Bradley Cooper, Dave Chappelle again make Yellow Springs a celebrity gathering spot

Yellow Springs was once again the site of a celebrity gathering, and this time the select audience got an inside look at the movie-making process.

The Little Art Theatre, which seats 120, was packed Friday for one of the most intriguing events in recent memory. Invitees saw a private screening of “A Star is Born,” the new movie directed by and starring Bradley Cooper.

Yellow Springs resident Dave Chappelle has a role in the movie, and he held a question-and-answer session with the theater audience after the screening. It was the latest instance of celebrities traveling to southwest Ohio to visit or spend time with Chappelle.

“I can’t wait for everyone to see this movie, man,” Chappelle told the audience. “This movie is real powerful. People don’t know what it’s like to be in entertainment or step on a big stage. This movie really does capture the content of it. It’s gut wrenching up there.”

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As the character Noodles, Chappelle’s role is that of an old friend of Cooper’s character.

During the question-and-answer session, Chappelle’s daughter Sanaa, who plays his daughter in the movie, appeared in the aisle and received applause for her performance.

Cooper said Sanaa had many good moments during filming, but only a brief scene survived editing.\

“She steals the scene right away. It’s like four people in the frame and you just look at her,” Cooper said. “There was a lot more great stuff she did, but you know the movie can’t be four hours long. It was hard to cut out.”

Cooper said the film took about four years to create. He said he wrote the character Noodles with Chappelle in mind, but Chappelle didn’t commit to the project right away.

“It was a two-year journey to try to get him to do the movie,” Cooper said. “It was like a week away, I was like, ‘No, I think he’s going to come. He texted me a month ago saying he was going to come.’”

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Chappelle said he’s glad he chose to be part of it. He said Cooper was unlike other directors with whom he’s worked.

“As an actor, he got a performance out of me that I didn’t even know I could do,” he said.

Chappelle said Cooper’s directing style helped him ad-lib some key parts.

“Brad, he’d do this thing where … we’d sit down, and he’d say, ‘I want to talk to you about the scene for a minute.’ He’s like, ‘There’s this feeling I want to convey’ … we start talking about the emotional content.

“He goes, ‘Look, what would you say to somebody in a situation like that?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, I’d probably say something like …’ and I start talking. As I’m talking, he starts slurring, and I’m like, ‘Why is he slurring?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh … he’s (in character as) Jackson. We’re shooting right now.”

Chappelle said Cooper and Lady Gaga had “some kind of crazy, creative energy.”

“He captured it in a way that made it accessible and humane. It wasn’t heavy handed. I think it was just beautiful,” he said.

Cooper said he wants people who watch the film to be able to relate to the characters.

“That’s the whole point to tell a story. You want it to be cinematic so they can be singers and there’s music,” he said. “The hope is you just want to work from a very honest place of what it is to be alive and what we all go through as human beings.”

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Karen Wintrow, executive director of the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce, thought the movie was “incredible” and “so natural.” She spoke for many in expressing gratitude for the private event.

“For Dave to be so generous and kind to bring something like this here brings a lot of notoriety to Yellow Springs. We love it. And we love that they feel comfortable coming here,” Wintrow said.

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