A STAR IS BORN
About The Production
They liked the way I sounded...
but they didn't like the way I look.
I think you're beautiful.
Putting his own stamp on the tale with his contemporary take on "A Star Is
director/writer Bradley Cooper strove to make something that speaks to the
timeless nature of human
feelings and failings, mixed with today's diverse world of music. In the film, a
of original songs underscores every emotion, and an intimate lens captures each
look and every touch.
"I never thought, 'How do I make it original?' I just knew I had to make it
authentic to tell the
story I wanted to tell," says Cooper who, in addition to directing and
co-writing the screenplay, and
starring as Jackson Maine, produced the film. He also co-wrote some of the
music, which he performed
alongside Lady Gaga, who co-wrote much of it as well.
Though she loved his take on the story, Gaga-as experienced a performer as they
nervous to take on the role of Ally in her first feature film, but nevertheless
thrilled to do so with
Cooper at the helm and by her side. "I had to get past the nerves, but I was so
excited," she relates,
"because, in my opinion, when somebody has talent inside them, brewing for
years, ready to move into
another medium and it finally happens...it's like a huge explosion, an opus. He
was meant to direct,
and I just got lucky enough to be in his first film."
Cooper states, "She'd done incredible work as an actress, but to make this huge
felt like 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."
Still, it's no easy feat, even for such accomplished individuals. As seasoned
Jack tells Ally when they first meet, "Talent comes from everywhere, but having
something to say and
a way to say it so that people listen to it, 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."
In the film, Maine's philosophy is intended to encourage the skittish ingenue to
step into the
spotlight, figuratively and literally. It could also be Cooper subtly revealing
through his character why
this story motivated him to finally test his own wings behind the scenes.
"I've always known that I wanted to direct, but I also knew that I needed to
have a point of
view, to know why I was doing it, otherwise there was no reason to," he says.
"And I always wanted
to tell a love story, because it feels like something everybody can relate
to-the love, the loss of it, the
high of it. It's the thing that makes you feel the most alive.
"Coupled with that is music-not just music, but singing," he continues. In fact,
Gaga made a pact early on to record all their performances in the film live-no
lip-syncing to a track.
"There's something about 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."
Producer Bill Gerber states, "Bradley didn't really base his decisions on what
went before him,
but on how this version of the movie would work. What always resonated with me,
and with him, is
that it is not simply a rags-to-riches story, or a cautionary tale about the
perils of fame; it's a love story,
and this is Bradley's vision mainly born out of conversations he had with
Stefani," he says, using
Gaga's given name, "about who they are as artists. It's by no means
autobiographical, but that's what
really paved the way for the story we're telling."
Anyone who has ever been in a relationship has experienced the complexity of
lives along with fears, joys, doubts, anger, hopes. Will Fetters, who worked
with Cooper on the script,
says that key for him was "understanding what's beneath the surface for these
motivates them, what are they doing that's making me feel for them and what
exactly am I feeling, and
why? This is about an epic love between two flawed individuals on different
trajectories in life who
find each other, and I found myself, through them, just wanting to explore the
basic human emotions
beneath all the glitz and fame. Why are we fascinated with the famous and what
does our fascination
feel like for them, what does it do to them?"
"This film pulls back the curtain on what it means to be both a star and a
rising star in this
business today, and Bradley is not your typical first-time feature director,"
observes producer Lynette
Howell Taylor, who has worked with Cooper before. "You're talking about an actor
who's been in
the entertainment industry for years, who's lived with a level of renown, while
also soaking up
knowledge from the likes of David O. Russell, Clint Eastwood, Todd Phillips and
and honing his own craft as a producer. He's a real collaborator, he learns, he
pays attention. So, by
the time he was ready to step into this role, he was more than ready, and it
wasn't at all surprising to
me that he'd dive into something that would challenge him and push him, and that
would be big and
spectacular as well as relevant and current."
To translate the awesome nature of what it's like to be among the world's most
artists performing in arenas around the world before tens of thousands of fans,
the filmmakers shot in
such iconic locations as Los Angeles's Greek Theater, The Forum and The Shrine
Auditorium, and on
the stages of the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals, as well as "Saturday
Night Live." Cooper
turned to celebrated cinematographer Matthew Libatique to capture both the
intimacy and the spectacle
of Jack and Ally's world, and production designer Karen Murphy and costume
designer Erin Benach
to bring it to life.
Cooper surrounded himself with an equally impressive ensemble cast. In addition
to Gaga, he
tapped the likes of Sam Elliott, Dave Chappelle and Andrew Dice Clay to play
roles critical to
understanding who Jack and Ally are and where they've come from, along with
Anthony Ramos as a
friend who's got Ally's back, and Rafi Gavron as a manager who steers her toward
"Once everything came together-we got the cast, the music, the script was in
everybody was invested in a way that felt like it was more than a job," Cooper
states. "They trusted
me, which made directing just the greatest experience ever, and made it possible
to create the film we
set out to make."
Tell me something girl / Are you happy in this modern world /
Or do you need more / Is there something else you're searching for
When the film opens, we see Jackson Maine as he's about to go on stage-but not
swallowing a few pills, easing them down with a swig of alcohol. It plays like
the longtime ritual it
has become for him, but his connection to the crowd and his performance are
undeniably of the
moment. He's a star.
The first time Jack sees Ally, she's performing "La Vie En Rose" at a bar he's
in search of booze, and where every other performer is in drag. Even Ally has
altered her looks to fit
in as best she can. But it's her voice that stands out. No lip syncing to the
greats, she simply is one.
Jack drinks her in, immediately stuck by the power and purity of her voice.
"When Jack comes backstage after he sees Ally singing, she's a little flustered.
understand what's going on or why this famous musician wants to have a drink
with her," Gaga offers.
That night, circumstances find them getting to know one another in a cop bar and
parking lot. Unromantic locales aside, it doesn't take long for Ally to take the
measure of the man at
"She starts really opening up to him, and he's telling her how beautiful she is
and she still kind
of doesn't really believe him...but she's trying to," Gaga says.
Ally isn't the only one who opens up. Cooper adds, "That's what I've always
loved about their
first night. He tells her things I don't think he's ever told anyone. This is
not a guy who talks about
that stuff and all of a sudden he's talking about it to her. They just met, but
there's this chemistry, this
synchronicity, that's occurred, and they both wind up letting their guard down.
Over time, they're
constantly putting it back up, and then it's down, and then up again. It's just
a huge tsunami of
emotions that they both give over to that's going to be their plight throughout
Gaga observes, "She's enamored of him, but very quickly there's a human
connection and the
star-struckness starts to fade away. She even has the audacity to touch his
To enhance the immediacy of Jack and Ally's connection, Cooper chose such
linger on. He explains, "There's the initial energy of it when she turns to him
on the bar and looks at
him for the first time. We shot that at 48 frames-it's more the way she's
looking at him than the way
he's looking at her, and Jack even talks about it later, the impact of it.
Another thing we did was to go
close up on any time in the beginning of the relationship that's tactile: when
he touches her nose, when
he's wrapping her hand, 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, which is
good," he laughs.
Tell me something boy / Aren't you tired trying to fill that void /
What do you need more / Ain't it hard keeping it so hardcore
"Is that me?" Jack asks, after Ally softly sings the above lines to him.
"That's you," Ally replies. Though they've just met, she's already begun to see
"When they're sitting in the parking lot together and she sings to him..." Gaga
me, that's when she first begins to fall in love with him, because he's just a
sweet guy and he's so
lovely to her."
Like the characters they play come to do, Cooper says he and Gaga "relied on
each other in
every single way. I knew every time we did a musical number, I had this
undeniable force in her, and
I knew there was no one else who could've played the part. Her talent, her work
ethic honed from
years of performing... As a storyteller, you're just so thankful you cast the
right person, but we were
truly in this together, and that's the way we approached every scene and every
song: as partners."
Gaga relates, "The very first thing we said was, 'Okay, now you're a musician
and I'm an
actress. We're making that exchange, so keep me in a comfortable yet vulnerable,
raw place where I
can give you what you need for the character. He did that for me, and as we
worked on creating the
songs, I watched him become a real musician."
In one of Jack's fan-favorite songs, the chorus goes, "It takes a lot to change
a man and it takes
a lot to try; maybe it's time to let the old ways die." For a man thoroughly set
in those wayward ways,
it seems Ally may be worth trying for.
"Almost right away, Ally understands that Jack lives this very complicated life,
and she gets
very protective of him," says Gaga.
The story offers a glimpse into what can sometimes happen to those who live
backstage or beyond the velvet ropes, literally and figuratively. Jack has lived
there for a long time
and has been damaged by it: for starters, he has tinnitus, a painful condition
only exacerbated by years
of full throttle amps pulsing in his ears on stages around the world. And while
his popularity hasn't
waned and his musicianship appears strong as ever, he may soon find his career
has joined him at the
bottom of a bottle, broken, with no one to fish either one out.
Though Ally and Jack's entire journey is an emotional one, for one pivotal scene
character, Gaga went above and beyond to support her co-star. "I knew it was a
tough scene and I had
gotten Bradley roses, so I watched part of it and then I left them for him where
he'd find them," she
"Oh, man, that was great," Cooper acknowledges. "I think I actually felt her
departure and I
thought, 'Wow, I'm on my own here.' And then I walked up to the truck, because
Jack gets into his
truck, and I opened the door and saw the roses. She'd left them on the passenger
I'm falling / In all the good times I find myself longing for change /
And in the bad times, I fear myself
In the film, it's probably Jack's brother, Bobby, who has seen him in, and
through, the best and
worst of times. Throughout their relationship, Bobby has not only been Jack's
older brother, but also
his surrogate father, manager, counselor, and probably even drinking buddy. A
talent in his own right
at one time, it's evident he gave up any aspirations he held for himself to
usher his more gifted little
brother through the highs and lows of being a rock star. But such a sacrifice
has left a bitter taste for
both men that even brotherly love can't always completely overcome.
Sam Elliott, one of the industry's most respected actors of the past five
decades, stars as Bobby,
and Cooper reveals, "I wrote the whole part for Sam. In fact, if he didn't play
it, I would've been in
real trouble, because I really wanted to see him play a character that was
filled with resentment as
opposed to somebody filled with wisdom, and he was able to walk that fine line
in such a beautiful
way-to play a man filled with love and resentment throughout the whole movie."
Despite having the part written for him, Elliott had never actually met Cooper
before they met
to discuss the film. "Bradley is one of the good guys in this business. I've
always suspected that, and
early on in our first encounter, I knew that I was right. He was engaging,
gracious, and direct, and he
had me from the start," Elliott remembers. "We talked about work, we talked
about our mom's, and
we talked about his vision of 'A Star is Born,' and how I might fit into that."
By that time, Cooper had already begun work with dialect coach Tim Monich to
rich timbre, noticeably lower than his own voice and clearly very much in
Elliot's register. "Having
met many iconic musicians, one thing I know for certain is that they walk in a
room and all the energy
goes to them," Cooper says. "The audience has to feel his presence the minute
Jackson Maine enters
the movie, and one instinct I had was to lower my speaking voice. I worked with
Tim on 'American
Sniper,' and he's incredible. We spent months on Jack's voice, and I think I
lowered my range an
octave. But it's fun, because the minute you lock into the voice, everything
else about the character
Apparently, Cooper did an excellent job that, proven during that first meeting
with Elliott. "He
played this recording of him reading and having a conversation with his voice
coach. As I listened to
it, I was dumbfounded at how much his voice sounded like mine," Elliott says.
Cooper also shared
some footage of himself working with Gaga. "He showed me a clip on his phone of
him and Stefani
singing while sitting at her piano. Again, dumbfounded at the beauty of it.
"It's all about the work with Bradley," Elliott continues. "Getting at the
truth. Being honest.
He's a collaborator, he's generous, and you can trust him. You just want to give
it to him, because he
is simply such a good guy."
Along with the characters' outward similarities, Elliott's deft portrayal of
Bobby quietly fills
another role in Jack's life: his conscience. If Jack seeks the truth, he need
only look his brother in the
eyes. It's easier to look away...for both of them. "And then there is the girl.
Jack is smitten by her
the minute he sees her, hears her, and then deeply in love the next. They both
write and both understand
the value of that to their music. It's all perfect for a moment. But Jack just
can't come to grips because
of his old devils, and that's the heartbreaker for everyone, including brother
Though familiarity has certainly bred contempt between the brothers, Bobby isn't
without wisdom and can see the difference between his take on the world and
Jack's. In one of Elliott's
favorite moments, Bobby tells Ally that Jack once said to him, "Music is
essentially twelve notes
between any octave; twelve notes and the octave repeats. It's the same story
told over and over. All
any artist can offer the world is how they see those twelve notes." Another gift
from Jack, the man
who has offered her, and the world, so much, while struggling to hold back just
a little for himself.
It's at a particularly difficult moment for Jack that he finds himself quite
literally dropping in
on an old friend, George "Noodles" Stone.
The pivotal role is played by Dave Chappelle, who relates, "Noodles represents a
Jack might have taken in his life, but didn't. It's the kind of path that I,
personally, took in my life-
the guy that had the fun and then wanted to settle down and have a family.
Noodles got off the merry-go-round."
It's a fact which Noodles, perhaps by way of explaining his own choices, rather
offers Jack after he pulls him up off his front lawn, saying of Ally, "Maybe
she's a way out... You
float out at sea and then one day you find a port. You say, 'I'm gonna stay here
for a few days.' A
few days becomes a few years, and then you forgot where you were going in the
first place, and you
realize you don't really give a shit about where you was going, 'cause you like
where you're at."
Chappelle himself goes on to posit that "good friends in your life are like
oxygen, and for a
person that's as famous as Jack? That kind of fame could be suffocating. And
he's got addictions,
too, so all the things Jack struggles with can be suffocating. Going back to an
old friend is like running
to get air. But he passed out right before he got to the surface."
Surprisingly, Chappelle had not only never seen a prior version of the story,
but wasn't even
aware they existed. "I really didn't know anything about it, but I imagine
there's something about
seeing people fall in love, and the idea that one person could go from obscurity
and become famous
through this mentorship. This loving relationship where one person teaches the
other how to become
their best self...that resonates powerfully."
"I had met Dave when I was doing a play in London and he came to see it," Cooper
"I'd always been a huge fan, and we wound up spending the whole night talking.
There was something
about our dynamic that I just loved, and knowing I was going to be making this
movie, I thought, 'He's
gotta play Jackson's old musician friend.' I was so happy he said yes, and he
delivered in such a
massive way, such a humorous, dramatic, soulful way. It's one of my favorite
scenes in the movie."
"I loved the culture on Bradley's set, the looseness of it, the fact that he
with people he trusted artistically," Chappelle notes. "He helmed his vision but
wasn't afraid to try
something or go with something different than what he had planned if he liked it
better, in that moment.
He's very spontaneous and, as a comedian, that's one of my favorite things to
Chappelle met Gaga for the first time during production. "Her talent is very
witness close up, and she struck me as a thoughtful, deep-feeling person," he
says. "And I think she
has one of the purest relationships with her fans of any artist that I've met.
She advocates for those
kids and they take care of her."
Though known primarily for his dramatic work, Cooper's lifelong love of
comics, specifically-led him to seek out another comedian for the role of Ally's
Andrew Dice Clay. "I memorized Andrew Dice Clay's comedy tapes when I was in the
and would recite them-to the chagrin of my friends," Cooper smiles. "But I've
always observed him
as a very talented actor and I've seen every movie he's ever made, so it was a
thrill for me to work
As one who has spent time in and out of the spotlight, Dice says of the story,
"I think it's even
more relevant today than ever, because of what has happened with social media
now. Everybody wants
to be a star, everybody's looking for those 15 minutes and all they want is to
go viral. That's the aim
of everybody holding a phone, which is everybody in the world today.
"But fame-real fame-is a funny place to be," he continues, "and anybody that
gets real fame
understands that. It can be scary, and you need your crew around you because
anything can happen
when the whole world knows who you are."
Dice's role as Ally's father naturally put him in scenes with Gaga. Cooper
facilitated their first
meeting at a studio in Hollywood, which began with light conversation before
transitioning into what
appeared to be light scene work. "Then he made us both do this really heavy
scene," Dice says, "and
I was breaking down crying. I know this girl for half an hour and I'm holding
her and my tears are
falling on her. But Bradley was crying, too. We're both very sensitive guys."
In the story, Lorenzo is a supportive father, but a protective one as well,
careful not to let his
daughter's hopes get too high. When he says of Ally, "With a voice like from
heaven. But you know
what? It's not always the best singers that make it," he's likening her to the
big stars of his own
generation-guys who sounded like Sinatra, but didn't have the looks, the
sharkskin suit, the blue eyes.
Cushioning the blow in advance, as dad's do, without realizing the words might
"I'll never forget working on that scene," says Gaga. "He took me right back to
how I used to
feel when I would go to auditions as a kid-I actually wanted to be an actress
before I wanted to be a
singer-and I never got close to getting a callback or a role. In that moment, I
think you really see in
Ally someone who feels extremely defeated by the music industry. She does not
believe in herself.
She doesn't think she's beautiful or that her voice matters. So, there's that
moment when you see
Lorenzo try to lift her up, to make her feel good. But it's not making her feel
good. It's just reminding
her that she's in her 30s and she hasn't made it."
Before she meets Jack, Ally's staunchest supporter is her friend and coworker,
by versatile actor Anthony Ramos. "Ramon is Ally's cheerleader, the kind of
friend we all need, the
one who's cheering for you purely because they love you so much, not because
they want something
from you, not because they owe you something. Just because they want you to
win," he says.
"Ramon brings such light to Ally and helps her believe in herself," Gaga says.
"Each time in
the film where she's about to step out and have a moment, he's there to lift her
up, and when she's
falling apart, he's there to ground her, to remind her who she really is. And
Anthony is so genuine; I
think in those moments we were acting, but we weren't really acting."
In truth it's Ramon who promotes Jack's initial meeting with Ally. "Ramon sees
Maine outside the drag club and takes him inside, exposing him to a world he's
probably never been
exposed to before," Ramos surmises. "He sees how Jackson reacts to Ally's
performance and that's
really gratifying for Ramon, because he knows how talented Ally is. He takes him
to meet her, and
he's also the one who encourages Ally to give the guy a chance."
And to give herself a chance, too. Standing in the wings as Jack tries to lure
her to perform
with him the first time, Ramon gives his friend a push in the right
direction-onto the stage. But it's
a well-regarded music manager who will pull her along even further as he edges
her into a career as a
Having known Cooper for more than 15 years, Rafi Gavron took on the role of the
man who is
more often than not at odds with Jack, Rez Gavron. The last name was no
accident, and the actor is
eager for his family to see the movie. "There's a scene where Ally is on stage
and says, 'I want to
thank my manager, Rez Gavron," so I think the Gavrons are going to have a fun
time with that, getting
the shout out," he imagines.
With experience comes knowledge, and Gavron says his character "knows everything
Jack. All his successes, all of his pitfalls. He respects him as a talented
musician, but he knows Jack
has problems with addiction and his main concern is whether that will get in the
way of Ally's potential
to succeed. He's seen it before. Jack's in love with her, but Rez is in love
with her talent. His belief
in her is so extraordinary, he needs the world to hear her. So, he has something
to protect, too."
"Rez is really part of Ally's own musical journey, part of her coming from a
place of self,
evolving her music and even her appearance beyond the scope of what Jack has
done for her," Cooper
says of the character who is often put in almost a good cop/bad cop position. "A
lot of what Rafi did
was improvised, and he did a brilliant job illustrating how an artist gets
influenced by other people and
goes into new worlds."
Unlike in other versions of the tale, it is Ally's choice to take her career in
not Jack's resentment toward her meteoric rise, that comes between them. She's
forging her own path;
he thinks she's selling out, and selling herself short.
"Rez wants Ally to get out from behind the piano, to work with a choreographer,
and she comes
around to his way of thinking," Gaga says. "Something like that happened to me,
and to many others,
I'm sure. The story is very honest in that way."
The film also features a host of cameos from the worlds of screen, stage and
Ron Rifkin, Greg Grunberg, Eddie Griffin, Luenell, D.J. Shangela Pierce, Derek
Kevin Jones, William
Belli, Marlon Williams, Brandi Carlile and Halsey.
Appearing with Jack as an aptly termed "super group" in a performance at the
such venerable musicians as Don Was, Victor Indrizzo, George Doering, Michael
Bearden and Lenny
Castro. And starring as Jack's band in the film are Lukas Nelson & Promise of
I'm off the deep end / Watch as I dive in / I'll never meet the ground...
"One of the things Stefani brought to this production was the world of music,"
"She would say, 'We should work with this person,' and 'This person would be
great for this,' and all
of a sudden it became so easy for me. She did all the legwork, and then I was
able to just walk into
"We had a studio to work in and we filled it up with all of the best writers,"
says Gaga, "and
we had a lot of songs for this film. We even wrote while we were filming. I
started writing 'I Don't
Know What Love Is' after we shot the scene in the cop bar, because I was so
overcome with emotion
from shooting that scene. I was actually using Ally's prop-I'd asked if I could
keep my prop
notebook-and I wrote it down in there. Then Lukas and I finished it."
Lukas Nelson, son of legendary country music star Willie Nelson, had worked with
and Gaga to write and produce many of the original songs for the film, so it
seemed natural that he and
his bandmates from Promise of the Real-Anthony LoGerfo, Alberto Bof, Corey
McCormick and Tato
Melgar-would also double as Jackson Maine's band in the film.
"Bradley gave us an idea of some scenes that needed music, and that he didn't
references to the characters or things that were happening in the movie to be in
the songs," Nelson
remarks. "He wanted them to be subtle, to be able to stand on their own."
That meant steering clear of using lyrics as dialogue, as well as any gratuitous
no point in the film where any lyric is sung that isn't directly related to the
emotional moment in the
movie in which it's occurring," Cooper attests. "They're singing only words that
have to do with
exactly what their fear is, their hope, their dream, in that moment. It's
essentially part of the script, but
it's not the script."
"Stefani and I just started writing like crazy," Nelson says. "She's an
incredible writer, a lyrical
genius, and we really connected as artists. Our minds work alike, and sometimes
even the same word
would pop into our heads. And Bradley's really adept at the music, too, so
between the three of us,
creating the music for the project was a collaboration."
Part of Cooper's process was to develop a musical style and sound for Jackson
Nelson helped him accomplish. "He's a huge Neil Young fan, so we mixed his sound
with The Who's
Pete Townshend, to find the specific guitar work for him," says Nelson. "We
thought about Waylon
Jennings and The Strokes. It was very deliberate and at the same time not any
one thing, just authentic
to his character, and Bradley worked hard, but he also proved to be a real
During the process, it was important to Gaga that Cooper never felt like anyone
was trying to
make him into a particular type of musician. "She really protected me in a big
way," he says. "She
knew that I would find whatever Jack's sound was if I was just allowed to keep
The tactic worked. Nelson says that "Black Eyes," the song that opens the film,
almost in an instant. "Bradley and I wrote that song together in the studio,
with the band there. I
started playing this lick and he started singing these lyrics, and it just came
Cooper took guitar and piano lessons, and voice lessons from vocal coach Roger
"Singing's not easy," Cooper admits, "especially singing in front of a lot of
people. Initially after one
verse, I was out of breath. I had to spend five days a week for six months
learning how to sing, and
not as me but as Jackson."
Jackson Maine's centerpiece song, the thought-provoking "Maybe It's Time," was
Jason Isbell. And Gaga worked closely with such industry heavyweights as Mark
Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt to pen what would essentially become Ally and Jack's
"Shallow." The song is woven into the film in pieces before it's fully realized,
beginning with a few
lines Ally comes up with in the parking lot as she begins to get a read on Jack.
Next Production Note Section
Home | Theaters | Video | TV
Your Comments and Suggestions are Always Welcome.
© 2019 22®, All Rights Reserved.