A Star Is Born has proved a popular showcase for Hollywood – with moviegoers having had four chances to enjoy the story of the rise and fall of fictional pop stars. The third iteration in 1976, for instance, starred Barbra Streisand as a budding songstress who has a chance encounter with Kris Kristofferson’s aging rocker. And it seemed that the pair’s on-screen chemistry might have left them with a deep connection.
After all, the A Star Is Born coupling have reunited multiple times over the years. So perhaps the feelings that Streisand and Kristofferson shared on screen stuck with them once filming had ended. Then, in April 2019, the stars got together again – and this time they left fans wondering if their meet-up could mean something more.
The latest version of A Star Is Born, of course, came in 2018 when Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga reimagined the iconic storyline for a fourth time. In their version, then, Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a country rock music star addicted to drugs and alcohol. But after stumbling into a drag bar for a drink, Maine catches Gaga’s Ally singing on stage.
Maine subsequently finds himself dazzled by Ally’s performance, and she reveals to him that she’s had trouble establishing her music career. So he invites her to his concert – and then he brings her on stage to sing with him. And from there, her career takes off – as does their romantic relationship. But Maine continues to struggle with his demons, even as Ally’s star starts to rise.
After its release, the film garnered praise from both the public and critics. It raked in $434.2 million at home and abroad, too, making it the year’s 11th-highest grossing flick. And on top of that, the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review named it one of 2018’s ten best movies. A Star Is Born also earned eight Academy Award nominations – including Best Actor and Actress nods for Cooper and Gaga, respectively.
In the end, though, the film only won one of the awards for which it was nominated: Best Original Song for “Shallow,” which Gaga co-wrote with Mark Ronson, Andrew Wyatt and Anthony Rossomando. In her subsequent thank-you speech, Gaga gave praise to her co-star and director, Cooper. She emotionally said, “Bradley, there is not a single person on the planet that could’ve sang this song with me but you. Thank you for believing in us. Thank you so much.”
Yet all of the A Star Is Born movies have had similar critical successes. Each of them garnered at least four Academy Award nominations, for instance. And the original film, which premiered in 1937, won an Oscar for Best Original Story. Considering how many remakes that picture has spawned, the honor was certainly well earned.
That first film actually starred Janet Gaynor in the role of the ingenue Esther Blodgett, who gives up life on a North Dakota farm for her Hollywood dream. Once she has reached the City of Angels, though, she meets a famous actor named Norman Maine, played by Fredric March. And this Maine, like Cooper’s version, has an alcohol problem that’s derailing his career.
The 1954 remake, meanwhile, starred Judy Garland as Esther Blodgett and James Mason as Norman Maine. Yet although this story had its own unique moments, much of the plot follows the original. In it, for instance, Garland’s Blodgett leaves her old life behind for Hollywood – where Maine helps her get her start as a movie-musical star in spite of his own struggles.
Then came the 1976 version of A Star Is Born. In this iteration, then, the story changed course – although it’s quite similar to the most recent take on the classic. This time, you see, actor Kris Kristofferson played the part of John Norman Howard, a rock star who’s well known for both his music and his self-destructive nature.
So, after Howard arrives drunk to his own concert, Howard’s manager shuttles him to a bar where Barbra Streisand’s Esther Hoffman is singing. And eventually, Howard gets her to come to one of his shows – and sing with him on stage. The audience protests at first, of course, but her stunning vocals earn their respect.
As in the other films, Hoffman’s career skyrockets from there, while Howard’s fizzles. The pair find love with each other, too – but the movie doesn’t have a fairytale ending. Instead, Howard drives away from the house that he shares with his protégée. And as he speeds and drinks behind the wheel, Howard gets into a fatal car crash.
The 1976 film actually had a lukewarm reception from critics, but its $80 million box-office haul still made it the third-highest grossing film of the year. Streisand and Kristofferson won Best Actress and Actor in a Musical or Comedy awards at the Golden Globes too. And Streisand’s original song “Evergreen” took home an Oscar – making her the first female composer to ever win the gong.
In fact, the film would arguably not have even happened without Streisand. She served not only as the movie’s leading actress, you see, but also as its co-producer, a responsibility she shared with her partner at the time: Jon Peters. Yet the star didn’t initially think to cast Kristofferson as her love interest in the flick.
Instead, Streisand and Peters had pursued rocker Elvis Presley to play opposite her fledgling singer. Presley appeared interested in the opportunity at first, too, as it could potentially have stoked his declining film career. However, the King’s manager had a different idea about how the movie would go.
Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, demanded that his client receive A Star Is Born’s top billing, in fact. And on top of that, Parker wanted Presley to get a huge paycheck for his part in the movie. He set his sights on this agreement even though Presley hadn’t been in a movie for seven years at that point.
Parker apparently didn’t like that Presley’s character would be portrayed as a rock star in the latter stages of his career, either. Off-screen, you see, Presley could still sell out venues as he toured the U.S. So Parker’s demands and fears seemingly got the better of the deal – and Presley subsequently turned down the role.
Streisand and Peters also considered actor Marlon Brando and singer Neil Diamond for the part. In the case of the latter, in fact, Streisand had known him since they had attended the same Brooklyn high school. Diamond considered accepting the role, too – but his busy concert schedule prevented him from doing so.
So Kristofferson eventually secured the gig – and it was a somewhat fitting role for him. A singer-songwriter in real life, Kristofferson had released his fifth studio album in 1974 without much commercial success. This was arguably how the rest of his music career would go too. He in fact told Classic Rock magazine that playing the “washed-up rockstar” on film “was more about me.”
For the 2018 version of A Star Is Born, Cooper seemingly drew from Kristofferson’s take on the film’s leading man as well. Cooper in fact used all three of the preceding films to inspire his new tale. As one example, each A Star Is Born film has some version of the line, “Just wanted to take another look at you,” as said by Maine to Ally in the 2018 movie.
Yet there are plenty of similarities between the Streisand version and Cooper’s take, specifically. For one thing, they both veered away from the movie star aspect of the first two films. The New York Times noted that Cooper’s flick “[pivoted] from the previous three by offering a grander parable on the music industry without feeling didactic.”
And like Streisand’s character, Gaga’s gets her start while singing in a bar. However, Cooper switched things up by choosing to set the scene in a drag bar. Streisand later said she loved this change too. In a separate The New York Times piece, Streisand said, “I loved how he used the drag bar. I thought that was new and interesting.”
The 2018 A Star Is Born also nearly had another huge scene in homage to its 1976 predecessor. Yet the sequence was destined to end up on the cutting-room floor. According to a piece in Vanity Fair, you see, Cooper had thought about his version of Maine dying on the back of his motorcycle – much like Kristofferson’s character died in a sports car.
In the end, though, Cooper came up with his own way to end Maine’s troubled storyline. According to Warner Bros. Pictures Group chairman Toby Emmerich, “Bradley changed his mind and came to see me and pitched the idea of what he ended up shooting. I think he was right. When I watch the movie now, I can’t imagine it ending any other way.”
And upon seeing the final product, Streisand too was impressed with what Cooper and Gaga had created. She told Extra, “I loved it. I think it’s wonderful.” To The New York Times, Streisand also said of the film, “I was surprised by how similar it was to my version.”
But, as previously mentioned, the Cooper-and-Gaga version earned rave reviews, with The New York Times declaring it the best of the bunch. And viewers not only enjoyed the film, but they also noted the magnetic connection shared by the lead actors. Yet the stars weren’t, of course, the first A Star Is Born pair to connect both on and off screen.
Streisand and Kristofferson have a long history of friendship post-A Star Is Born, in fact, even as both have continued to pursue their separate creative careers. In Streisand’s case, that meant a lot of music: 50 studio albums in total so far. Music critic Stephen Holden once wrote that she “enjoys a cultural status that only one other American entertainer, Frank Sinatra, has achieved in the last half century.”
Streisand also continued her movie career after the 1976 movie. In fact, she produced, directed and starred in a slew of her own films in the ’80s and ’90s. She even wrote Yentl, an accomplishment for which she apparently often does not receive credit. And after an eight-year break from the big screen, Streisand returned in 2004 to star alongside Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman and Ben Stiller in Meet the Fockers.
As for Kristofferson, his musical pursuits continued to stall after A Star Is Born – but he embarked on a long-lasting career in movies. He starred in films including Flashpoint, Blade, Dance With Me and Raise Your Voice, for instance. Kristofferson also took part in 1989’s Lone Star, a flick that would be nominated at the Oscars for its original screenplay.
Eventually, though, Kristofferson found his footing in the music industry once again. He actually collaborated with Willie Nelson – first on a duets album and then in a country supergroup called The Highwaymen. And alongside the pair, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash featured in the band. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, given that star power, their music proved to be a huge success.
In 1985, in fact, Kristofferson was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame for the work he had penned over the course of his career. And the star has continued to put out solo albums. As recently as 2016, in fact, Kristofferson earned a Grammy Award nomination for Americana album The Cedar Creek Sessions.
Throughout it all, though, Streisand and Kristofferson have continued to team up for appearances and show up to support each other. In 2011, for instance, Streisand returned to the Grammys to perform there for the first time in 31 years. And when it came time to introduce her, Kristofferson appeared on stage to do the job.
The pair also reunited in 2013. That year, Streisand was one of the honorees at the Chaplin Award Gala, which lauds standout talent in the film industry. Former President Bill Clinton came on stage to praise the actress and singer, as did a slew of former co stars – including, of course, Kristofferson.
Streisand also returned the love for Kristofferson in her award acceptance speech that night. “I noticed something when we were doing A Star Is Born. I was standing on the side, and I was watching the beautiful Kris Kristofferson do a very sensitive scene. And the director yelled, ‘Cut,’ and I thought, ‘Oh my god. Look at him.’”
“He’s still in character, and there’s a quality that’s beyond acting; it’s a moment that’s so unaffected, so vulnerable. And that particular moment wasn’t captured on film,” Streisand went on. She said that Kristofferson had taught her something right then and there: as a director, she should always keep rolling after saying, “Cut.” He never knew that she had learned that from him.
But it would be a 2019 reunion between the pair that would really raise eyebrows – especially because of the way Streisand framed her meeting with Kristofferson. On April 3, 2019, the star shared a photo of the two of them via Instagram and wrote, “It was so wonderful to see my friend Kris who stopped by yesterday.”
Streisand concluded the post by writing, “Stay tuned…” and attaching a winking emoji to the end of it. Instantly, the image – and its corresponding caption – got fans in a tizzy. For one thing, some fans wondered if their meeting meant that they had an A Star Is Born reunion in the works.
Others wondered whether the pair might sing together at one of Streisand’s impending shows. “If you have a reunion with Kris at your upcoming concert, it will be one of the greatest things to happen to me in my entire life… OMG… Thank you for the hint of a possibility!” commented one Instagrammer.
But most were just pleased to see the on-screen pair back together in real life – no matter what it meant. “Love both of you and your talents, glad you stay connected. You both have given so many of us joy over the years! Kris & Barbra… stay tuned? Hmm? Can’t wait to hear if it’s something involving you two,” wrote another fan.
And although neither Streisand nor Kristofferson have confirmed any sort of A Star Is Born-related reunion, fans will see them sing together again. Yes, less than a week after she posted her Instagram, Streisand revealed that she’ll perform at the British Summertime Hyde Park festival and bring out a very special guest: Kristofferson.