For a film director, few things are more important than assembling the right cast for a project. Bradley Cooper can certainly attest to that, as he stepped up as a first-time director to make 2018’s A Star Is Born. However, when it came to casting the main character’s dog, he had one canine in mind.
Born in January 1975, Cooper grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, before heading off to Georgetown University to study for an English degree. After graduating in 1997, though, he then decided to try his hand at acting. Cooper eventually moved to New York City, joining the Actors Studio Drama School.
Cooper didn’t wait long for his big break. He made his small-screen debut in the hit TV show Sex and the City in 1999. After that, the actor appeared in a number of other television programs, before earning a supporting role in Alias in 2001.
Cooper subsequently spent three seasons on Alias, further establishing himself on the small-screen. However, he would have to wait until 2009 before making the same impact in a big movie release. Indeed, while the actor had been in several supporting roles, The Hangover gave him the chance to flex his comedic muscles as one of the leads.
With that in mind, The Hangover became a massive success, grossing over $467 million worldwide. From there, Cooper’s career skyrocketed, as he went on to star in a number of other hugely successful Hollywood movies. Along the way, he’s also had three Best Performance nominations at the Academy Awards for his roles in Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and American Sniper.
However, following years in front of the camera, Cooper decided to take on the role of both actor and director in 2018’s A Star Is Born. Starring alongside pop megastar Lady Gaga, the 43-year-old’s musical drama has been very well received, earning over $167 million domestically so far.
During the casting process, Cooper needed to bring in a dog to play the role of the main character’s pet. With that in mind, he decided to recruit a canine that he knew very well, casting his own dog Charlie for the part. Ahead of the film’s release, the director then offered an explanation.
“There was no nepotism,” Cooper told People magazine in October 2018. “I wanted this relationship with the dog. [The characters] don’t have a child together but they have a dog together, and I wanted it to be part of their story. I love dogs.”
However, there’s more to this story than meets the eye. Indeed, Cooper named his beloved pet after his late father Charles, who sadly passed away back in 2011. He had been battling lung cancer, with the actor then looking after him in his final days.
Heartbreakingly, Cooper’s father died in his arms, changing his life forever. “It’s a new reality,” he told The New York Times in September 2018. “Everything, everything. It’s not even one thing, it’s a whole new world. And it was instantaneous. It wasn’t like, months later. It was like, his last exhale, and I was holding him, and it was like, everything changed.”
Prior to his dad’s passing, Cooper had been in talks with Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood about starring in the latter’s next movie. Strangely enough, that film was A Star Is Born, which Eastwood planned to direct at the time. However, the actor didn’t feel ready to take on the leading role.
“I knew I would be acting my b**** off to try to be what that character was,” Cooper recalled to The New York Times. “I just hadn’t lived enough, I just knew it.” Despite his hesitation, though, the project was eventually scrapped due to a number of delays and scheduling issues.
However, in the years following Charles’ passing, Cooper finally believed that he could take on the role. So he approached Warner Brothers with a pitch. Taking over as the director from Eastwood, the 43-year-old then pieced the movie together, which included the pivotal casting of Lady Gaga.
Cooper and Gaga’s on-screen chemistry has certainly been one of the factors behind the film’s box-office success. For him, though, the presence of his dog and the subsequent connection to Charles signified much more on a personal note. “That meant a lot for him to be in the film,” he told People.
Meanwhile, A Star Is Born is being tipped as a major player for the upcoming awards season, with both Cooper and Gaga set for some nominations. However, the former has already taken home a prize for the movie. The actor and director won PETA’s inaugural Compassion in Film Award in October 2018.
The award came as a result of Cooper’s decision to cast Charlie in the film, when he could’ve easily gone to one of the animal exhibitors in Hollywood instead. Indeed, some of these companies have been accused of animal cruelty in the past. With that in mind, PETA released a statement alongside the announcement, praising the actor’s choice.
“Bradley Cooper’s happy, adorable, and much-loved dog steals the spotlight – and viewers’ hearts – in this film because it’s clear that he loved being with his real-life ‘dad,’” wrote Lisa Lange, PETA’s senior vice president. She added that the organization “has witnessed so much abuse and neglect of dogs, both on and off set, that we’re hoping Cooper’s kind decision sets a precedent for all of Hollywood to follow.”
Meanwhile, Charlie wasn’t the only one to benefit from Cooper’s position as director. Indeed, with the 43-year-old now in charge of casting for the movie, he pursued some familiar faces in his life to appear in certain roles. At the premiere of A Star is Born, he then explained his reasoning.
“There’s a lot of real-life people [in the movie],” Cooper told Entertainment Tonight in September 2018. “My ear doctor is the ear doctor, half the crew is in the movie, a lot of my friends from grad school. That’s the best thing about being able to make a movie is you get to cast [it].”
As for Cooper’s canine friend, the actor jokingly reflected on Charlie’s attitude following his appearance in A Star Is Born. “[Charlie] has an agent,” he told People. “I don’t talk to him much anymore. He doesn’t return my calls. He always walks away from me unless I have food.”