There are films that come around every year that stir up a great deal of conversation. The films we’re talking about in this instance are those in which an individual can’t bear to tear themselves away from the project in any capacity. The individuals who wind up being credited as producer, director and writer. Some even star, adding a new level of narcissism to the proverbial trifle.
This awards season is no exception, with Bradley Cooper choosing to pile on four hats and present a stellar piece of work with his incarnation of A Star is Born. It’s the product of a first-time director, who’s said to have taken this project after honing his craft while a cast member in productions under directors such as David O. Russell and Clint Eastwood.
Cooper’s work on the production of A Star is Born, his stand out performance and impressive, co-written script also can’t be overlooked.
So this begs the question – where’s the natural place to honour this achievement?
The Academy’s bias against actors turned directors
When you look at actors who have won Best Director over the last years, the list doesn’t make for extensive reading.
And the amount of actors who have received a Best Director nomination is also few:
- Woody Allen (Annie Hall)
- Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves)
- Warren Beatty (Reds)
- Mel Gibson (Braveheart)
- Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird)
- Jordan Peele (Get Out)
What’s telling is that Gibson gained his nod at the expense of a Best Actor nomination. Interestingly, Cooper’s Obi-Wan, Clint Eastwood is one of the few actors that’s managed to win Best Director twice, for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby.
But are these slim pickings a result of the actor/director pool not being very large? Or is it Academy bias, not wanting to award those who cross the Rubicon? A recent example of this is Ben Affleck’s Best Director and Best Actor snub, even though his film, Argo went on to become 2013’s Best Picture.
Do you honour the performance?
Cooper is a three-time Best Actor nominee, (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and American Sniper), therefore it stands to reason Cooper may be deemed as well overdue in this respect. But he finds himself in a tricky race this year, with tough competition in the form of Ryan Gosling, Viggo Mortensen, Willem Dafoe and Christian Bale. Then again, voters may only see Cooper in this light, having not seen his work behind the camera before – choosing to judge him with a yardstick they’ve utilised previously.
Last year saw two big hitters with triple threat status on the cards: Jordan Peele with Get Out and Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water – the honours being split unevenly. Peele took home Best Screenplay while Del Toro bagged both Best Director and Picture for his producing work. This was deemed a justified decision given Del Toro’s industry clout and goodwill among his peers, plus Peele was new to the game.
Is 18/2019 a wide open year?
A lot of what Cooper could receive will be dictated by how A Star is Born fares at awards season (the guilds will begin to present their awards in the coming months). Best Picture is currently wide open – although Roma, First Man and A Star is Born are seemingly leading the pack, there are films that have not yet peaked. Green Book is gaining momentum after its win at Toronto, followed closely by runner-up, If Beale Street Could Talk, helping to place it firmly in the conversation going forward.
So far, A Star is Born has failed to win at both Venice and Toronto (losing to Roma and Green Book respectively), so there’s an eventuality whereby we see Cooper go home empty-handed on Oscar night, which would be disappointing.
There is certainly a history of films falling under to expectation of an individual taking on the herculean task of being involved throughout the process. Immediately, the one that springs to mind is the human and artistic enigma of Madonna and the visual sleeping tablet that was W.E. Despite the vitriol it received from critics, it still garnered Madonna a Golden Globe win, albeit for songwriting.
While the director race is a hotly contested one, it’s not a contest that’s out of Cooper’s reach – all will be dependant on the campaigns going forward. But the much more straightforward option, for both Cooper and the Academy alike, is to honour his captivating performance as Jackson Maine, equipped with convincing musicality and a spot on Sam Elliott impression to boot.
This being said, A Star is Born needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible and it will be very interesting to see if this will follow in the footsteps of many musical films of recent years that have garnered a great deal of afterglow and longevity in the form of sing-a-long cinema screenings.