Since I don’t watch the news or live television, I’m not the person to turn to for pop culture information or the latest show business buzz. But I couldn’t avoid seeing the online much-ado about Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper singing their nominated song Shallow live at the Oscars. So I pulled up YouTube and watched the two main characters from A Star is Born sing to each other. The rest of the world didn’t exist.
And that led me to watch the movie clip. And then I listened to the soundtrack. Soon I was viewing interviews and finding other clips from the movie to devour. Finally, I saw the movie at the theater.
Don’t think I’ve gone off the deep end. I’m just kidding about this post’s title; I’ve never been easy to impress and certainly am not star struck.
But I am impressed with the authenticity behind the making of the movie.
In case you don’t know the storyline, Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a seasoned musician with serious drug and alcohol addictions. He hears Gaga’s character Ally singing in a bar, and they begin a friendship. She’s a plain-Jane singer/songwriter with raw talent oozing from her pores. Jackson coaxes her on stage to sing Shallow with him at a concert. The two fall in love and join their musical talents and lives. As Ally’s career begins to soar as a solo artist, Jackson’s begins to slide as he struggles with his demons. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I’ll just remind you to have tissues or a hankie with you when you watch the movie.
Here are a few of the tactics employed to make the movie authentic:
They sang and played everything LIVE. There was NO lip-synching to a pre-recorded track as in most other films that feature singing.
The concert segments were filmed in front of actual concert goers. Cooper “borrowed” the stage just before several real concerts started. So those scenes of concert venues, with people screaming, clapping, and waving with outstretched arms, feel real because they ARE real.
Willie Nelson’s son Lukas and his Promise of the Real band were Jackson Maine’s band. Lukas co-wrote some of the music in the film.
Veteran actor Sam Elliott, playing Maine’s much older half-brother Bobby, said that everyone involved with the movie struck a real and deep relationship with each other. That’s why the chemistry worked in this movie; it wasn’t just acting. They felt it. One word that came up in most interviews was “trust.” They trusted Cooper as director and each other as actors. One comment was, “We lived as a family of trust.”
While the movie was filmed in less than two months, Cooper spent several years getting ready for the role. He trained with a dialect coach for twenty hours a week for a year on voice exercises and lowering his voice by an octave. Cooper knew who he wanted his character to sound like: Sam Elliott. So he listened to recordings of Elliott’s voice and ended up with a gravelly, sort-of-mild-country-Texas accent. The movie uses this as an inside joke when Bobby accuses Jackson of “stealing his voice.”
How did actor/not musician Cooper enhance his musical talent? He spent eighteen months in vocal lessons and six months of guitar and piano lessons to prepare for his role.
There were many moments of raw emotion and real tears. One of the most touching scenes was brief and silent. An interviewer summed it up this way: “If a man can make you cry by backing up a pickup truck…”
So yes, bring a hankie.