- Richy Jackson, who has worked with Lady Gaga for eight years, was the choreographer for “A Star is Born.”
- Jackson spoke to INSIDER about the vibe on set, which he said was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
- Jackson also discussed the differences between Lady Gaga and her character Ally, especially when it came to their movement on stage.
- He also told INSIDER that the movie’s depiction of a country star who hates pop music is accurate to how musicians across different genres view each other in real life.
As Lady Gaga’s choreographer and visual director for the past eight years, Richy Jackson has choreographed iconic music videos including “Poker Face,” “Paparazzi,” “Bad Romance,” “Born This Way,” “Telephone,” and “Just Dance.”
Jackson has also worked on Gaga’s world tours including Monster Ball and ArtPop, as well as her record-breaking Superbowl halftime show in 2017.
In “A Star is Born,” in theatres now, Lady Gaga plays Ally Maine, an aspiring musician. When she meets Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), a famous country music star and alcoholic, her career as a pop artist skyrockets as his declines. In the film, Jackson Maine is not shy about expressing his hatred toward pop music, which has sparked much debate among audiences.
Jackson created the choreography for “A Star is Born,” which includes Gaga’s intimate performance of “La Vie En Rose” in a small bar to a highly produced “SNL” performance. In personality and performance, Gaga’s character Ally Maine is completely different from Gaga’s pop persona in real life. And Jackson’s intimate knowledge of Gaga’s own vision was a huge reason why he was asked to join the project, because of all people, he can create something different.
Jackson also appears in the movie as Ally’s choreographer. Jackson spoke with INSIDER about how he got involved in the film, what the vibe was like on set (you could hear a pin drop), and we also got his opinion on the film’s seemingly negative take on pop music (Jackson doesn’t necessarily see it that way).
INSIDER also asked Jackson about director and star Bradley Cooper’s makeup ban that Lady Gaga has discussed while promoting the movie. But Jackson said he wasn’t on the set long enough to know anything about it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Carrie Wittmer: How did you get involved with “A Star is Born” to the point where you got to appear in the movie as Ally’s choreographer?
Richy Jackson: After the Superbowl, there were talks of Gaga doing “A Star is Born” with Bradley Cooper. And after Coachella that year, Bradley and his team asked me to choreograph. I came on and initially, it was to just make her [Gaga] into Ally. To have her move differently, have her become the character. Because the biggest thing was to have Lady Gaga not play Lady Gaga. It was all about making Ally move, look, feel, and perform differently than Lady Gaga. Halfway through production, Bradley [Cooper] was like, “well, we are looking for a choreographer to be in the movie.” And I was like, “Uhhh, hello!?” He was like, “Do you wanna do it?” And I was like, “Yes!!” So I got to shoot my three or four scenes. I had a great time.
Wittmer: How did you use movement to define Ally as a character separate from Gaga?
Jackson: After reading the script and listening to the music, which was completely different from anything Gaga has ever done, I came on set to watch them shoot a few scenes. It helped me to understand more of who Ally was and how she should be when she performs.
Wittmer: What are the biggest differences between Lady Gaga and Ally?
Jackson: [Laughs] Lady Gaga knows exactly who she is as a pop star and what she wants to accomplish. She has her own vision. Pop star Ally didn’t know what she was getting into and rolled with the punches.
Wittmer: How did you incorporate Ally’s inexperience into her movements on stage during her pop performances?
Jackson: When Ally performs “Heal Me,” which is her first performance as a pop star, that’s her sort of getting used to moving to this music. She’s on stage just feeling it out, going through the motions. Even her hand waving, she’d never done that before. But she’s thinking, “I’m up here by myself, and the crowd’s into it. Let me just see what happens if I do this.”
Wittmer: What’s the difference between choreographing an actual live performance compared to a fake one that will be filmed?
Jackson: Lady Gaga’s concert performances are on such a huge stage and it’s a two-hour show. So there’s a lot more that has to go into that because we have to entertain for two hours. For a movie, it’s about what do we want to catch. I have to think, “What does Bradley [Cooper] want to actually catch out of these moments?” It didn’t have to be as extensive as a concert, so we didn’t have to do as much. If it’s just a piece of the song that he needs, we can just choreograph a piece of that song instead of doing the song in its entirety.
Wittmer: What’s harder to choreograph?
Jackson: To me, choreographing for the film was easier. Especially because we had Bradley, who’s very inspiring and he’s always there asking questions. When Gaga performed “La Vie En Rose” in the drag club, that was her and I working together to see how we wanted her to move through the bar. And then Bradley came in and said, “OK, this is great, I can shoot it like this.” It was a great collaboration.
Wittmer: What was the vibe like on set? It’s almost like a romantic comedy at first, but then it takes an incredibly dark turn.
Jackson: It was … it was very quiet, in the best way. There are so many great moments – intense moments. But the set was quiet because we knew what was happening in the end. I mean, you could’ve heard a pin drop. It was so real.
Wittmer: A lot of people believe that because Jackson hates Ally’s pop songs, that the film (and Bradley Cooper) hates pop music. What do you think the movie is trying to say about the genre?
Jackson: The movie is trying to get to people who are into rock and alternative or country to look at pop music and R&B. Rock, alt, and country musicians might consider their art real music whereas pop artists consider their art real music. It’s interesting because it’s so real. This is how artists view each other. It isn’t that the movie thinks the music is bad: it’s what those artists actually think of each other. And it’s something I’ve always heard.
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