Bradley Cooper is once again singing the praises of Lady Gaga.
The Oscar-nominated actor and Robert De Niro fronted a mini Silver Linings Playbook reunion at the Tribeca Film Festival Saturday evening, holding an onstage discussion about their respective careers and delving into the Cooper’s work on his directorial debut A Star Is Born.
De Niro first noted Cooper had prepared to shoot the film for some time. “The last time I actually had a job, besides this movie, was the last performance of The Elephant Man in London, so Aug. 8, 2015 was the last time I worked besides this movie. So yeah, three years,” Cooper confirmed.
“I always realized that I was a bit different, I thought, then other people that were just acting, because I was so obsessed with the storytelling aspect of it, how you film it, how you tell a story, and that’s what always interests me,” he said of his transition to directing. “[It] kept haunting me, that story … shots kept coming into my head, and I would dream about it, and I realized I just have to do it, I have to sort of purge it in a way.”
“So I knew that I had to do it. Whether it fails or not, I knew that I had to try. And I wound up absolutely loving it. … I don’t wanna say too much because maybe you’ll hate the movie, but I love it. I really love it. It’s the movie I set out to make, which is hard to say,” he said. “We also have the benefit of editing, I’ve been editing for a long time. Because the movie was gonna come out in May and now it’s coming out in October, and that really was a benefit. I just hope I get to keep doing it.”
Cooper praised the actors in the film, including Andrew Dice Clay, Sam Elliott, and Dave Chappelle, whom he said took two years to agree to work on the project. He also called his titular Star, Lady Gaga, a revelation. “She said right from the beginning that this is gonna be a barter. ‘I’m gonna rely on you to get a performance that’s honest out of me’ — cause she’s never done a film before — ‘and I’m gonna make sure that you turn into a musician. Because we’re going to sing everything live,'” he said. “And I thought, ‘Wait, wait, what?’ And she said, ‘No, the only way this is going to work … I can’t stand when I watch musicals and you can tell that it’s a prerecording, or lip syncing.’ And she’s right. So that was terrifying, but I really relied on her.”
After frequent collaborator David O. Russell joined De Niro and Cooper on stage, Cooper thanked both men for their support of his creative process. He recalled Russell viewing an early, nearly three-hour cut of the movie and giving him notes — from an airplane. “[You] spent like 25 minutes just going through the whole thing right when you were in the middle of something. And it’s that kind of camaraderie that I’d always read about, with Scorsese and [De Niro], and the Coen brothers and their actors. To be able to be a person who has loved and admired these men so much, and then have them help me to create art has just been incredible.”
The panel ended with a Q&A, where Cooper named Mike Nichols as another source of inspiration before he began filming A Star is Born. De Niro also fielded a question from the audience about which role he’d never like to play — “Donald Trump,” he replied without missing a beat.
After a revolving door of Hollywood figures came and went in the process of rebooting the age-old industry tale (Beyoncé, Tom Cruise, and Jennifer Lopez reportedly circled a contemporary iteration at one point), Cooper officially signed on to A Star is Born in 2015, with Gaga joining the following year. The film comes as the fourth interpretation of the perennial drama about a washed-up performer cultivating the career of a young up-and-comer, which has played out on the big screen via Janet Gaynor and Frederic March in 1937, Judy Garland and James Mason in 1954, and Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson in 1976. The latter generously allowed Cooper to come ons stage at Glatsonbury in 2017, where Cooper sang in front of 80,000 people in order to film for the movie. “He let me take four minutes of his set, and then I got to say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Kris Kristofferson,'” he recalled at Tribeca.
“It all comes down to this broken love story,” Cooper previously told EW of the upcoming film’s central romance between a fading crooner, Jackson Maine (Cooper), and the talented unknown, Ally (Lady Gaga, credited by her real name, Stefani Germanotta), he takes under his wing. “I was also very interested in the character of Ally being a bit different than the other versions. She’s not an ingénue; she’s not this innocent person,” he adds about his interpretation of Gaga’s character. “You’ll be blown away by what [she’s] created.”
Further adding to the authenticity of the project is the curated roster of musicians who’ve contributed original songs to the film’s soundtrack, including Dave Cobb, Jason Isbell, Lukas Nelson, and Mark Ronson, who co-penned an emotional ballad titled “The Shallow” with Gaga that Cooper hailed as one of the movie’s standout pieces.
“Ally’s rise has a musical arc to it. For Jackson’s music, [Stefani] gave me the inspiration, she just said, ‘Work, and then you’ll figure out what kind of musician he is,’ and that’s really what happened,” Cooper told EW in December 2017, further championing Gaga’s insistence that he record the musical sequences live on set versus adding re-recorded vocals in post-production. “I had the luxury of time. I spent two-and-a-half years prepping for this movie, and got to go see and work with so many people and had an incredible vocal coach, Roger Love, and great musicians to help me, and by the end he just kind of started developing into his own sort of creation. If I had another year of prep, it would have been complete rock, but now it’s some sort of hybrid.”
A Star Is Born is slated to hit theaters at the top of awards season on Oct. 5. Read EW’s full preview of the film here.