It was a stunning performance, so magical that plenty of viewers were ’shipping Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, rooting for them to be a thing. ’Shipping them hard. The enthusiasm was evident on Twitter and in group chats among friends. A Slate writer even gave them a couple name: Ladley Gooper, which sounds like a $200 face serum from Gwyneth Paltrow.
Ladley Gooper fever hit such a pitch that one website did a deep dive on their friendship and mused: “Did Lady Gaga’s Breakup Have Anything to Do With Bradley Cooper?” Answer: Fans think so, but there’s no evidence, and they’re probably just friends. Elle took note of how Cooper’s longtime girlfriend, Irina Shayk, reacted to the duet, because we all needed to know whether she was jealous. It wasn’t scandalous: Shayk beamed, hugged Gaga and kissed Cooper.
Remember the annoyance of #PlaneBae, of a stranger watching two people in what might have resembled a meet-cute and deciding they were destined to fall in love? Wanting two people to be together doesn’t make it so.
The chemistry between Lady Gaga and Cooper is undeniable. But that does not mean they’re a real-life couple — or that they should be. Yes, she’s single (her engagement to Christian Carino ended recently), but he’s not. Even if they both were available, an intimate performance in front of millions makes a relationship believable but not inevitable.
The key word here is: performance. As Spencer Kornhaber noted in the Atlantic, the duet was filmed like a movie. And the magic of movies is that they make viewers believe fictional characters love one another, that they’re connected in a deep, soulful way.
When Jimmy Kimmel had Lady Gaga on his show Wednesday night, he asked her about the speculation that she and Cooper are in love. In response, Lady Gaga gave a giant eye-roll. “People saw love and guess what: That’s what we wanted you to see. This is a love song, ‘Shallow.’ The movie, ‘A Star Is Born,’ it’s a love story,” she said. “From a performance perspective, it was so important to both of us that we were connected the entire time. … When you’re singing love songs, that’s what you want people to feel.”
Yes, sometimes actors take their on-screen romances into real life. (See: Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem; Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds; the beginning and end of Brangelina.) Some have affairs (Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, who starred in nine movies together). But it is also possible to work together — and in the process to grow close but not be in love. Or to have feelings and not act on them.
Hollywood has many such pairs. Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, for example, who’ve played a couple in “The Wedding Singer” and “50 First Dates” but have never been together in real life. In her memoir “Wildflower,” Barrymore writes about how Sandler is her “cinematic soul mate” and that the first time they met, she just knew they had to work together. “I knew it in my bones,” she writes.
You can see that know-it-in-your-bones chemistry between Gaga and Cooper. Together, two people with very different artistic backgrounds learned from each other and created something beautiful that could have been a flop if not for their synergy.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever had a closer artistic relationship than I have had with Bradley, a closer exchange,” Lady Gaga said during a September news conference for “A Star Is Born.” “It meant a lot to me, and I think to both of us, that at the beginning of making this film we kind of shook hands literally and he said, ‘You are an actress.’ I said to him, ‘You are a musician.’ ”
With multiple Oscar nominations, a win for best song and $425 million at the worldwide box office, Cooper and Gaga showed how straying far from the shallow and diving into the deep end can pay off. That risk and that success is what made me beam on Sunday night. Here is a story of professional soul mates. I don’t need to live vicariously through a romance from these two. Rather, I can’t wait to watch what they think up next.
This story has been updated.