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‘Shallow’ at the Oscars: Cooper and Gaga ‘Meticulously’ Directed Their Performance

The two performers worked closely with Oscars director Glenn Weiss to pull off one of the most talked about moments of the 91st Academy Awards.

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper


Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga earned some of the biggest buzz at the Oscars for their powerhouse live performance of “Shallow,” and it turns out that both performers were the masterminds behind the epic moment. Rob Mills, ABC’s senior VP of alternative series, specials, and late-night programming, tells Variety that Cooper and Gaga began “meticulously” planning their Oscars performance the minute “Shallow” received its Best Original Song nomination on January 22.

“Bradley and Gaga, they really had this idea in their head of how they wanted it to be,” Mills said. “And the producers really worked step-by-step with them to make…what they were envisioning a reality. This was staying true to the spirit of the movie as well. They really wanted to kind of embody everything that the characters in the movie stood for in this three-minute number.”

The live performance of “Shallow” at the Oscars was captured in a single take that never left the stage, which kept in the spirit of Cooper’s direction of “A Star Is Born.” The camera remained with the performers, showing Cooper from Gaga’s perspective when he was singing and Gaga from Cooper’s when she took to the piano for the second verse. The performance ended with both performers next to each other at the piano, the shot framing them in an extreme close-up. Unlike the other Best Original Song performances, “Shallow” did not receive an introduction, Cooper and Gaga simply took the stage from their seats. Mills said the plan was always to catch viewers off guard.

“Nobody knew where it was going to be in the show,” Mills said. “And the fact that it came right out of a speech gave it that element of surprise. Normally, if you’re in the house, you’re going to see that Bradley and Lady Gaga aren’t in their seat. The fact they actually went from their seats to the stage up there, that surprise was so great. Obviously, the song is engineered to be one that kind of crescendos to that kind of energy. It was just electric in the house.”

According to Mills, Oscars director Glenn Weiss did “meticulously work with Bradley on every element. They would walk through the whole thing and how it’s going to look and go. They really rehearsed the hell out of it, and they made it so it was just seamless. Even in rehearsal you knew, this was one of those things that’s going to be played in those montages of all-time Oscar moments.”

The choreography of the performance, including the moment Cooper grabs the microphone and stand and brings it around the back of the piano and sits next to Gaga, was finalized during rehearsals over the weekend.

“It was definitely something you could feel in the house,” Mills said of the reaction to the performance. “It came through on the screen, it was everywhere. There was real heat there.”

Following the performance, “Shallow” took home the Oscar for Best Original Song. The prize was awarded to the song’s writers: Gaga, Andrew Wyatt, Anthony Rossomando, and Mark Ronson.

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