[Editor’s note: The following post contains spoilers for “A Star Is Born.”]
Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born” ends as all iterations of the classic love story end: The male star takes his own life so the skyrocketing career of the woman he loves won’t suffer from his personal issues. Cooper stuck to the basic template originally used by William A. Wellman and his co-screenwriters for the 1937 version of “A Star Is Born,” but the director originally intended to be much more faithful to the first movie, starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March.
As part of Variety’s Lady Gaga cover story, Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich revealed the first script he read for Cooper’s “A Star Is Born” ended the same way Wellman’s original did. The 1937 film ends with March’s Norman Maine taking his life by drowning himself in the Pacific Ocean. The new film, written by Cooper, Eric Roth, and Will Fetters, had Cooper’s Jackson Maine doing the same when filming started.
“The first ending that I read, [Jackson] actually swims out into the ocean, where he commits suicide,” Emmerich said of the original ending. “The script that we had when he started shooting, he rides his motorcycle. It was more like the Kris Kristofferson ending [in the 1976 version] with the Ferrari, but with Jackson with the Harley. But Bradley changed his mind and came to see me and pitched the idea of what he ended up shooting. I think he was right. When I watch the movie now, I can’t imagine it ending any other way.”
Wellman’s ending for the 1937 original “A Star Is Born” was used in the first adaptation of the story, George Cukor’s 1954 musical with Judy Garland and James Mason. In that film, Mason’s Norman Maine hears Garland’s Esther Blodgett saying she’ll give up her career in order to take care of him, which leads him to drown himself in the ocean. The 1976 version ends with Kris Kristofferson’s character dying in a car accident. Cooper has Jackson die by hanging in the 2018 film.
Gaga revealed to Variety there were other homages to previous iterations of “A Star Is Born” that got left on the cutting room floor. One intimate moment between Ally and Jackson was shot with a not-so-subtle callback to Judy Garland.
“We did one scene where Jackson gave Ally a pair of ruby slippers,” Gaga said. “He was laying underneath the bed, and she’s on top, and all you heard him doing was clicking the heels together. And she leans over, and he’s laughing, and they are so in love.”
“A Star Is Born” is now playing in theaters nationwide.