make up a great chunk of the movie, and were shot at the fa­mous Glas­ton­bury and Coachella fes­ti­vals.

Cooper also en­listed his rock star bud­dies as un­of­fi­cial con­sul­tants, in­clud­ing Me­tal­lica’s Lars Ul­rich and Pearl Jam’s Ed­die

Ved­der.

“I didn’t want to shoot a mu­sic movie with­out Glas­ton­bury,” he says of the revered UK sum­mer fes­ti­val. “It’s so sem­i­nal for any­body who knows any­thing about mu­sic, and for bands and mu­si­cians and singers. And also, two things were barom­e­ters of suc­cess for me — if a mu­si­cian saw the movie or any­body who has dealt with ad­dic­tion saw the movie, it had to feel and look au­then­tic.”

Cooper’s well-worn rocker cer­tainly looked at home on stage.

“I THINK IT’S THE MOST CHEM­ISTRY I’VE EVER HAD WITH AN AC­TRESS IN A MOVIE”

“Yes, well, who hasn’t wanted to be a rock star at some point?” he says with a smile.

And to his credit, he looks like a real nat­u­ral on gui­tar. “Yeah, well what you’re see­ing there is re­ally me play­ing but I dubbed over Lukas Nel­son (son of Wil­lie Nel­son) who’s a ge­nius gui­tar player.” He leans for­ward. “But I did get to play in front of 80,000 peo­ple.” Cooper may not have achieved his child­hood dream oc­cu­pa­tion of rock star, but with his star still ris­ing, he’s clearly made an im­pres­sion in that world. He thinks back to his first en­counter con­fronting his own celebrity, and con­cludes: “I re­mem­ber when The Han­gover came out, I was at an air­port in Europe and Keith Richards’ fam­ily was there. They were talk­ing about the film, and I thought, ‘That’s crazy, man.’ He laughs. “I think that was the mo­ment.”

Much has changed in Cooper’s off-screen life of late. Since 2015, he’s been in a re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sian lin­gerie su­per­model Irina Shayk, with whom he is rais­ing their 18-month old daugh­ter, Lea.

A few years ear­lier, life in­deli­bly al­tered when his fa­ther died of lung can­cer, in 2011.

“I think about my dad ev­ery day,” he ad­mits. “Luck­ily, and thank God, he is still in my dreams but I wish he was here.”

Does he think his fa­ther’s genes have been passed on to his daugh­ter? “I hope so,” he says.

As the con­tenders for awards sea­son start to take shape, all signs in­di­cate that Cooper’s crown­ing achieve­ment is likely to be re­warded.

“This was def­i­nitely the most ar­tis­ti­cally ful­fill­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that I have ever had by far, and I have had won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ences be­fore. But I re­ally did feel like I was in a place that I felt com­pletely ful­filled cre­atively.”

He didn’t take the risk lightly. “Peo­ple say that it’s OK to take chances and fail but there are cer­tain things that if they don’t work out, it ac­tu­ally does mat­ter,” he says.

“I was very aware of that, es­pe­cially given the his­tory of the film. But you can’t choose what moves you. I just thought, ‘I have got to do it’,’ he says.

“And as far as di­rect­ing again, if some­one will have me, I’d love to it, of course.” He smiles. We’ll have to wait and see.”

SEE A STAR IS BORN is out to­mor­row

BRADLEY COOPER AND LADY GAGA SHARE THE STAGE IN A STAR IS BORN, AND BE­LOW, WITH CO-STARS AN­THONY RAMOS, DAVE CHAP­PELLE AND SAM EL­LIOTT

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