How Did Bradley Cooper Find His ‘A Star is Born’ Voice?

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“I wanted to change my voice, because I knew that I wouldn’t even believe it as an actor if I kept hearing my voice” – Bradley Cooper

In addition to directing A Star is Born, Bradley Cooper stars as an aging country music musician with lifelong addiction issues. While Cooper could easily make himself look like a grizzled veteran performer, hiding his familiar voice — which certainly doesn’t scream “country” — was another challenge. In an interview with NPR, Cooper spoke about developing his character’s voice.

Cooper explains that he based his character’s voice on Sam Elliot‘s, who he later cast as his character’s much-older brother. He says, “I wanted to change my voice, because I knew that I wouldn’t even believe it as an actor if I kept hearing my voice. I just hear this guy from Philadelphia. … So what voice could be wonderfully iconic without being geographically limited? … And at some point I asked [my dialect coach]… Where is Sam Elliott from? Because I can’t quite place his accent and I had no idea he was from Sacramento, Calif. And then I learned that his mother is from Texas and was a huge influence on him, and so his voice — he has this accent that you can’t quite place.”

Of course, once deciding to use that voice for his character was the easy part. Developing and maintaining that voice was the real challenge. Cooper continues, “So it felt perfect for the character, and then the journey began — how the heck am I going to get that voice? How could I ever? So I just — it was just hours and hours and hours. We developed a whole series of exercises and then we would listen to tapes literally for hours and hours. We met four hours a day, five days a week for about six months steady. … At first it was very difficult; actually I could only do it with my head down. And at night I would go to sleep and I felt like my esophagus was lowering into my chest. I had to, like, forcefully do it, but then after a while it just became so natural and I could breathe and talk to you and do everything, live my life within that voice. And that was a hurdle that I was terrified I wasn’t going to be able to get over.”

More: Bradley Cooper’s Physical Transformation in ‘American Sniper’

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