Bradley Cooper stars and makes his feature directorial debut in this week’s A Star Is Born, the latest version of a story that’s almost as old as Hollywood itself. Cooper plays Jackson Maine, an aging singer/songwriter who knows he’s in the latter days of his career, spending his days drunk and remembering better times.
When visiting a small bar he sees Ally (Lady Gaga) performing on stage and is struck by both her talent and beauty. Maine offers to take her under his wing and help her finally achieve her dreams of stardom. The two become romantically involved as well and as her career his destructive behavior only gets worse.
Jackson and Ally are sharing a special moment on the first poster, released at the same time as the initial trailer. He’s strumming a guitar and she has a notebook open, communicating to the audience that this is a pair of lovers who are going to be making some music together. A couple character posters broke out the pair in photos that absolutely look like they should be accompanying a Rolling Stone profile.
Two more poster came out later on. Both show Maine and Ally on stage in some manner and embracing while performing. One of them is a Dolby-exclusive and both retain the black and white imagery used in the previous versions.
Jackson is tired and running out of time as the trailer opens, though he’s still performing and getting a rush from the crowd when doing so. When he goes to a bar and sees Ally perform he reaches out and asks why she isn’t doing more than singing in some dive since he sees enormous talent in her. He finally gets her up on stage and from there on out her career takes off. There are scenes of performances as well as other chaos and turmoil, all accompanied by some of the music featured in the film.
I’ll be honest, Lady Gaga looks *really* good here and I’ve been skeptical about this to date. She seems to give a strong, honest performance. Cooper too puts his usual tics to the side for a grounded, grizzled performance as someone who is looking to establish his legacy by mentoring the next generation. It’s not showy at all on either count.
Online and Social
The movie’s official website features a version of the initial key art on its front page, along with a big prompt to “Get Tickets” and links to information on an October 2nd Dolby Fan Event and AMC Theater-hosted All-Access Early Screenings of the film. There are also links to the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.
The usual material can be found in sections like “Synopsis,” “Gallery” and “Videos.” There’s also “Partners” and, of course, information on the “Soundtrack.”
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
A Lady Gaga fan-run Twitter account shared a screenshot showing the movie was advertising on PornHub, which…alright. There were also reports the studio was advertising it via concert organizer Live Nation at live shows.
Live Nation was one of the two promotional partner companies listed on the movie’s website, along with Citi Private Pass.
TV spots like this cut down the story shown in the trailer to commercial length, consolidating the arc to show Ally being lifted from obscurity to stardom.
Online ads have used video snippets and elements of the key art to drive ticket sales as well.
Media and Publicity
The publicity campaign kicked off with the release of a synopsis and first photo. That came around the same time it was revealed Cooper, Gaga and the crew were at Coachella shooting footage for the movie there, with the studio inviting fans of the singer for the in-character performance. Cooper similarly showed up later at the Glastonbury to shoot more footage.
The first official look at the film came in EW, which also offered a few thoughts from Cooper about the timelessness and flexibility of the story and what direction he’s taking it it. The movie screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, where Cooper held a Q&A with past co-star Robert De Niro and talked about working with Lady Gaga, the hiatus from acting that lead him to embrace directing, working with Lady Gaga and more. It later skipped Cannes, presumably to open it up to make more of a fall film festival run. The movie was also part of the later CineEurope presentation from the studio.
It’s not entirely clear on whether this was part of the movie’s promotional campaign or a bit of shade being thrown at the new movie, but as part of a package of Barbara Streisand material an expanded edition of her 1976 version of the story would be coming to Netflix.
In mid-July it was announced the movie would screen at the Venice Film Festival, a last-minute decision reportedly made after an exhibitor screening generated enthusiastic reactions that opened up speculation of potential awards campaigns. The movie was named as one of those screening at the Toronto International Film Festival.
In a nice bit of publicity, the movie was featured on the cover of Entertainment Weekly’s Fall Movie Preview, including interviews with Gaga and Cooper about working together, the story of the film, how they shot at various music festivals, what happened when the stars of the 1976 film visited the set, the assembling of the soundtrack, how Cooper was inspired by his experience working with Clint Eastwood and more.
Producer Lynette Howell Taylor was profiled by THR where she was able to talk about how she managed to get all the music festivals included in the movie as well as other aspects of production.
Gaga went in-depth about how Cooper tapped into some of her real-life insecurities and issues to get to the heart of the character, as well as how some studio execs still wanted her to jump through various hoops before they would approve her casting. Plenty of other conversations with one or both of the stars continued to appear throughout the festival, all of which fueled the awards speculation that had already been underway for a while, especially for Gaga.
As the same time the movie was appearing at Venice, details around the soundtrack were revealed, promising everyone a whole lot of new Lady Gaga music and more. Also at the time a series of clips, each focusing on a different aspect of the dynamic between Ally and Jackson, were released.
There were also interviews where Gaga spoke about the perils of addiction for those who become famous and how such fame is unnatural and is therefore difficult to deal with. Cooper also explained how he channeled some of his own painful past into the story.
An appearance at the Tokyo Film Festival was also scheduled. And AMC Theaters screens with Dolby Cinema technology arranged for the movie to screen two days earlier than on other screens.
Featurettes from mid-September, just as the festival push was winding down, had Gaga talking about writing songs that sounded like Ally and Cooper doing likewise for Jackson.
The movie’s premiere allowed Gaga to talk more about the emotional vulnerability she embraced for the role. A serious feature of Cooper that had him talking more extensively about how he worked to put his personal stamp on the well-known story followed. A massive London premiere event served as the public unveiling of the film.
Also making waves in the couple weeks before the movie hit theaters was the release of the video for “Shallow,” the new song featuring a duet between the two leads.
The movie has been a critical favorite since the first time it screened for anyone anywhere. Those critics have been pushing the narrative that the movie is an awards contender right out of the gate, that Gaga is incredible and Cooper inspiring in an emotionally raw film. So there’s that word of mouth and buzz out there to try and get people interested.
Warner Bros. has leaned into this, creating a campaign that’s meant to inspire Gaga’s fanbase to come out and see her on the big screen, something some members of that group reportedly took a bit too seriously. The focus of all the featurettes and extended clips has been squarely on the music, where she can shine and where Cooper’s commitment to the craft can be highlighted.
What’s worth noting, though, is that it’s a relatively paltry campaign. There’s just the one trailer and all the posters look like variations on the same theme. Sure there are a handful of additional videos, but the studio obviously understood the press push was where the game would be won or lost and so went all-in on that instead of releasing a handful of trailers and adding some more varied visuals to the poster effort.
As of a few weeks ago the movie was tracking at an estimated $30 million opening weekend, which would be good, but my guess is WB has its eye more on awards season here.
PICKING UP THE SPARE
Gaga hit “The Late Show” to talk about the movie and continue praising Cooper. The same can be said of Sam Elliott, who has done a bit more press since the movie hit theaters.
Another music video for one of the movie’s songs was released around the same time the soundtrack, the withholding of which was very much strategic to build up anticipation and create the need to see the movie in order to hear the songs, finally became available.
One of the movie’s producers shares some background on how the production was able to film at a few music festivals.
The studio worked with Spotify on a commercial featuring “3D sound” that mimicked being in a theater.
As the movie’s awards campaign was ramping up in late November a new featurette focusing on Cooper as the director was released.
LA finally got a billboard featuring Gaga’s character, apparently similar to one that appears in the movie.