The actor, director, and writer sat down with Vanity Fair’s Krista Smith in Toronto to go very, very deep on his extremely personal new film.
Bradley Cooper swears he couldn’t have done it any other way. Friends had told the actor that, if he wanted to try out directing, he should start with a TV episode or a commercial, just to learn. “I said, that scares the hell out of me,” he told Vanity Fair’s executive West Coast editor, Krista Smith, in a conversation at the Toronto International Film Festival. “I wouldn’t know where to put the camera. . . . You can’t control what moves you, and I wanted to tell a love story.”
The love story that Cooper chose is one that’s been a staple in Hollywood for nearly a century. Cooper’s A Star Is Born, which opens in theaters Friday after a rapturous festival run, is the fourth version of the film, starring Cooper opposite Lady Gaga as a successful musician with a disastrous drinking problem who meets an up-and-coming singer—who might be able to help him turn it all around.
Each version of A Star Is Born is unique, and Cooper brought many personal touches to the script, which he co-wrote with Eric Roth and Will Fetters. One of the most significant is the relationship between his character and his half brother, played by Sam Elliott, who has managed his much-younger brother’s career but never stopped resenting him. The siblings bottle up their emotions for most of the film, until Cooper’s character, Jackson, opens up in a pivotal scene—so pivotal, Cooper said, that he was nervous to film it.
“I remember even in the table read, I couldn’t even say the line. I would start crying,” he told Smith. “I was scared for that scene.”
Even before Elliott signed on for the film, Cooper based his character, Jackson Maine, on the actor—and worked with his dialect coach from American Sniper, Tim Monich, for four hours a day to model his voice on Elliott’s. “He’s from Sacramento, his mom was born in Texas,“ Cooper said, explaining why he chose Elliott’s voice as the ideal “hybrid accent” model for Jackson Maine. “Sam has this accent you can’t quite place.”
When it came time for Cooper to meet Elliott and ask him to be in the film, he said, “It was a crazy thing. I didn’t know if he was going to yell at me, be like ‘Who the hell do you think you are.’ I played an interview verbatim that he gave at Sundance a year or two year ago, but it was me doing it.” Lucky for Cooper, and the movie, Elliott was in. “Thank God he said yes, because I would have had to rewrite the whole thing. Six months of work on my voice would have gone down the drain.”
Elliott’s character may be the main idol for Cooper’s character, but Cooper himself has plenty of them—several of whom were around for the production of A Star Is Born. Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, stars of the 1976 version of the story, visited the set—“We were all completely blown away that they did that”—and Kristofferson happened to be performing at the Glastonbury Music Festival in England in 2017, when Cooper planned to shoot a few crowd scenes for the movie. “I had four minutes before,” he said. “The best part was I got to say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Kris Kristofferson.’ And I walked off the stage as he walked on. I’ll never forget it.”
On the first day of the film’s production, Cooper’s American Sniper director, Clint Eastwood, also stopped by for a decidedly Eastwood-style visit. “He came and had lunch,” Cooper said. “He just drives up by himself in his 1988 Audi. That guy is the most unassuming.”
And finally, one more father figure: the fluffy dog that Cooper and Gaga’s characters get midway through the film, who has such undeniable chemistry with both actors? That’s Cooper’s real dog, Charlie. Named after his father.
Watch the full, 35-minute interview above for much, much more from Cooper, including the low moments when he considered leaving the entire entertainment industry behind, the six characters he’s always felt he had to play (and how many of them he’s now embodied), and the moment he saw Lady Gaga perform and knew he wanted her in A Star Is Born.
2018 Oct 06