Cooper may have achieved movie star status before getting the chance to direct — “luckily, in the end,” he says — but that gave the actor time to find his voice before making “A Star Is Born” his debut.
As early as 2000, when Cooper shot the “Alias” pilot, he started turning early acting jobs into a kind of amateur film school.
“Ken Olin was the directing showrunner on that show, and I remember asking him, ‘How do you come up with a point of view?’” he says. “It felt like a magical world to me as a kid, so being on set, watching all the things the department heads were doing, it was like peeking behind the curtain of Oz and seeing how things were made.”
On big productions such as “The Hangover,” Cooper would keep a respectful distance from the director, studying Todd Phillips from afar, whereas with others, such as “The Midnight Meat Train” and “Limitless,” the filmmakers let him in on their process. In 2011, he began producing as well, creating opportunities to collaborate with — and learn from — directing talents including David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”) and Clint Eastwood (“American Sniper”).
Cooper gave himself four years to write and direct “A Star Is Born,” explaining that things need time to take shape in his head. “It’s also about risking putting yourself out there. It’s quite different from being an actor. I was serving another story. It really was sharing with you the viewer another part of me. I waited until I was ready to take that leap.”
The next project, which he feels equally driven to make, will likely require four more years to burrow into and discover the details that make such movies as “A Star Is Born” so indelible.
“I don’t have the ability to do things fast as a director and writer,” he says. “It’s all about the specific moments. That’s the reason to do it. Nothing can be generalized, and that goes back to having the time, to really put yourself in that circumstance and create the characters from within.”
Influences: Hal Ashby, Sidney Lumet, Lynne Ramsay