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7 ways 'A Star Is Born' bucked Hollywood's conventional wisdom — and succeeded anyway

7 ways 'A Star Is Born' bucked Hollywood's conventional wisdom â€" and succeeded anyway

Lady Gaga, left, and Bradley Cooper in a scene from "A Star Is Born." (Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Pictures/AP) October 8 at 1:15 PM

This past weekend brought the smash success of “A Star Is Born,” the Bradley Cooper-directed remake of the classic tale, at the U.S. box office.

Riding a torrent of favorable coverage and a theme song that will make your heart swell to melodramatic size even as the rest of your body sits in that morning staff meeting, the new release hit a gross $42.6 million, sailing past the $30 million estimated by pre-release industry surveys.

That isn’t “Avengers” territory, but it’s a superb beginning for a film aimed at grown-ups. (By comparison, “The Greatest Showman,” the biggest musical phenomenon of last year, opened to $8 million on a nearly comparable number of screens.) “A Star Is Born” now has an air of invincibility as it heads into a long theatrical run and a potentially huge Golden Globe and Oscar haul.

The film’s success seemed all but assured since it premiered to North American movie-journalist rapture at the Toronto International Film Festival last month, as critics and industry observers noted many of the bold choices made by Cooper, studio Warner Bros. and a bevy of well-known producers.

But while those choices appear to be paying off handsomely, they were often controversial moves at the time, going against widely held conventions about what makes a film a success.

Here, then, are seven ways “Star” defied conventional wisdom. In some cases going against that wisdom actively seemed to help the film flourish; in others, it simply didn’t hurt the way one mig ht have expected. Either way, if rival producers are paying attention, they might be wise to ignore these tropes on their own next go-round.

“Don’t do remakes â€" critics hate them and audiences won’t see them.” A not-entirely-incorrect assumption, given both common sense and, you know, “The Mummy.” If you have to remake a film, this wisdom goes, only do it to bad ones; you have more to improve on, and it will seem less like a desecration. But Cooper’s film is, of course, not the first take on the story â€" it’s the fourth, following versions from William Wellman, George Cukor and Frank Pierson dating back more than eight decades. And it’s not exactly seeking to rescue a stinker: The most recent two “Stars” were beloved adaptations starring Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand. That would seem to make this rule even more applicable.

Yet “A Star Is Born” demonstrates that a good film could be made better, different or simply interesting even if it s tale is as old as time. (Sometimes especially because of it â€" there’s reason to think that newly spinning a story everyone knows is in fact part of the reason for its popularity.) If you do it right, not only won’t you be dismissed, but the movie will afford plenty of dollars, not to mention all those opportunities for timeliness-oriented thinkpieces.

“Don’t give your prized property to a first-time director.” There’s a reason this one exists â€" most first-time directors admit they’re in well over their head. And in fact, Warner Bros. didn’t intend to give “Star,” one of the classic titles in its library that many big names have wanted to get their hands on for a long time, to a first-timer: Clint Eastwood was originally supposed to direct the remake. But when the project (with Beyoncé) was delayed, it moved to Cooper, who had been initially offered the lead role by Eastwood.

Cooper, it should be noted, was plenty scared himself but bit the bu llet because of that great motivator: middle-age fear. “I always knew I wanted to direct, but I was terrified of it,” he told reporters at the Toronto International Film Festival last month. “But as I get older time is the biggest currency. ‘I’m going to be 40,’ I said to myself at the time. It’s time to do it.”

Speaking of festivals, “don’t expose your crowd-pleasing studio movie to the javelin-wielding crowds of the late-summer gatherings.” Venues like the Toronto International Film Festival and, even more so, the glittery one at Venice that precedes it, are great places if you have the goods that reviewers like: See “Birdman” back in 2014, which rode an opening at the latter all the way to the Oscar best-picture podium and box-office success. But without those reviews, you’re dooming your movie to failure. Warner Bros. ignored that trope, believing that crowd-pleasing can play just as well at the critic-heavy. It wound up working to perfection, even in a more elite place like Venice; at one point the film was literally struck by lightning.

“Don’t give your film to an unknown commodity, especially a pop star.” Otherwise known as the “ ‘Burlesque’ Rule.” Lady Gaga has sold tens of millions of albums and become a fashion and civil rights icon, which is the kind of thing that a) doesn’t necessarily lend itself to great acting b) can make us think of many other things when we’re watching someone try to perform in a fictional story.

But it helps tremendously if said star can act and convince you they’re not already the megawatt name you can’t stop thinking they are when you walk into the theater. It also helps if they know (and have a narrative to sell about the fact) that they have to work really hard to execute this role. “I wanted to give everything,” Gaga told reporters about Cooper and her fellow cast members in Toronto. “Every last bit of blood, all my fear, all my shame, all my pa in, all my love, all my kindness.” Good luck denying that.

“Don’t open in October.” It seems like simple calendar math. The month of Halloween is for horror and other mid-level movies, not top-tier celebrity-driven openings. In fact, comparatively few Oscar contenders open in October â€" those movies either seek to take advantage of post-Toronto buzz in September or wait until the higher-traffic holiday months of November and December. But “Star” rolled the dice on getting out in front of the glut. It worked to perfection â€" together with “Venom,” this proved to be the highest-grossing October weekend in box-office history.

“And don’t delay the soundtrack.” This was a big debate on the Warner Bros. lot, according to a person there who wasn’t authorized to speak about it publicly: When to put out the soundtrack? Many movies go early, to help seed the word. But coming out before the film also risks giving people what they want and tiring them out before they can see the movie. So the studio gambled that it should wait until the week of release; the soundtrack, with its world-shaking duet of “Shallow,” was released by Interscope just last week. And instead of becoming a promotional tool that undermined the movie, it stoked interest and helped it build up further. This version of “Shallow,” for instance, already has nearly 20 million views.

“Don’t make a movie that will appeal primarily to adults.” Studios believe this one like gospel these days; adults simply don’t go to movies early and often enough to make the upside worthwhile compared with the franchise films that attract teens and 20-somethings in droves. But every once in a while they deviate from that, and audiences let them know they should do it more often.

Source: Google News Hollywood

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