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Lady Gaga was a star long before A Star Is Born. What people tend to forget, though, is the fact that that very reality – Gaga’s enormous stardom – made it harder than usual to play an up-and-coming singer who lacks self-confidence in Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, A Star is Born. The Academy recognized her efforts, nominating her in the Best Actress category for this year’s Oscars ceremony. And now we’re learning about efforts the team went through to help Gaga achieve her natural transformation on screen. Cinematographer Matthew Libatique, who also was nominated for his work on Star, explains:
I wanted to make her feel comfortable and protected; I didn’t want her to worry about anything. I wanted her to adjust and both of them as actors to be able to perform in improvised positions, so if they felt uncomfortable in one place and wanted to shift to another, I kept the lighting broad so that we had that element…. Bradley did things that were so creative that he needed that space. For the entire film, whether it was a concert or narrative scene, I kept thinking as broad as possible with an eye on protecting her and making sure that there was a trust there and that she didn’t have to worry about where she was looking or where she had to be.
I wanted to take away the restrictions you impose on actors that have done it for 10 films, I wanted her to have the freedom to be a person and become Ally. You’re looking at somebody who’s one of the biggest rock stars in our world, and to be able to pull that back and become Ally and show that vulnerability, I didn’t want to step on that.
It’s a legitimate challenge. How do you take a performer, who has graced the biggest stages known to mankind – including the Super Bowl, as a halftime performer – and shoot her so that she look vulnerable, and tepid, and unsure. A lot of that comes in the performance of Ally by Lady Gaga. But it’s interesting to learn that Matthew Libatique also lit scenes to increase the amount of space that Gaga and Bradley Cooper had to move in, in case they wanted to shift around and improvise.
A traditional film, shot normally, would specifically block where action goes. That way, crews know exactly where cameras and lighting need to be. A Star is Born seemed to have a lot more freedom to move. Not only in its concert scenes – which were filmed at actual live events. But also in dialogue scenes, as Libatique explains to EW in their interview.
I stand by the fact that her performance in the “Shallow” scene, where she sings for the first time, earned her the Best Actress nomination. This is a woman who has performed in front of massive global audiences, and she’s pretending to be terrified, performing for her first time:
Will it get her the Best Actress win (over Glenn Close, of all competitors) at the Academy Awards on February 24? We’ll find out soon enough. Either way, A Star is Born is a massive hit, amassing $414 million globally and earning 8 Oscar nominations. We can’t wait to see what Bradley Cooper does next.