You already knew she was a master musician. But Wednesday’s premiere of the first trailer for A Star Is Born — Lady Gaga’s feature debut as a Hollywood lead — opened the book on a new chapter of the pop icon’s career as a performative legend on the big screen. And, if Warner Bros. plays its cards right, Oscar might soon come knocking on the door of the Bradley Cooper-directed picture that fuses Gaga’s talents as a songwriter with her electric chutzpah as a bona fide showgirl. But, Gaga and Cooper — both nominees for their work on past projects — aren’t the only Academy-verified players fueling this likely contender’s ascent into the upcoming awards season fold. Here are five other Oscar-centric takeaways from the first trailer for A Star Is Born.
Matthew Libatique’s stunning cinematography
A long-gestating project that follows previous iterations released in 1937, 1954, and 1976, A Star Is Born came together after years of stalled reboots with a revolving door of actors (Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé were reportedly considered for the female lead over the years) passing through at various stages. The studio stayed with the evergreen industry romance, however, this time as it follows an aging crooner named Jackson Maine (Cooper) who takes a shy singer, Ally (Gaga) under his wing as he fades away. Perhaps not the most obvious choice as director of photography, Matthew Libatique’s singular style still takes center stage in the just-released trailer.
As prolific as he is talented — he’s amassed 61 credits since 1993, Mother!, The Fountain, Chi-Raq, and Straight Outta Compton among them — the cinematographer is long overdue for a follow-up nomination after his work on Darren Aronofsky’s thriller Black Swan secured his freshman nod in 2011. And if the preview for A Star Is Born is any indication, he could be looking at nomination No. 2 thanks to gorgeous shots like this:
But, Libatique’s mastery shines far beyond his ability to capture a striking image. The way he harnesses light and color to make an emotional statement has long punctuated his career, whether it’s as simple as adding a gilded, sun-kissed splash of warmth to a shot of a lover caressing his partner’s cheek or bathing the darkened face of a morose artist in brief flashes of white-hot paparazzi bulbs. Take, for example, the following frames lifted from the trailer as Jackson coaxes a timid Ally to share her talents with a crowd of onlookers for the first time. The stage is halved by distinct, separate shades of red and green — perhaps representing Jackson’s passion and Ally’s untarnished innocence — that blend together across Ally’s face as she takes control of the microphone and accepts the euphoric mixture of their worlds.
Original music written by a slew of Gaga staples, from DJ White Shadow to Mark Ronson
Yes, A Star Is Born features numerous original tracks crafted by some of music’s leading voices, but the film is far from a musical in the traditional sense. Here, the film’s central romance unfolds against the backdrop of the music industry, and Gaga kept it in her creative family when it came to constructing the soundtrack. Cooper previously told EW he worked with Gaga and her Joanne executive producer Mark Ronson on “The Shallow” (the song that plays at the end of the trailer) as well as Jason Isbell, Lukas Nelson, and Dave Cobb.
Gaga reportedly put in studio time with esteemed songwriter (and nine-time Academy Award nominee) Diane Warren, who co-wrote the pair’s Oscar-nominated tune “Til It Happens to You” in 2015, for one of the film’s power ballads as well. Shortly after the trailer dropped, pop producer DJ White Shadow, who contributed songs to Gaga albums like Born This Way and ARTPOP, announced he’d written “1/3” of the A Star Is Born soundtrack, too. (Warner Bros. did not immediately respond to EW’s request for confirmation on his involvement.)
Perhaps the most interesting bit of information the trailer reveals regarding its accompanying soundtrack is the title of a new song, “Look What I’ve Found,” which Ally can be seen scribbling lyrics for near the tail end of the preview.
Oscar-nominated sound designer Steve Morrow’s live recording
Sure, insider music talent working on original songs for your movie exponentially increase its chances at scoring nods in the corresponding category, but the way the songs live in the fabric of film matters, too. Enter Steve Morrow, the Academy Award-nominated sound designer whose work on the picture might soon follow in the Oscar-verified footsteps of films like La La Land and Les Misérables in that its musical numbers were also recorded live on the A Star Is Born set.
“[Gaga] said, ‘Okay, look, here’s what I want: I want all the music to be live as well. I don’t want it to feel like I’m singing to a playback track because it doesn’t feel right to me. I can always tell; it always affects the performance. I want to sing live, I want the band to be live,’” Morrow told the Next Best Picture podcast back in 2017. “The music supervisors kind of look over at me like, ‘Can we do that?’ Yeah, we can do that. It’s my job to go, ‘Okay, how do we do this?’” he continued. “We come up with a plan and, so far I think we have a good plan.”
Gaga’s stage presence has sold out stadiums and arenas around the world, and her headlining set at Super Bowl LI in February 2017 became the most-watched in the sporting event’s history. Marrying the raw voice with the moves of an artist who once pushed herself so hard she suffered a hip injury mid-concert undoubtedly enhances the authenticity of the film’s musical sequences, and Gaga’s performance looks all the better (and primed for Oscar) as a result.
Strong performances across the board from Sam Elliott and Dave Chappelle
Nabbing the attention of all Oscar voters is key to any film’s trajectory in the awards race. Gaga and Cooper’s star power will boost the film’s profile in that regard. But a tale anchored by a plot centered within the industry itself — helmed by prominent entertainment figures, to boot — is a surefire way straight into the hearts of the most prominent industry guilds and Oscar voters as the film seeks to build a foundation for its awards run. Particularly the Screen Actors Guild (the largest and most influential precursor body with Academy crossover), which loves to anoint actors playing actors and/or musicians (see: La La Land, Chicago, Birdman, Crazy Heart, Walk the Line). Add under-decorated acting vet Sam Elliott as Jackson’s manager and esteemed comedian Dave Chappelle (in an uncharacteristically dramatic part) as the country star’s close friend, Noodles, into the mix, and you have a feast for actors to sink their teeth into when it comes time to fill out those ballots.
Bradley Cooper’s direction
It’s hard to think of a directorial debut that’s had as much buzz around it as this one. Living up to those expectations and sticking a landing with Oscar voters can be a tricky task, however. But if anyone can do it, it’s Cooper: a popular actor with four nods (three for acting, one as the producer of a best picture nominee) to his name. You can feel it in the air: people want this to be a success. And the transition from screen to director’s chair isn’t always easy, though men making the jump typically fare better than women (Barbra Streisand and Angelina Jolie, despite directing films nominated in lesser Oscar categories, have yet to come close to securing best picture victories) in this regard, as Million Dollar Baby‘s Clint Eastwood — himself a producer on A Star Is Born — Kevin Costner (Dances With Wolves), Warren Beatty (Reds), and Mel Gibson (Braveheart) have all won major Academy Awards for directing and/or producing best picture-nominated films after mounting successful careers on the big screen. The film’s fate will be sealed for better or worse when the critics get their hands on the project, but the first footage promises something that’s touching, beautiful, and altogether unexpected: a perfect recipe for subverting expectations and finding a path for its director’s concrete vision.
Still, at this early stage (and with screenings at major Oscar-positioning festivals like Toronto and Telluride presumably on the way), it’s difficult to imagine Cooper’s name not entering the best director race when A Star Is Born hits theaters on Oct. 5 — prime awards season real estate. He admittedly waited a long time for the right project to come his way, and the trailer teases a passionately wrought project that brims with equal parts fiery heart and warm soul, suggesting the time he took to narrow the focus was (probably) well worth the wait.