Lady Gaga Needs to Stop Giving Bradley Cooper All the Credit for A Star Is Born
“There could be 100 people in the room, and 99 don’t believe in you, and you just need one to believe in you, and that was him,” Lady Gaga said of Bradley Cooper at a Venice Film Festival press conference in August 2018 about the film they costar in, A Star Is Born. She also said it in an interview with Entertainment Tonight in September, on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in October, and pretty much anywhere else she’s been asked about the movie. She’s tearfully stated the 1-in-100 quote so many times that it’s become a joke among the internet set.
But she’s serious: Any time Gaga is asked about her work on A Star Is Born, she acts like she was nothing, a nobody, before Bradley Cooper tapped her for the film, which he also directed. Here’s a world-famous pop star, reportedly being paid one million dollars a day to show up and sing in Las Vegas, who has several platinum records, Grammys, and even a Golden Globe to her name already, declaring that the moment everything changed for her was when a handsome actor type plucked her from obscurity.
Released on October 5, 2018 as the third screen adaptation of the classic musical, A Star Is Born follows the story of washed-up folk musician Jackson Maine (played this time by Cooper), who’s a recovering alcoholic jaded about fame when he encounters Ally, played by Gaga, performing at a bar. She’s a struggling singer-songwriter of obvious talent, who Jackson takes on as a protegée. Their relationship quickly moves beyond the professional, and soon Ally’s career begins to take off, leaving Jackson to confront his mental health issues alone. The film has been raking in praise since its debut — it gave us drama, it gave us “Shallow,” and it was nominated for four Golden Globes, winning one for the song. This acclaim isn’t misplaced; it’s a great movie, and I loved every minute of it.
I can’t say the same about Lady Gaga’s handling of the press circuit. Her Golden Globes red carpet interview with E! News was a carbon-copy of every Q and A she’s given since she took on the role. While discussing the process of becoming Ally with Ryan Seacrest, she almost immediately notes that she worked “very closely” with Cooper on developing her character. “He’s a tremendous visionary, a tremendous director, tremendous actor to work with.” Though she also credits her success to her acting coaches and delves into a brief philosophical spiel about “alchemy,” Gaga’s focus remains on Cooper’s apparently integral assistance. By glossing over her years of vocal training, her award-winning work in American Horror Story, and the pure sense of drive and ambition that’s come to define her career, she deprives herself of credibility, punting all dues right back to Cooper with gushy quotes emphasizing his impact. “Bradley really taught me that,” she said of immersing herself in the role of Ally. “I’m just so grateful to him.”
It was the black-tie version of her usual “there could be 100 people in the room.” Lady Gaga has turned her immense platform into a pedestal for her costar and director.
There’s no doubt that Cooper helped Gaga refine her acting skills. She’d never before starred in a major motion picture; meanwhile, his résumé spans genres. But Gaga’s constant avoidance of her own contributions to A Star Is Born feels less like charming modesty and more like internalized misogyny. In her acceptance speech for the Golden Globe for Best Original Song, which she and co-writers Cooper and Mark Ronson won for “Shallow,” she said, “As a woman in music, it is really hard to be taken seriously as a musician and a songwriter.” Strong start! It sounded, at first, like Gaga was going to address the elephant in the room (the presence of Time’s Up, in the form of black-and-white ribbons, and as a major topic of red carpet conversation). But just as quickly, she shifted the spotlight, yet again, to Cooper, this time adding Ronson, and (male) mixing engineer Tom Elmhirst: “These three incredible men…lifted me up, they supported me.”
Her comments tell the legions of “Little Monsters” that men deserve everything, no matter the circumstance, and that women, no matter their own star stature, are simply lucky to be in the presence of such genius; that we’re here to lift them up and make them look better because of our efforts, like decoration. That’s bullshit, and it doesn’t sound anything like the meat-wearing pioneer she was once known to be.
Speaking of her work this way makes it sound as if Lady Gaga thinks she was plucked from obscurity by this film, by the men at its helm. It hurt to watch such an incredible woman lob all the credit to the men in the room. Hadn’t we agreed time was up on all that? Even if she had been the only woman in the room when A Star Is Born was filmed, or when “Shallow” was recorded, it’s Gaga’s right to claim her accomplishments. Perhaps especially if she were the only woman involved, this credit is even more owed to her. I mean, congrats to Bradley Cooper and all, but every time I hear Gaga hit that high note in the song’s chorus, I know from a place deep within me that she’s the one who brought something truly special to what otherwise could have been a redundant remake.
Putting a finer point on Gaga’s vague self-deprecation, one need only look at some of the male breakout stars of the Golden Globes. During his pre-show conversation with Seacrest, Rami Malek, who won Best Actor in a Drama Motion Picture for his role as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, quips that he didn’t initially expect to land the role, but that the producers felt he had what it took to play “one of the most audacious frontmen in history.” Malek went on to detail his rigorous audition process, saying he was asked to sing, dance, and participate in a mock press conference. In his own interview, fellow rookie-on-the-rise Timothée Chalamet, nominated for his performance in Beautiful Boy, recalls that he shot a particular scene some 20 times, persevering until he portrayed the moment “as truthfully as possible.”
Without explicitly saying so, these movie men have made it clear that their success arose because of their own intrinsic talent and dedication to their craft, rather than solely due to a costar, director, or casting manager who saw their potential and pushed for it.
Imagine if they didn’t spend one second of their airtime applauding themselves, opting instead to thank others for the work that, at some level, only they were capable of doing. It sounds crazy — who would do that? — until you realize that’s what Lady Gaga has been doing for months. For his part, Bradley Cooper lauded Lady Gaga’s openness and work ethic on multiple occasions, but there’s a difference between offering a colleague well-deserved affirmation and practically worshipping them. While Cooper’s habits lean toward the former, Gaga’s have consistently fallen to the latter. The Globe for “Shallow” is as much hers as it is his. The success around this film is not the story of a star being born; it’s a star doing what she does best, and doing it really — award-winningly — well. If only the star in question seemed to know that.
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