"A Star is Born" Excerpt
Josh: Bradley Cooper was not shy when it came to choosing material for his directing debut, Adam. "A Star Is Born" has already been made three times – in 1976, 1954, and 1937 – and those iterations have earned a total of 17 Oscar nominations. Over the years, the settings and details have shifted slightly but all previous incarnations follow a narrative similar to what Cooper and his co-writers, Eric Roth and Will Fetters, have devised here. In this, "A Star Is Born," we follow the whirlwind rise of an unknown singer, played by Lady Gaga, who is discovered by a burnt out, alcoholic, incredibly famous roots rocker played by Cooper himself. Now Adam, you haven't been shy about your reservations with Bradley Cooper, the actor. I remember you scoffing at "American Hustle" – the movie for sure–
Josh: ...but I think also Cooper's performance. You've repeatedly given the backhanded compliment that his Rocket Raccoon from "Guardians Of The Galaxy" is his best performance.
Adam: I mean it.
Josh: I've winced each time waiting for you to come around on the sparkly eyed volatility that I think makes him an exciting screen presence. So imagine my delight when I came out of our screening for "A Star Is Born," about two weeks ago and to find you smitten. I believe the quote was, "If I were him I'd never shave that beard or cut that hair."
Adam: Yeah, but that really has nothing to do with his acting abilities.
Josh: This is what I've been dying to ask you since then! Is it just Bradley Cooper as Jackson Maine, prematurely grizzled rock star whom you've fallen for, or have you come around on Cooper the actor? Or could it be that you swoon for him as the director of this big, bold, give-it-all-the-Oscars-now "Star Is Born?"
Adam: He is grizzled, and he is a tall drink of water with that beard. Based on " A Star Is Born," Josh, I think it's probably accurate to say I appreciate Bradley Cooper, the actor, more than I did previously, and I'm taking a wait-and-see approach on Bradley Cooper, the director, though there's certainly promise there. I'm sure we will get to all of that. A little bit of background, even though you did such a nice job of summarizing it – of my view of him as an actor – is it okay to say that I can recognize someone's talent even if I don't particularly enjoy their work?
Josh: Oh, absolutely.
Adam: I've always appreciated particular scenes or moments of Cooper's, but rarely an entire performance. It is true. I think maybe my most Larson-esque opinion is that I think his voice work as Rocket Raccoon in those "Guardians" movies is better than anything, as you said, in "American Hustle," or "Silver Linings Playbook." And I don't even love those "Guardians" movies that much. I do love the attitude and the humor he brings to that raccoon. But he's just one of those actors for me – I think I've said this before on the show – where I often feel like I'm watching the wheels turning. There's a calculation to his choices that comes from an intellectual place but doesn't feel, maybe to me, as instinctual or as natural as I suppose I would like. And maybe that's-.
Josh: That's a quality observation though there.
Josh: That's not like he's - he's not just your style of actor. That's saying-.
Adam: That's true.
Josh: ... that you can see him working on screen.
Josh: Which I completely disagree with. I think he's a very instinctual actor.
Adam: OK. So yeah I don't see him that way at all. But that is maybe why I like Jackson Maine. I like his performance here in this film so much. He's someone who is perpetually in a state of numbness, comfortable or otherwise. And so those wheels just maybe aren't quite spinning as fast as they otherwise would be. The way he carries that numbness physically, that shaggy nonchalance he has, and even vocally the way he lowers his register and he kind of has a flatness to his cadence? I think it's really effective and authentic. That for me Josh is the key word here as we're considering " A Star Is Born." Authentic. Is he believable as this past-his-prime drunk country-rock star? And in addition to that numbness – I don't think I ever use this word in 700 episodes of the show! I definitely don't use it in my daily life. But there is an insouciance to his Jackson Maine. I almost feel like you need that kind of mystical word to describe it because he has that kind of indifference, that general lack of concern for everything that's going on around him, and yet he's someone who still pulls you naturally into his orbit. I think that's a real trick that he pulls off here. Is his singing and his playing believable as this past-his-prime drunk country-rock star? You know that's so important to me. And... Yes, he does! I think about Kris Kristofferson in the 1976 version... I just did finish that really terrible film over the weekend, and he's pretty much miserable all the time even when he's on stage. Jackson Maine certainly seems to take more pleasure in it once he has connected with Ali, the Lady Gaga character. But even before that, he does seem to enjoy being on stage and performing. He still has that talent. He doesn't look down on his abilities, doesn't pity himself in those instances when he's performing the way maybe we do see in some other versions of "A Star Is Born". Another key question, of course, is Ali's sudden stardom believable? Does Gaga deliver the goods as both an actress and performer? And as their love believable? Do we believe their connection and their chemistry on stage and off? I do really like the feeling-each-other-out banter we get between them that all leads up to those moments when she finally does take the stage and the comfort they seem to offer each other even after those moments where she's become a big star. That seems to be genuine. So the answer for me all those questions is yes, and that's why I can recommend the movie.