International pop superstar Lady Gaga has yet to see the probing new documentary that follows her during the fallout of her “Artpop” release and the creation of her follow-up “Joanne,” but that doesn’t mean that the Netflix original hasn’t already struck a major chord in her heart. In advance of the film’s Toronto International Film Festival premiere this evening (set to be followed by an “intimate” performance by the singer-songwriter), Gaga and director Chris Moukarbel were on hand for a press conference, during which the icon was open about the emotional effect of the months documented in the festival, and reflective about her own future.
While Gaga and Moukarbel (who previously directed “Me at the Zoo” and “Banksy Does New York”) did not know each other before embarking on the project in 2016, she praised the filmmaker for being “respectful of my space, even when it was very private moments.” The film still captures a number of heavy (and very personal) moments, but the singer attempted to put any fears aside in order to offer up the most authentic experience possible.
When asked how aware she was of his presence, Gaga said, “I knew, especially that first day, I was like, ‘Are you sure you want to be here? This is so boring.’ I was aware of him for maybe a moment…having cameras in your face a lot is difficult, and so why on top of that would I want to have him follow me all the time, every single day, unless it was somebody that I was really excited to see, artistically, how he viewed my life.”
Though both Gaga and Moukarbel admitted that the singer was a somewhat unwilling participant in the experience, Gaga was enthused by early reactions from her loved ones, and encouraged to continue with the often very probing filming process. “I think it was the reaction of my friends and family that saw it, after the first few rounds of editing,” she said when asked how she knew the film was the right thing to do. “They told me it was beautiful…The truth is, I love a great, artistic, creative experience.”
The experience of “Gaga: Five Foot Two” followed Gaga during what she revealed was a challenging time in her life, on the cusp of turning 30, celebrating a decade in the industry, and attempting to craft a new album after its predecessor wasn’t exactly warmly received by all. “That’s not to say there weren’t extreme highs,” she added. “My life has completely changed in the most wonderful way, that I would never take back. But, for sure, it also included the lowest lows.”
Those lows include Gaga’s long-time battle with chronic pain, which forms a major part of the film. When asked about the inclusion of scenes that show both the singer in pain and attempting to deal with it through a variety of means, Gaga teared up and was unable to answer for a few moments. “It’s hard,” she said. “But it’s liberating to me.”
Gaga is hopeful that other sufferers of chronic pain and mental illness will feel inspired — and less alone — by the film and Gaga’s own experiences that are shown within it.
Both the film and the time period it chronicles also speak to perhaps Gaga’s greatest message: the value of personal expression. “It’s always personal when you put something into the world, because its your creation and you want people to love it, simply as a gift that you give them. ‘I made this for you, I love you, I want to entertain you,'” Gaga said. “That’s always my goal, creating things…I truly love to make people happy through what I do.”
For Gaga, that kind of value isn’t purely telegraphed through critical appraisals or album sales. It’s from within.
“There’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like what you do. I’m not in the business of trying to make you all like me,” she said. “I’m in the business of creating fantasies and music and experiences and theater and art that inspires people, hopefully…There is a positive message behind [the film], and me as a woman. I’m happy to show that. I think it’s important for artists, not just for me.”
She is also hopeful that audiences won’t come away from the film thinking of it “like a big commercial for me, of everybody watching it and seeing how perfect I am, and how perfect my career is, and how perfect every little thing that I do and touch is, because that is just simply not true,” she said. “That would be not in line with everything I am as an artist. I think the most important thing you can be is authentic, and Chris is certainly authentic, and the moments were authentic.”
Next up for Gaga, who will next be seen in a starring role in Bradley Cooper’s “A Star is Born” remake? A break. When asked what she’s looking forward to next, she announced, “I’m going to take a rest. I don’t know how long, that doesn’t mean I won’t be creating…but I am looking forward to reflecting, and slowling down for a moment, and healing.”
“Gaga: Five Foot Two” premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. Netflix will release it on September 22.