‘A Star is Born’ at Coachella

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper filmed scenes for the ‘A Star is Born’ remake at Coachella.

Shake out those flower crowns, jean shorts, and neon accessories: we’re talking about Coachella again. I know, I know you’re probably over hearing about the three days millennial Woodstock. However, something interesting happened last weekend. It’s not Hans Zimmer playing a psychedelic set though that was pretty impressive.

Lady Gaga (née Stefani Germanotta) headlined Coachella’s Saturday night program – following Beyoncé’s decision to hold off headlining until next year due to her pregnancy. Gaga performed a surprise new song titled The Cure. Gaga then managed to film a part of Bradley Cooper’s remake of A Star is Born. If that title sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve probably heard it three times. The Janet Gaynor-starring 1937 version, the Judy Garland-starring 1954 version, and the Barbra Streisand-starring 1976 version. In 2016, Gaga joined the remake of the film with Cooper directing and producing it via his company, 22 Green. Prior to Gaga’s involvement, Beyoncé was attached to star but had to bow out due to a scheduling conflict with her Formation tour. (I’m sensing a trend).

During Coachella, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga started filming their musical remake of A Star is Born. Specifically, they shot some concert scenes. Festival goers received an alert via The Coachella app notifying them of the filming and instructed Gaga’s Little Monsters – a nickname for her fans – to wear country garb. The filming took place on April 18 to 19th at the Empire Polo Club. Gaga posted an announcement on her various social media accounts. Gaga and Cooper fans could pay $10 to attend the filming if they were over 18. The funds went to Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes LGBT advocacy, youth empowerment, and combats bullying. The event also featured giveaways and activities. Coachella is usually a busy weekend, but somehow Gaga managed to outdo even the most FOMO-stricken hipster.

Following Coachella, Warner Brothers released the first still from the film (featured above). The press release describes the plot as follows:

Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a country music star who is on the brink of decline when he discovers a talented unknown named Ally (Germanotta). As the two begin a passionate love affair, Jack coaxes Ally into the spotlight, catapulting her to stardom. But as Ally’s career quickly eclipses his own, Jack finds it increasingly hard to handle his fading glory. In addition to playing Ally, Germanotta… has composed and will perform original songs in the film.

Kris Kristofferson and Barbara Streisand in A Star is Born (1976)

The 1937 A Star is Born is one of those stories that needs a main character that reads normal. The original William Wellman film starred Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. The film told pretty much the same story with the exception of swapping out country stardom for acting stardom and ditching the music. The Judy Garland and James Mason version in 1954 featured Garland’s female lead as a singer who decides to go Hollywood. Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson’s 1976 version did something similar. Likewise this new version is also changing things, Gaga and Cooper’s makes its leads country stars and emphasizes Gaga’s original compositions for the film.

Career decisions aside, what’s more interesting is that Gaga filmed at Coachella. While filming at festivals is not unheard of – Ke$ha and other artists have filmed at the festival before – the idea of filming a remake of a classic at a relatively modern yearly event is interesting. In the wake of Coachella every year in addition to the recaps of great sets, there is an endless discussion of fashion. Looking at the fashion choices at the festival there seems to be this total acceptance of vintage fashion. Specifically, a pastiche of 70s, 60s, and 90s rave wear: flower crowns, long hair, bell bottoms, short jean shorts, neon colors, sun visors, and the like. Let’s be honest, if I plucked Vanessa Hudgens out of a Coachella party and plopped her into Woodstock she probably wouldn’t stand out too much. It’s this appropriation of the old that always interests me. Almost as if everyone in their peacock-ing decided to raid their parent’s closets. It’s the perfect collective metaphor for what the remake has the potential to be. Like all remakes, when you update things there are always slight changes. However, Gaga and Cooper’s changes seem to be big and the context that they’ve started with is something so distinctly millennial, that it’s interesting to think about exactly how much updating they are actually doing in this remake.

Judy Garland and James Mason in A Star is Born (1954)

Every remake of A Star is Born has the same central (and immutable) themes: fame, chasing your dreams, and the emotional turmoil this can cause. Stardom and the act of chasing one’s dream is perennial – its part of what made La La Land so popular. However, the incorporation of country music and the added context of the filming are such that Cooper and Gaga have the potential to make something very revealing about the generation that attends Coachella. While the film’s quality and execution is yet to be evaluated, it will be an interesting exercise in comparison between the new film and its predecessors. I sense some film school paper topics and new think-pieces brewing.

Cooper’s A Star is Born is set to hit theaters in September 2018.