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