Imagine you meet Bradley Cooper to talk about the possibility of appearing in his directorial debut, only to discover that you not only have the part but that Cooper has based his character’s speaking voice on your real-life tones.
That’s the situation actor Sam Elliott encountered when getting together with Cooper to discuss A Star Is Born, in which Elliott plays Bobby, the older brother of Cooper’s troubled county-rock star, Jackson. Last month, Elliott’s performance earned him a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination, his first ever. But the actor admits that initial meeting was an odd one.
“I’d never met him before,” Elliott tells EW. “I went to his home, and had a meal with him, and we talked for a couple of hours, talked about our moms, and our families, and the business, and talked about his vision for the film. [Cooper] played [me] the tape of him working with a voice coach, when he’s trying to get my voice down. I remember him saying, ‘This is going to sound a little weird,’ and it f—ing did sound weird. Because it sounded like me! And he’s been listening to my voice in interviews that I’d done. So, not only was he sounding like me, he was saying sh— that had come out of my mouth.
“He showed me a piece on his phone of him and [Lady] Gaga at her piano at her place and both of them were singing. I was excited about it when I left there, because I knew that Bradley clearly wanted me for the part. I hadn’t seen the script. I just had the conversation with Bradley and he talked about this brother relationship. But you know, this is the fourth f—ing incarnation of a project — you wonder [if it will work]. But it was just evident that Bradley was, number one, so f—ing smart, much smarter than I would ever thought of being. I mean, he’s well-educated. And as it turned out, he’s a brilliant filmmaker.”
Despite his faith in Cooper, Elliott, whose other credits include Tombstone and The Big Lebowski, is “astounded” at earning his first Oscar nomination, the news about which was delivered to him by his wife, actress Katharine Ross.
“I turn my phone off at night, and that night I turned it off for sure, because I knew the word comes out about 5:30 in the morning,” he says. “It was 7:30 in the morning and Katharine calls up to me. She said, ‘Sam?’ I said, ‘Yeah?’ ‘You got the nomination!’ I was like, ‘Oh, cool!’ I’ve had a few awards come my way, but very few. I just never really thought about that. I just always felt lucky to get a job. So when it came, I thought, ‘What the f—, man? It’s impossible!’”