The momentum behind A Star Is Born has been strong ever since it premiered to a standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival in August. Critics and audiences alike are raving for Bradley Cooper’s first turn as a director, and for Lady Gaga’s first starring role in a major motion picture.
Since then, the film has picked up nominations at the Critics’ Choice Awards, SAG Awards, Grammys, Producers Guild Awards, and has been honored at the AFI Awards and Palms Springs International Film Festival.
But for all of these honors, of the film’s five Golden Globe nominations — which was among the most nominations a single entity received this year — they only picked up one award at the January 6 ceremony, Best Original Song, and lost out on in the Best Picture, directing, and acting categories — including Lady Gaga’s Best Actress nod. So, what does that mean for the musician-turned-actress’s chances at the Academy Awards?
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga at the Venice Film Festival
First, let’s establish the most important point of all: The Golden Globes and the Oscars have entirely different voting bodies. For the Globes, voters are members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, made up of journalists from around the world (or, ahem, the “globe”). At the Oscars, we’re getting the opinion of Hollywood insiders, including actors, directors, producers, editors, casting directors, cinematographers, and so on. Different voting bodies means there is potential for different results.
How often these different results are seen in the Best Actress category is another matter, made slightly more complicated by the way the two awards shows organize their honors. The Golden Globes separates films into two categories, letting movies compete as a drama or as a comedy/musical, so the Golden Globes produces two Best Actresses each year, one drama and one comedy/musical.
The Oscars, on the other hand, does not separate by genre, narrowing the pool of nominees down from ten slots to five. I’m not going to say that means it’s more difficult to secure an Oscar nomination, but statistically, it is less likely, which isn’t good news for anyone, Lady Gaga included.
Fortunately, the love Lady Gaga and the film have already received — not only in the form of nominations, but also in celebrity adoration and internet meme-ification — means she’s definitely going to be on voters’ minds as they review their ballots. But will that be enough?
Lady Gaga with her 2019 Golden Globe for Best Original Song
The Academy, historically made up of older white men, loves to reward years of hard work. In the past ten years, only two nominees won the Best Actress category on their first ever nomination: Sandra Bullock in 2010 — after she’d appeared in approximately 17,000 movies — and Brie Larson in 2016, whose acting in Room was simply stunning. (The preceding decade was more welcoming of first-timers, during which time six of the ten best actresses were first-time nominees — and many of whom were Hollywood heavy-hitters with established résumés: Gwyneth Paltrow, Hilary Swank, Halle Berry, Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon, and Marion Cotillard.)
There’s one more piece of not-great news for Gaga: The last time the Academy awarded a Best Actress who didn’t also receive the Globe was Halle Berry in 2002. Of course, correlation is not causation, but that fact must make Glenn Close (a six-time Oscar nominee, zero-time winner) and Olivia Colman feel good about their Oscars odds. (And seriously, have you seen The Favourite?)
Now, these voting patterns could be very different at this point in time. Over the past few years, the Academy has made a widely publicized effort to establish a more inclusive body of voters — meaning more people of color, more women, and more young people. They’ve added approximately 2,000 new members over the past three years as part of their pledge to double the Academy’s diversity by 2020 — increasing the number of people of color from 8 percent to 16 percent, and upping the percentage of women by a few points to 31 — which could (and hopefully will) result in a shift in who is recognized at the ceremony.
It’s also worth noting that Lady Gaga is no stranger to the Oscars, and should she be nominated, it wouldn’t be her first time. In 2016, she picked up a nomination alongside Diane Warren in the Best Original Song category for their song, “Til It Happens To You,” which appeared in the documentary The Hunting Ground. She followed up her nomination with an impactful performance at the ceremony that featured over 50 sexual assault survivors, all tagged with words like “survivor” and “not your fault,” standing with her on stage.
Lady Gaga performing at the 2016 Academy Awards
Gaga had also been tapped to perform at the ceremony one year earlier — months before she debuted her acting chops in American Horror Story: Hotel — as the Academy honored the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music.
Another positive sign for Gaga: “Shallow” is shortlisted for Best Original Song, and since the Academy members are probably still kicking themselves for not giving her the award the first time around after that room-silencing performance, and because of the mainstream success of the song, I, for one, will be shocked if she doesn’t snag that award.
In short, they like her, they really like her — her music, at the very least.
It’s hard to say exactly what this all means for Lady Gaga’s chances in an acting category, particularly because the crossover from musician to prestige actress is slim. We can look to Madonna, who won Best Actress, Musical or Comedy, at the 1997 Golden Globes for her role in Evita, and who had previously performed at the Oscars — but that might not result in the prediction most are hoping for. Madonna did not receive a Best Actress nomination at that year’s Academy Awards. (The film, however, received five nominations and won Best Original Song for “You Must Love Me,” which Madonna performed at the ceremony.)
We can also look to Cher, who, in 1988, took home the Best Actress Oscar for her role in Moonstruck after securing the Golden Globe. Unfortunately for Gaga fans, Cher’s monumental win came with her second acting nomination at the Academy Awards, after having lost Best Supporting Actress for her role in Silkwood in 1984. (She did win the Golden Globe that year, though — marking her first win on the motion picture side.)
Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott, and Lady Gaga at the TCL Chinese Theatre
Still, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and Gaga, Cooper, and the entire A Star Is Born team certainly have the will. For the past few months, they’ve taken every opportunity to champion the movie everywhere from major film festivals to local theaters. They’ve done sit-down interviews with reputable outlets detailing the artistry that went into the project.
They’ve told us, time and time again, just how much they believe in the work they did, all to generate the kind of buzz that’s reserved only for the best projects of the year, to get as many voting members of the Academy to see their film, to love their film, and to tell their colleagues about the film.
But just in case those voting members still hadn’t heard of their movie, they put up viral billboards in the swankiest parts of Hollywood. They immortalize their hand and footprint outside of Hollywood's famed TCL Chinese Theatre. They send out screeners — or copies of the movie — so voting members of the Academy can watch at home, and they hold special “For Your Consideration” screenings for members who want to get the full movie-going experience. They attend luncheons and events where they can chat with voters face-to-face. And they do all of this with one goal in mind: to win Oscar gold.
The intense campaigning began with the film’s world premiere in Venice, all leading up to today, Monday, January 7, when the first round of Oscars nominations voting opens, and, if a nomination is secured on Tuesday, January 22, the campaigning will continue until the final round of voting closes just days before the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, February 24.
In the meantime, it’s hard to say what boxes the Academy members are checking off and whether their habits from the past will shine again. But one thing is for sure: A Star Is Born’s Oscars campaign is going strong, and Lady Gaga is fully diving in.