TORONTO — It’s no understatement to say that A Star Is Born, Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut in which the actor stars opposite Lady Gaga, is the year’s most anticipated film. After debuting at the Venice Film Festival, Star made its way to the Toronto International Film Festival this week. At an official TIFF Press Conference, the film’s stars — Gaga and Cooper, joined by Dave Chappelle, Anthony Ramos, and Sam Elliott — dished on the special magic and synchronicity on set.
The cast also discussed Cooper’s unique vision as a director and Gaga took a moment to comment on the film’s important themes regarding depression and mental health. Here are a few highlights INTO learned while attending the conference.
1. Metallica and Annie Lennox jumpstarted Cooper’s desire to capture the artistry of singing on film.
Cooper said he first got the idea to do a movie from the perspective of the stage six years ago at a Metallica concert. He also shouted out Annie Lennox’s live cover of “I Put a Spell on You.”
“I was looking in the veins in her neck and how pure it was and I thought that’s the best way, if I could put that in a movie,” Cooper said. “Because you can’t hide when you’re singing.”
2. Lady Gaga is not reading the reviews!
3. Cooper whispered the word “Tony,” as in Tony Bennett, to make Gaga feel a sense of warmth while filming scenes.
“I think Bradley is an incredible filmmaker,” Gaga said. “It was such a thrill to act in the environment he created. He operates with such precision and he has such a vision and you can see the gears turning while he’s working, even while he’s in character.”
She added, “He would whisper things to me like ‘Tony,’ or ‘Come on, assassin,’ or ‘Ninja!’” she said. “I had the lines memorized. He told me that the most important thing was to know what I was trying to say, to tell the story that I was going to tell in that scene.”
4. All the actors felt a sense of trust from Cooper.
“He convinced me very early on that he could be trusted,” said Elliott, who plays Cooper’s older brother.
Gaga echoed similar sentiments about the filming process.
“When I got on set, I could just throw it all away and exist in this precise but completely liberating environment. It was not rigid, it was a very artistically free experience,” she said.
5. Dave Chappelle likened the filming to a “jam session.”
“It was like actors having a jam session. It was like a rhythm, it was what you call vibes,” Chappelle said, eliciting nods from Gaga and Elliott. “There was these palpable vibes and I mean, everyone really liked each other.”
6. Anthony Ramos, who plays Gaga’s best friend Ramon, felt completely open playing opposite Gaga.
“When someone is so available, you can’t help but to open up,” Ramos said. “And if you don’t, you’re like a liar. I’m not trying to lie.”
7. Ramos told Spike Lee that Cooper will go down as one of the all-time great film directors.
“The level of focus on set, I would stay on set and watch Bradley work in between takes only because I was like … he’s going to be one of the greats,” Ramos said. “If I’m trying to be where he’s at, I’m going to stay right here in the cut and watch my man work.”
8. Two of the film’s musical scenes were done in one take.
Though people are used to getting several takes during scenes, filming restrictions meant that most of Star’s musical scenes had to be done during one take, as they borrowed time from other artists’ concerts. They shot the opening of the film in eight minutes during a Willie Nelson set and shot the infamous trailer scene at Glastonbury during Kris Kristofferson’s 2017 set — in only four minutes.
“We would start ‘acting’ a lot if we kept stopping,” Cooper said.
9. Cooper had Gaga sing “La Vie En Rose” in the film after seeing her perform the song at a cancer benefit.
That was the first time Cooper saw Gaga sing live.
10. They added a drag bar scene — including Drag Race alums Shangela and Willam — to honor Gaga’s past on the Lower East Side club scene.
Cooper said Gaga suggested Shangela and said, “Willam is like gold.”
“It felt like we were there for two months, [but] we shot there for a day,” Cooper said of the venue created to resemble a New York City drag bar. “It just had this energy and we just soaked it up and I started to spend time with Willam and Shangela and it really became magical.”
“I make the joke sometimes that behind every female icon is a gay man,” Gaga said, as she laughed. “I really wouldn’t be here without the gay community and what they have taught me about love and acceptance and bravery.”
11. Gaga gave Cooper his confidence as a musician.
“From the very first time I met her, we were singing together 10 minutes into meeting. I don’t know how that happened,” Cooper said.
“And I was freaking out over his voice!” Gaga added. “I can’t believe how incredible your voice is.”
12. Gaga spoke about the film’s focus on depression and mental health.
“I think what would be wonderful, not just for artists but for the whole world, is that we intervene early in life when we see people struggling,” she said. “I think that fame is very unnatural and we see that [Cooper’s character Jack] is struggling in this film with substance abuse. There’s trauma. Ally also, I believe, she suffered from depression at the beginning of the film, not believing in herself. I think that it’s important that we guide artists and take care of them on a psychological level as they begin to rise.”
She added, “If we could be more careful with the human spirit, not just for the artist but for everyone. I think that intervening early, teaching people about kindness, teaching people about compassion, teaching people how to reach out and be there for someone, even when they don’t know they’re sad — it might be so deep that they can’t even pinpoint it — I think that that’s very important.”
13. Cooper removed all of Gaga’s makeup during her screen test.
“He wanted no makeup on my face during the screen test,” Gaga said. “He took a makeup wipe and wiped it down my face and I was like trying to trick him with my ‘no makeup makeup,’” she said. “He looked at the makeup wipe and it was all, you know, brown and concealer and he was like ‘Take it off!’”
14. Gaga commented on her upcoming residency and her willingness to act more.
“This film was so special. This entire experience was life-changing. I have never had an artistic experience like this before,” Gaga said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever had a closer artistic friendship with someone as I do with Bradley, an understanding, an exchange.”
She added, “Yes, I’m very excited to act more, but I’m not excited to act more because I’m interested in looking for career moves or what’s going to blast me off to outer space or however people think about it. For me, it’s all about the project, it’s all about the process, it’s all about the work.”
15. Cooper would like to pivot to directing more in the future.
“If I had the opportunity, if a place like Warner Brothers would allow me, that’s all I’d like to do,” Cooper said of directing. “I’ve never been more fulfilled than this process.”
16. Cooper always knew he wanted to tell a love story.
“Movies have healed me my whole life,” Cooper said. “They’ve taken me to places in my imagination, in my life, that without them I would never have gone.”
He added, “Every human being, if they’re lucky enough, they’ve experienced love and the loss of that love in their life, so there’s something very important or potentially important there.”
17. Several of the cast were also members of the film crew.
“The great thing about directing movies is that you get to cast them,” Cooper said. “Half the crew acts in the movie! ‘No, no, you can do it!’ Half the producers are in the movie.”
Header image via Getty