Sure, you can appreciate “A Star Is Born” on its own, without obsessively reading interviews with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga and watching and rewatching the trailer. (As Jackson Maine would say: “I just wanted to take another look at you.” Again.)
The movie has already grossed about $100 million and should remain a box office powerhouse long into awards season.
But those hidden gems the stars have been revealing make the bittersweet romance of troubled rocker Jackson (Cooper, who also directed and co-wrote) and rising star Ally (Gaga, in her film debut) that much better.
As Ally would say, I’m off the deep end. Watch as I dive in.
1. The eyes have it
This is the fourth “A Star Is Born,” and Cooper pays homage to the previous incarnations by raising a few eyebrows. No, really, every version has an eyebrow scene, says Vanity Fair. In the 1937 original, ingenue Janet Gaynor has outlandish brows painted on for a screen test. In the 1954 remake, Judy Garland gets an awful studio makeover. In 1976, Barbra Streisand paints brows onto rock-star lover Kris Kristofferson during the sexy (campy?) candlelit bathtub scene. (All is forgiven because she sings the eternal “Evergreen.”) And now? Ally tapes them on to channel Edith Piaf singing “La Vie En Rose” before letting Jackson peel them off. Later she applies those brows to Jackson in, where else, the bathtub. And that “take another look at you” line? There’s a version of it in each of the films.
2. She’s ‘Over the Rainbow’
In another tribute to Garland, Ally sings “Over the Rainbow.” But you might not recognize the introductory verse she performs (“When all the world is a hopeless jumble …”). It’s not in “The Wizard of Oz.”
3. ‘I was floored’
“La Vie En Rose” is the song that got Gaga the part. Cooper saw her sing it at a private cancer benefit and, he told Variety, “I was floored.” He went to her house, they ate leftover pasta, they sat around her piano harmonizing to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Midnight Special” and he knew: “There was no movie without her.”
4. An air-guitar god
The long-haired guitar player onstage with Jack is Lukas Nelson, son of Willie, who co-wrote many of the film’s songs with Cooper and Gaga. He appears with his real band, Promise of the Real, which backs Neil Young. Nelson told an audience at the Toronto International Film Festival that he knew he’d like Cooper as far back as 2015. That’s when he saw him on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon,” in a wig, playing Young’s “Down by the River” — on air guitar. Cooper, with Nelson’s help, has since learned to play real guitar.
5. That voice
Cooper spent months working with a coach on his singing and lowering his speaking voice an octave. His goal: the deep baritone and cowboy accent of actor Sam Elliott. When Cooper mastered that, he decided what he really needed was Elliott himself to play his big brother. Elliott told “Good Morning America” he was so flattered he had to say yes.
6. And the crowds go wild
Those humongous rock show audiences were real. Billboard magazine says Cooper & Co. squeezed in performances last year at California’s Stagecoach Country Music Festival, right before Willie Nelson’s set, and at Glastonbury, England, before Kristofferson (of all people) took the stage. At Coachella, where Gaga was headlining for two weekends, fans could apply to be extras on the days in between her shows.
7. That’s what friends are for
Cooper packed the movie with people who feel special to him. His buddy Dave Chappelle plays his friend. The friend’s wife: Drena De Niro, daughter of Cooper’s “Silver Linings Playbook” co-star Robert De Niro. The character’s daughter is played by Chappelle’s own kid, Sanaa. Cooper cast co-stars from his “Alias” days: Greg Grunberg as Jackson’s Cheetos-eating limo driver and Ron Rifkin as the head of a rehab facility. As a kid, Cooper memorized Andrew Dice Clay’s comedy album, so he cast Clay as Ally’s father. Even Cooper’s own ear doctor gets a cameo, to help Jackson deal with tinnitus.
8. Good dog!
Here’s one more loved one Cooper cast: That big fluffy dog stealing the show is Cooper’s real-life dog, Charlie, named for his late father. “That meant a lot for him to be in the film,” Cooper told People. He joked that since his movie debut, Charlie “has an agent. I don’t talk to him much anymore. He doesn’t return my calls. He always walks away from me unless I have food.”