A Star Is Born Again and Again and Again and Again

A Star Is Born has been born again five different times, including the Bollywood adaptation. Each version follows the same general plot: A successful man discovers and uplifts a young woman, only to be eclipsed by her success and fall victim to his own demons. However, the details have shifted to adapt to each distinct era.

Judy Garland / Lady Gaga / Janet Gaynor / Barbra Streisand.
Source: Getty Images

With five adaptations of the same movie, you would think Hollywood would be sick of remaking the classic film over and over, but it isn’t. With each remake, a new set of actors put their own spin on the movie and create new behind-the-scenes stories.

Yes, There are 5 Versions

While a quick Google search would tell you that there are only four adaptations of A Star Is Born, there are technically five. A Star Is Born originated in 1937, starring Janet Gaynor and Frederic March. It was then remade in 1954, 1976, and 2018, but there was also one lesser-known version.

A still of Judy Garland in A Star Is Born.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: Warner Bros.

The 2013 Bollywood film, Aashiqui 2, was also modeled after A Star Is Born. Although most people are unaware that this version exists, it became a huge success and established Aditya Roy Kapur and Shraddha Kapoor as commercial lead actors. Like the Hollywood adaptations, the music became a nationwide craze.

How It Started

Although the original A Star Is Born paved the way for future iterations, it differs the most from them. The 1937 classic with Gaynor and March tells the tale of two characters’ passion for acting rather than singing. It was not a musical at all, but film critics praised it.

A portrait of Gaynor in A Star Is Born.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: Warner Bros.

The 1937 original mostly stands as a template for the others. It leaned the least on the established star personas of its leads. A Star Is Born was a time capsule of the glamorous age in Hollywood, as the big studio way of life was told and shown by the people who lived through it.

Even the Original Is a Remake

While the 1937 version is known as the original A Star Is Born, it wasn’t exactly an original. The film was a remake of the 1932 feature, What Price Hollywood? directed by George Cukor. The two films were so similar that RKO, which produced of the 1932 film, almost sued the makers of A Star Is Born.

A still of Janet Gaynor and Frederic March in A Star is Born.
Photo by John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Getty Images

David O. Selznick produced both films, but What Price Hollywood? was made under RKO Pictures, while A Star Is Born was under Selznick International Pictures. RKO believed Dorothy Parker and the other screenwriters plagiarized from Jane Murphin and Ben Markson’s script of A Star Is Born.

(Possibly) Based on a True Story

It has been speculated (though never confirmed) since the 1937 release that A Star Is Born was inspired by the real-life marriage of Barbara Stanwyck and her first husband, Frank Fay. However, others think it was loosely based on a mix of Hollywood heavy hitters, including Stanwyck, John Barrymore, and John Bowers.

A portrait of Barbara Stanwyck and Frank Fay.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Because A Star Is Born was a remake of What Price Hollywood? − which is believed to be about the life of silent film star Colleen Moore − the theory is that the 1937 film was about her failed marriage to her alcoholic producer husband John McCormick. None of these allegations have been proven.

A Star Is Born (1937) Made History

During the ‘30s, films started to switch from black and white to color. A Star Is Born might not have been the first color movie made, but it was the first all-color film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.

A still of Janet Gaynor in the film.
Source: YouTube

It was also the first technicolor movie that was a critical and box office success. Until A Star Is Born, color films were bright, oversaturated, and headache-inducing because filmmakers were still trying to understand how to make a color movie properly. Selznick insisted on muted, realistic color.

Janet Gaynor Almost Retired Before the Movie

Around 1937, 20th Century-Fox executives proposed renegotiating Gaynor’s contract because her box office appeal was declining. Although she was the first winner of the first Academy Award for Best Actress in 1929, her career hit a bump. Instead of being demoted, she left the studio to retire.

Frederic March holds Janet Gaynor in his arms in a still from the film.
Source: YouTube

However, her retirement plans were squashed when Selznick offered Gaynor the leading role in A Star Is Born. Her performance earned Gaynor her second Academy Award nomination for Best Actress and revitalized her career. She had a long career until 1981 and passed away in 1984.

Frederic March Was a Rising Star

Despite playing an actor whose career was failing, March’s career began rising when he earned the lead role in the film. His performance earned March his third Academy Award nomination. Unlike most stars of his time, he resisted signing long-term contracts with studios.

A photo of March and Gaynor behind the scenes during filming.
Photo by United Artists/Getty Images

March starred in roles from various studios, which gave him a diverse career. From the stage to spoken word recordings, March did many things during his lifetime. Following surgery for prostate cancer in 1970, he gave one last performance in 1973. Two years later, he died of prostate cancer.

The First Musical Adaptation

Inspired by the 1937 film, 1954’s A Star Is Born showed Ester again as an aspiring Hollywood star. But this time, she was a singer instead of an actress. Starring Judy Garland and James Mason, the film showcased Garland’s improved skills, and critics said she sang better.

A closeup on Judy Garland in a still from the musical.
Source: YouTube

Director George Cukor, who also directed What Price Hollywood?, had to cut the film by 30 minutes because of demands from Warner Bros. This version set itself apart because Garland and Mason did not shy away from the darkness or pain of their characters.

Garland Struggled During Production

A Star Is Born was Garland’s first film in four years after parting ways with MGM. She was on her best behavior during the early days of filming, but she slowly lost control. She called in sick several times and missed many days of work.

A still of Judy Garland and James Mason in a scene from the film.
Photo by Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

There were delays because Garland didn’t like her costume or wanted to leave early because she was too tired. Garland caused production to be behind by 41 days. She was already struggling with her mental health and addictions, so she took a two-week break to get off prescription medication.

Marlon Brando Almost Got the Role

Cukor originally offered Marlon Brando the role of Norman Maine while he was filming Julius Caesar. Brando asked, “Why would you come to me? I’m in the prime of my life. If you’re looking around for some actor to play an alcoholic has-been, he’s sitting over there.”

A portrait of James Mason.
Source: Wikipedia

Brando was pointing to his costar James Mason, who got the part. Brando thought he was too good for the movie and turned down Cukor’s offer. Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra, Gary Cooper, and James Stewart also rejected the role. No one wanted to play a has-been.

The Furniture Debacle

During the film, Garland was slightly challenging to work with. She didn’t want to go out without a bang. After production ended, it was reported that she stole the furniture. However, her daughter later revealed that wasn’t true and cleared up a long-running myth.

Judy Garland is a scene from the film.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

In actuality, Garland’s then-husband Sidney Luft offered to buy the furniture for ten cents on the dollar. Producer Jack Warner then wrote a book claiming Luft stole from the set. That wasn’t true, so Luft sued Warner and won. Her daughter grew up using the film’s furniture.

George Cukor Was a Tough Director

At the height of his career, Cukor was known for pushing actresses to the emotional brink and capturing it on film. In the scene where Esther breaks down in her dressing room, Cukor drove Garland so hard that she threw up before the first take.

A still from the film.
Source: YouTube

He made Garland do the scene repeatedly until she got it right. Although he was tough, Cukor was also an expert in easing tension on the set through humor. Garland cried after the final take, so he told her, “Judy, Majorie Main couldn’t have done that any better.”

The Movie Was Cut

Upon its premiere, A Star Is Born was met with critical acclaim. However, Warner instructed Cukor to cut it down to a shorter time. Theater operators were concerned about losing money because they could only run the film three or four shows per day.

A still of Judy Garland in a scene from the film.
Source: YouTube

About 30 minutes of footage were taken out, sparking outrage from critics and filmgoers. It was still a popular movie, but the changes caused them to lose money because they didn’t make back its costs. They later re-released the film with the missing footage.

Biggest Oscar Snub

At the 27th Academy Awards, Garland was nominated for Best Actress for her role in A Star Is Born. She was favored to win in the category for her spectacular performance. Garland couldn’t attend the awards because she had just given birth to her son, Joseph Luft.

A picture of Judy Garland at the film premiere event.
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A television crew was in her hospital room to broadcast her anticipated acceptance speech. However, Grace Kelly took home the award for The Country Girl. Groucho Marx sent Garland a telegram after the awards saying it was “the biggest robbery since Brinks.”

Judy Garland Revived Her Career

As for Gaynor, A Star Is Born renewed Garland’s career. She went on to star in four more films and got her own TV show. In 1962, The Judy Garland Show premiered on CBS, featuring guests like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. It was deemed the biggest talent deal in TV history.

A studio portrait of Garland.
Source: Wikipedia

Unfortunately, Garland’s alcoholism and declining health got the best of her. She started to struggle financially, and it was a depressing situation. On June 22, 1969, Garland was found dead from an accidental overdose in her bathroom. She was only 47.

James Mason Struggled for Cash

Mason’s performance next to Garland was critically acclaimed. He took home the Golden Globe for Best Actor. Following the film, he continued to star in several other movies and gracefully aged out of leading male roles. He was a successful actor.

James Mason accidentally slaps Judy Garland in a scene from the film.
Photo by John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Getty Images

However, in 1964, Mason’s marriage ended, and his wife won $2 million in their settlement. He decided to leave Hollywood and move to Europe. Mason took every job offered to him because he urgently needed money. He finally settled in Switzerland and passed away in 1984 from a heart attack.

The 1976 Musical Remake

Starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, the 1976 adaptation of A Star Is Born was different from the previous two versions. While it maintained the same backdrop of Hollywood, it featured Esther as an aspiring singer discovered by John Norman Howard, a rock star.

A movie still of Barbra Streisand as Esther Hoffman.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: United Artists

The film was updated to be more representative of the mid-’70s. Unlike the other films, critics didn’t love Streisand’s performance nearly as much as they had Garland’s or Gaynor’s. One critic wrote that her rock and roll interpretation was questionable. However, the music was very successful.

Barbra Wanted Elvis

When Streisand was cast as the female lead, she insisted that Elvis Presley play John Norman Howard. She went to one of his shows in Las Vegas in 1975 and tried to convince him. Elvis wanted to take the role, but his manager was annoyed.

Elvis Presley poses dancing in a stylized prison uniform.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Elvis’ manager had wanted Streisand to come to him first. He told the producers that Elvis’ name had to be at the top of the movie poster, above Streisand’s. Elvis also asked for a large sum of money even though he hadn’t acted since 1969. In the end, Elvis wasn’t the right choice.

“Evergreen” Took One Take

During the scene where they record “Evergreen” in the studio, a live recording was filmed in one take. Streisand insisted on doing it that way because she hated lip-syncing. She wanted it to feel natural. Kristofferson was reluctant to do it her way.

A still of Barbra Streisand in the scene.
Source: YouTube

A more formal studio recording was used for the final credits and soundtrack album. The song won a Grammy for Song of the Year. The movie’s score also won a Grammy Award, and the soundtrack reached number one on the Billboard 200.

Tension on the Set

Director Frank Pierson was so angered by his experience working with Streisand. He detailed the horrible experience saying she was narcissistic, manipulative and controlling. Pierson shared his opinion with New York magazine just before the film’s release. He had so much hatred towards her.

Kristofferson and Streisand sing in a scene from the film.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: Warner Bros.

The article gave a lot of bad press to the film. Streisand begged him not to publish the article because it would hurt the movie. However, the movie triumphed despite the issues. Streisand saw it as a betrayal because he aired their private matters to the public.

Kris Kristofferson Had Trouble

While making a movie should be exciting and fun, Kristofferson compared filming A Star Is Born to going through Ranger School, the elite US Army Ranger program he completed in 1963. He said in the program he only slept three hours a day.

A still from the film.
Source: YouTube

Kristofferson said the movie was like Ranger School because he barely slept during the process and was pushed to his limits for three months. It wasn’t a pleasant experience for him. Despite the stress, he didn’t have any problems with Streisand.

Broken Nose

During a fight scene in the film, Kristofferson actually broke Robert Englund’s nose. It was an accident, but he thought England was a stunt person and got a little too close during their scene. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out great for either of them.

A studio portrait of Kristofferson.
Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty Images

Kristofferson found out it was another actor who was also a stunt person and felt terrible. After the incident, Englund went to Kristofferson’s trailer to drink with him and show him there were no hard feelings. They laughed about it later on.

Streisand Never Stopped Working

A Star Is Born was one of the biggest moneymaking films of Streisand’s career. Although her commercial success on the pop charts faded in the 1980s, Streisand remailed one of the most successful album artists. She also broke ground with her 1983 film Yentl.

Barbra Streisand attends an event.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

There is no doubt that Streisand is still a legend in the music industry. In 2004, she returned to the screen for the first time in eight years for Meet the Fockers and the sequels. Streisand has sold more than 150 million records worldwide, but she has slowed down recently.

Kristofferson Had Memory Troubles

Since his early days to his time in A Star Is Born, Kristofferson was a superstar actor in Hollywood. In the 2010s, he started suffering from severe memory loss, leading doctors to believe he had Alzheimer’s or dementia brought on by head injuries.

Kristofferson and Streisand speak on stage during a ceremony awards.
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

It became so bad that Kristofferson couldn’t remember what he was doing from one moment to the next. Then he was diagnosed with Lyme disease that he probably picked up from a tick while filming Disappearances. Once he started treatment, he started to return to his former self.

A Star Is Born Goes Bollywood

Directed by Mohit Suri, follows the same storyline as A Star Is Born. Aditya Roy Kapur and Shraddha Kapoor star in the film that became a hit in Bollywood. Although it has a more housewife soap opera tone, it was a well-received story.

A still of Aditya Roy Kapur in the film.
Source: YouTube

The film’s soundtrack had haunting, timeless ballads that combined elements of seventies rock and Sufi music, which became modern-day classics to Bollywood fans. Years after its release, people still regularly listen to its theme song. Some people like it better than the other versions.

Getting Into Character

Kapur played the drunk musician with a failing career, and he took a methodical approach for his role. He would come to the set completely wasted in order to be convincing, but it backfired on him. Sometimes he would be too drunk to perform.

Members of the cast pose for the press.
Photo by Waseem Gashroo/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

There were days when they had to cancel scenes because Kapur would be too drunk to remember his lines. At some point, they told him to stop drinking because it was delaying the film too much. It was a good idea but not as practical as he thought.

Getting to Know Each Other

Kapur and Kapoor hadn’t worked together before making Aashiqui 2, so they wanted to get to know each other before production began. To make their relationship more believable on screen, Kapur and Kapoor took a workshop together to break the ice and form a friendship.

Kapur and Kapoor pose for the press.
Photo by Waseem Gashroo/Hindustan Times-Getty Images

Luckily, their relationship on screen was convincing enough to gain critical acclaim. It made the two actors famous and won them praise, giving them their first big blockbuster film. They did justice to a storyline that had already been repeated three times before.

A Breakthrough in His Career

Aashiqui 2 was a breakthrough for Kapur. The film made $19 million within the first few weeks, and many people praised Kapur’s performance. It helped him get even better roles in several Bollywood films, including Daawat-e-Ishq and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.

Kapur and Kapoor stare into one another´s eyes in a still from the film.
Source: YouTube

Kapur is still an actor. He has been in several successful movies and has no plans to slow down any time soon. Kapur is one of the top movie stars in Bollywood and has many new projects in the works. He has a bright future ahead of him.

Shraddha Kapoor Had Harsh Critics

Although she had been in a few films and TV shows before Aashiqui 2, Kapoor’s breakthrough role was also in the film based on A Star Is Born. While some critics called her performance a real triumph, others said she “looks pretty though fails to add spark.”

Shraddha Kapoor speaks during an interview.
Photo by Waseem Gashroo/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

Although some critics were harsh, she continued to get many film roles. Some of her most memorable performances since Aashiqui 2 were the dance film ABCD: Any Body Can Dance and the sequel ABCD 2. Kapoor has established herself as a leading actress and has many upcoming projects.

The Latest Installment

Bradley Cooper starred alongside Lady Gaga in the 2018 version of A Star Is Born. They switched up the character names but stuck to the same general story. It was Cooper’s directorial debut, and the film was highly anticipated. It also featured other famous names like Sam Elliott.

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga perform onstage during an awards ceremony.
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Gaga didn’t have much prior acting experience, but she had the vocal ability. In the love story of Jack and Ally, he helped the girl find fame as his own career was on a downward spiral. Gaga even convinced Cooper to sing live, which he wasn’t used to.

Their Chemistry Helped Make the Movie

The remake of the film was a passion project for Cooper, but convincing Warner Bros. executives wasn’t simple. Cooper hadn’t directed a movie before, and Gaga was better known for her music career rather than her acting abilities, so they had to sell it.

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga perform on stage in a scene from the film.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: Warner Bros.

The two did a screen test to show the studio executives. When Warner Bros. viewed it, they loved the chemistry between Cooper and Gaga. Therefore, they greenlit the project simply because of the way the two acted on-screen as romantic opposites.

They Shot the Concert Live

According to Cooper, it was Gaga’s idea for the duo to shoot the concert scene live. She said she was sick of watching movies about singers where the actors lip-synced and used dubbed voices. Gaga’s solution to avoid this was singing live during the filming.

A still of Lady Gaga performing in a scene from the film.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: Warner Bros.

It took some convincing to get Cooper on board because he needed to go through extensive vocal coaching. Cooper is not known as a singer, but it was impressive to hear what he could do when the movie was released. Many people were pleasantly surprised by his voice.

Willie Nelson’s Son Taught Bradley Cooper

In order to portray a musician in the film, Cooper had to learn how to play guitar like a professional. Cooper turned to Willie Nelson’s son Lukas for help. They worked together for a year until Cooper could play the guitar correctly.

Willie Nelson performs on stage.
Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images

In the stage performance for the movie, Cooper’s character is backed up by Nelson’s band, Luke Nelson & Promise of the Real. Nelson also co-wrote many of the original songs on the film’s soundtrack. He was an integral part of the film and Cooper’s success.

David Chappelle’s Scenes Were Cut

Among many famous names in the 2018 film was David Chappelle. He played Noodles, a reference to the fact that he was a drummer. However, all of his drumming scenes were cut from the final film. There wasn’t a precise reason, but it didn’t hurt the movie.

A still of David Chappelle in a scene from the film.
Source: YouTube

Noodles’ family members were all played by celebrity relatives. His daughter, Sanaa Chappelle, played his character’s daughter. His wife was played by Robert De Niro’s wife, and Noodles’ son was played by Robert De Niro’s son. The film was one big family affair for Hollywood.

Lady Gaga Kept Many Things

Like Garland, Gaga also kept props as mementos. When production ended, Gaga felt sentimental and decided to keep some things that would remind her of the film. She took Ally’s lyric-filled notebook, Jack’s taupe shirt, and a bubble bath bottle.

Lady Gaga poses for the press.
Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Besides taking things from the set, Gaga also came up with the idea to intersperse snippets of dialogue from the film between songs on the soundtrack. She said it was a way for listeners to re-immerse themselves into the movie experience.

The Dog Belonged to Cooper

Although the film starred Cooper and Gaga, the most popular character was the dog that Ally gets for Jack. The dog in the film is Cooper’s dog in real life, Charlie. He named him after his late father, Charles Cooper. The fluffy labradoodle stole the show.

A still from Cooper’s dog in a movie still.
Source: YouTube

Charlie provided relief as the romance crumbles in the heavy, dark scenes of the movie’s second half. The adorable dog plays a key role in the film’s final scene and makes everyone smile during the climax of the plot. He left moviegoers in puddles of tears.

Clint Eastwood Almost Directed With Beyoncé Playing the Lead

When the idea for the fourth adaptation of A Star Is Born was in development in 2011, Clint Eastwood was set to direct the film with Beyoncé playing the leading lady. Several actors were considered for the role of Jack, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, and Will Smith.

A studio portrait of Beyoncé.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Production had to be delayed to accommodate Beyoncé’s pregnancy, and Eastwood decided to move on with other projects. This gave Cooper the chance to pick it up as his directorial debut. Before Gaga, other actresses considered for Ally were Jennifer Lopez, Selena Gomez, Rihanna, and Kesha.

Cooper Went Gaga for Gaga

Like how their character’s met in the film, Cooper met Gaga when she sang “La Vie en Rose” at a cancer benefit in Los Angeles. After seeing her perform, Cooper decided he wanted her for the role of Ally. He said, “I saw her sing, and I was completely blown away.”

A still of Cooper and Lady Gaga in the film.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: Warner Bros.

As the director of the film, Cooper tried to recreate the magic of the first time he laid eyes on Gaga when he introduced her character in the movie to sing Edith Piaf’s classic. He wanted viewers to fall in love with Ally as he had fallen in love with Gaga’s talents.

Insecure Ally

Early in the audition process, Cooper visited Gaga at her home. He wanted her to be raw and vulnerable, making her wipe away all her makeup and stay makeup-free while on set. Gaga said the lack of glam helped her get into character.

A picture of Lady Gaga.
Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images

Gaga said being without makeup helped her identify with Ally’s insecurities about her looks. Ally’s insecurity about her nose was based on Gaga’s own experience. When she was a young star, the musician was advised to have a nose job to get further in Hollywood.

Borrowed Voice

Apart from learning how to sing, Cooper also significantly lowered his speaking voice for the film. He worked on it for months and modeled his voice after Sam Elliott. Cooper later offered Elliott the role of Bobby, Jack’s older brother.

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga speak during an interview.
Source: YouTube

In A Star Is Born, Elliott’s character resents his younger brother’s music career because his never took off. Cooper connected to the thought of becoming someone else vocally. It gave him the idea to use Elliott’s voice and cast him as his jealous older brother because it would seem like Cooper was copying him.

Based on a Real Person

Besides using Elliott’s voice as inspiration, Cooper also based his character’s stage persona on Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. In an interview, he explained how he spent a week with Vedder, asking him thousands of questions. It helped him become a believable musician.

A photo of Eddie Vedder performing on stage.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Cooper wanted audiences to believe Jack was the “real deal.” He did everything to become his character, and now he can sing and play the guitar if it is needed for other roles. He was able to pull everything together to complete the film in 42 days.

Gaga Acted Again

When it comes to Gaga’s acting resume, it is quite limited, but she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. She then went on to star in House of Gucci in 2021. After her performance in A Star Is Born, it was a highly anticipated film.

A still of Lady Gaga in the film.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: MGM

Although the movie didn’t receive glowing reviews, Gaga was the star of the film. Critics praised her for capturing peoples’ attention when she first appeared on the screen. She brought her flair for excess and campiness to the film and hit it out of the park.

Bradley Cooper Has Been Busy

A year after A Star Is Born, Cooper was busy promoting Avengers: Endgame, in which he voiced Rocket. He also filmed Licorice Pizza and Nightmare Alley. Cooper has always been a busy actor, and he is now preparing for a new installment of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Bradley Cooper attends an event.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Cooper will also be playing Leonard Bernstein in Maestro, which is currently in pre-production. The film will be about the complex relationship between Bernstein and Felicia Montealegre. They met in 1946, had a 25-year marriage, and raised three children.