When Bradley Cooper signed on to direct and star in a remake of A Star Is Born, he knew exactly how his rock-star character, Jackson Maine, would sound. So he began working with a vocal coach to approximate Sam Elliotts gravelly delivery before even approaching Elliott about playing his characters brother, Bobby. (When Cooper did finally meet Elliott, he played audio of his best Sam Elliott impersonation before asking the actor to be a part of his film—essentially giving Elliott an elaborate, promposal-esque casting request.)
It turns out that Cooper had a similarly clear idea of who to base Jacksons look on—another legend in his artistic field, Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder.
In a new interview, Cooper revealed that he actually flew to Washington to shadow the musician and pick up his mannerisms before filming his A Star Is Born remake, which is already considered an Oscar contender.
“I went up to Seattle and spent four or five days with [Vedder] and I asked him 9,000 questions,” Cooper told Yahoo. “And he gave me minor, little things that only musicians know about what to do, just aesthetically and the inner workings. . . . He was wonderful.”
When Cooper told Vedder about his plan to actually sing in the film, the Pearl Jam front man was less than encouraging: Cooper laughed. “He was like, What? Bro, dont do that.”
At the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month, Cooper said he also worked closely with Lukas Nelson—the son of Willie Nelson and front man of the band, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real—to learn how to play guitar and perform for an audience.
Speaking to Nelson at the TIFF premiere of his film, Cooper said, “I remember you said to me, Look, man, when you get in front of an audience you better have sung this song 1,000 times, and maybe 10,000 times. Because the first thing that is going to happen is you are going to lose your breath.”
The films opening musical sequence plants the audience onstage with Coopers Jackson Maine as he performs a song called “Black Eyes” for thousands of adoring fans. To give viewers the most authentic perspective of being onstage during an actual concert, Cooper asked Willie Nelson and Jamey Johnson if he could jump in during a gig of theirs to perform “Black Eyes” for that opening scene. Nelson and Johnson allowed Cooper to film, but only gave him eight minutes during their set to nail the scene—meaning Cooper and his crew only had that finite amount of time to make the number work.
While Vedder was not quite convinced Cooper could pull off the musical element of the movie, the directors co-star Lady Gaga has said she knew from the first notes she heard Cooper sing that he could become Jackson Maine.
“I just stopped playing instantly and I looked at him and said, Bradley, your voice is incredible. You have a real voice,” Gaga said, speaking about her first meeting with Cooper—during which they sang the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Midnight Special.” “He sings from his soul. He sings from his gut. There are people who can do many acrobatics with their voice, but to tell a story with his voice is a different animal.”
Explained Gaga, “It meant a lot to me, and I think to both of us, that at the beginning of making this film we kind of shook hands literally and he said, You are an actress. I said to him, You are a musician.”
Gaga said that she realized Cooper had fully become a musician when, during a recording session, he walked into the sound booth and immediately criticized what he heard, saying, “This is not Jacksons sound.” Said Gaga, “I thought, O.K., now we have a musician on our hands.”
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