Oscar and BAFTA nominee Bradley Cooper shared insight into his work on Maestro and other movies, his next film and his career in London on Wednesday evening during a British Film Institute (BFI) event. Answering questions from filmmaker Stephen Daldry (The Crown, The Hours), he also lauded the talents of such co-stars as Carey Mulligan, Lady Gaga, Emma Stone and Jennifer Lawrence, and described Clint Eastwood and Robert De Niro as idols.
In a wide-ranging chat, Cooper also entertained the audience with stories about attending the Glastonbury music festival with Michael Fassbender and why he loves the voice of Sam Elliott.
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Given Cooper’s directing and acting work on the music-themed Maestro and A Star Is Born and his love for music, Daldry asked if his next film as an actor-director, believed to be Is This Thing On? with friend Will Arnett, would again have musical overtones. “Our next movie is a tiny little movie that we’re going to shoot in the fall, a little $10 million movie,” Cooper shared, signaling it had no music focus. “But it’s funny, music is seeping its way in,” he then quipped. “I can’t help it.” Cooper didn’t share more details.
The star spoke with much passion about his films, including Netflix’s Maestro, which focuses on the relationship between Leonard Bernstein and his wife. Cooper shared that he slept little and had to go get his hair and makeup done early during parts of the Maestro shoot. “I got there four and a half hours before crew call,” he recalled about a cathedral shooting day. “We would create Lenny in the trailer.”
Overall, “I wasn’t sleeping much,” Cooper said. “I was sleeping probably three and a half, four hours a night for the whole movie.” He added with a smile, “I love naps.”
Daldry lauded Cooper for getting such strong performances out of his co-stars when he acts and directs. Cooper thanked him for the compliment before explaining his process. “I prepare, prepare, prepare, and I show up and throw it all away,” he said. “It’s really about listening…. The more you shoot of a film, the more the film starts to tell you what it wants, I find. So it’s a much more realistic organism that you can see and feel.”
He also shared, “It helps that I’m an actor and I’ve been around for so long.” That means that “I just sort of try to create an environment that I know I would feel comfortable with,” Cooper explained. “And one thing I learned early on is if you can give permission to fail on set that everybody opens up.”
Added the star about his role as an actor-director: “I think they’re watching me fail all day long, and it gives them permission. Hopefully actors feel like they can now just let loose.”
But Cooper also lauded the huge talent of the people he has gotten to act opposite. “She is incredible,” he said about Maestro partner Mulligan. “Carey Mulligan is such a beast of an actor.” He had the audience in stitches, though, because he made a brief pause before the words “of an actor,” adding he hoped that the people video editing the interview would not cut him off before the end of the sentence.
Asked about his four films with Lawrence, Cooper recalled they had to learn a dance routine together for Silver Linings Playbook. “That’s really what I think brought us to a place of being really comfortable,” he shared. “But she’s also very approachable and funny and open and an incredible actor in terms of, like, being in a scene with somebody 100 percent present. And she’s so loose and incredibly funny. Yes, she’s got it all.”
Cooper also praised Stone, with whom he worked on Aloha. “She’s incredible,” he said. “She is the greatest.”
And he showered Lady Gaga, or Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, with compliments. Discussing A Star Is Born, Cooper emphasized: “There’s no movie without her. I mean, she was the nuclear weapon. I remember when I first went to her house, and she just started singing.” Every time she would sing on set, “The whole crew would just look at each other, like,” he shared. “And she was such a huge part of the writing process, too.”
Cooper on Thursday also entertained the London crowd with some background on a scene shot at the Glastonbury music festival for A Star Is Born. “Glastonbury never allows it, but I’ve been going for so long,” he said, explaining that he is friends with the festival organizers.” He first attended the fest when he starred in The Elephant Man in London during a 2014-2015 run. “I went that year because Metallica was playing, and I’m a huge Metallica fan,” Cooper said. “And so Michael Fassbender and I went to Glastonbury.” Asked by Daldry if they stayed over, he replied with a simple, “Yeah.”
The audience reacted with laughter and expressions of approval. Asked if he could do theater work again, Cooper told the audience that, “I had stage fright” as a child, with getting in front of people seeming like a “nightmare.”
He also got emotional when watching impactful scenes from past movies and was asked about his reputation for being a private and shy person. “I definitely think I’m a private person. But you almost sort of have to give over to the fact that it’s impossible to be private these days,” Cooper replied. “So it’s more about acceptance of the reality, instead of creating my own reality that doesn’t exist.”
In addition to sharing his insights into filmmaking and his process, as well as serious thoughts and comments, Cooper regularly had industry people and fans laughing and applauding throughout his appearance. One of the other biggest laughs came when he explained how he had trouble finding a voice for his A Star Is Born character before deciding to model it on a co-star in the film. “Sam Elliott’s from Sacramento, California,” Cooper explained. “And he’s got the most…I just want to hear Sam Elliott talk all day long. That’s my idea of a man.”
The sold-out “Bradley Cooper in Conversation” event took place at the Southbank Centre in the British capital.
Last week, Cooper’s Maestro earned seven BAFTA nominations, with the star receiving nods from the British Academy for three honors, namely in the best leading actor, best director and best original screenplay categories.
The Oscar nominations Tuesday, meanwhile, saw Cooper become only the fourth person to direct themselves to an Academy Award nomination. While he did not earn a directing nom, he is in the running for best actor, best picture and for best original screenplay as a co-writer of the film.
Cooper has “worked with a range of renowned filmmakers, such as Clint Eastwood, Guillermo del Toro and Paul Thomas Anderson,” the event invite highlighted. “In 2018, Cooper blew audiences away with his directorial debut, a rapturous and heart-wrenching reimagining of A Star Is Born. Following this, he directed, co-wrote, co-produced and starred in Maestro, a passionate, enthralling meditation on the life of Leonard Bernstein.”
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