Bradley Cooper on working with Lady Gaga and famed Fil-Am cinematographer

LOS ANGELES – Bradley Cooper and Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (aka Lady Gaga) immediately connected with each other, not only because of their shared Italian ancestry (Cooper’s mom is of Italian ancestry from Abruzzo and Naples and Gaga’s parents are of Italian-French Canadian roots), but simply chemistry.

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga (Photos courtesy of Janet R. Nepales / HFPA) / Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga (Photos courtesy of Janet R. Nepales / HFPA)

Bradley fell in love with Gaga’s face and eyes and “Stef” (as Bradley fondly calls her) couldn’t believe he has the vocal chords (“he sings from the gut”, she pointed out) to be able to portray a rock star.

“A Star Is Born,” a remake of the 1937 film of the same name, is a musical romantic drama and the directorial debut of Bradley who also wrote the screenplay with Will Fetters and Eric Roth. Bradley also stars as Jackson Maine, a jaded country star with a drinking problem, who falls in love with Gaga’s character, Ally, after watching her perform in a burlesque club.

What else is there to love about Gaga?

Bradley gushed, “Oh everything, she’s an incredible human being, completely open, highly intelligent, touched by God with her voice. Every day that she would sing on set, the whole crew, we were just sort of in awe. She’s such a better singer than I ever even realized. I really do believe she’s one of the great voices of many years. But she’s just so relatable. I just love her. We have a similar background, Italian and I don’t call her… her name’s Stefani Germanotta and I call her Stefani. And she’s just great. I just got lucky because you never know. We had an incredible chemistry. I think it’s the most chemistry I’ve ever had with an actress in a movie.”

On his collaboration with her, he disclosed, “She was incredible and was a big part of the writing process. We interviewed her and I took so much of her thoughts and ideas and then… all this original music and we wrote the music with other great writers and were able to produce it and arrange it. And so she really gave me the confidence to believe in myself as a musician and find Jackson’s voice as a singer. I don’t think she’s ever done a movie before and she really gave me all of herself. It’s nothing if it’s not believable and real, especially this story and what they go through these two people. So it was almost like a barter to some degree. I mean entrusting myself to her that I would be able to find my voice as a musician as Jackson Maine and her trusting me enough that she would give herself to me in the process and flower as an actress.”

He recalled how he got to work with award-winning Fil-Am cinematographer Matthew Libatique (“Black Swan,” “Noah,” “Mother!”), “Ironically, when I first pitched the movie to Warner Brothers, I saw it as a down and dirty version of the movie and I kept citing ‘The Wrestler,’ not realizing that that was the one movie that he didn’t DP (Director of Photography) with Darren Aronofsky. I had spoken to Jennifer Lawrence who I respect obviously and she is so smart and she had spoken so highly of him, she had just done ‘Mother!’ with him. And I had spoken to Darren, I was texting Darren and they were shooting ‘Mother!’ before that, up in Montreal I think, and I was maybe going to visit, and I also love ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Requiem For A Dream’ and ‘Pi.’

A scene from 'A Star Is Born' ( A scene from 'A Star Is Born'

“But it’s really about energy, I knew what I wanted the movie to be and I knew that we shot this for a studio version for very low budget, it was almost like 38 million dollars in 42 days. So I knew it had to be agile and quick and my instinct was that, I watched this documentary on Mike Nichols before I started and they asked him, how do you approach directing? And he said, I approach directing the way I approach acting, I prepare and then I show up on the first day and throw it all away. And that gave me the confidence, because I felt that that was the type of storytelling on the set that I wanted it to be like, open. But when you are open and at the head of the ship, everybody has to then be as agile and dexterous as you want to be.

“And so when I met with Matty in LA and first of all it was a great thing that we shot in LA, because people always want to stay in LA because their families are there, and I got lucky that way because we had an incredible crew. We hit it off right away and I was talking about compositions and lighting and movies that inspired and it just started to happen. But I have to tell you, the shooting process, you would have to ask him but I really felt like it was inspiring for all of us there.

“A big part of that is just being on a set with Lady Gaga singing, you really feel like oh, I am exactly where I want to be right now. And she provided that kind of nourishment for us. And he was incredible. It was me and him and Steve Morrow the sound guy and we went to Glastonbury by ourselves and I had been going there, that’s a music festival in Glastonbury, and we had four minutes to shoot that scene. Then my buddy operated the second camera and by that time, we had already done the movie and it was the second to last day. We had jumped on stage coach for eight minutes, so there was a lot of trust involved and Scott Sakamoto I obviously have to talk about who was the camera operator who is just a genius, he won the Operating Award for ‘The Revenant’ two years ago and he is incredible.”