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Elizabeth Kemp, an actress and admired teacher at the Actors Studio who had a profound effect on Bradley Cooper and coached him and Lady Gaga for the upcoming version of A Star Is Born, has died. She was 65.
Kemp died Friday in Venice, Calif., after a battle with cancer, according to her brother, Carter.
Mentored by Elia Kazan, Kemp was one of the youngest members to be admitted to the Actors Studio when she became a life member in 1975. She joined the faculty at the Actors Studio Drama School in 1995, its inaugural year, and went on to serve as chair of the master’s program at New York City’s Pace University.
Each year, Kemp conducted a Character DreamWorkshop around the world, and Gaga participated in a recent edition.
The singer and American Horror Story actress dedicated the song “The Edge of Glory” to Kemp during her concert Saturday at Boston’s Fenway Park. “She was such a strong woman,” Gaga said. “She used to ask me all the time to go back to the hardest thing in my heart [to draw on for a performance]. We both understood each other.”
Gaga also praised Kemp for her “real artistic swagger, the kind that you pray for as a young artist … you dream that one day you become that wise and intelligent about the work.”
Cooper, who stars opposite Gaga in A Star Is Born and directs the remake as well, studied with Kemp at the Actors Studio until his graduation in 2000. She went on to advise him on nearly every one of his film roles, including his Oscar-nominated performance in American Sniper (2014).
During a 2011 appearance on Inside the Actors Studio, Cooper got choked up when he was asked by host James Lipton to talk about Kemp. “I was never able to relax in my life before [meeting] her,” he said. He later noted that being in her class was “the most sacred experience I’ve ever had.”
Kemp, from the audience, said, “I only want to work with people who give everything they have to give to make their work the most important thing in their life.”
A native of Florida, Kemp studied under Lee Strasberg. She was in the cast of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas when it originated at the Actors Studio, then starred in Atlanta as Baby Doll in Tennessee Williams’ Tiger Tail, one of his last plays. In 1978, she appeared on Broadway in Once in a Lifetime.
Kemp had a role in the horror thriller He Knows You’re Alone (1980), which marked the onscreen acting debut of Tom Hanks, and played a love interest of Amanda Donohoe’s bisexual character, C.J. Lamb, on a 1991 episode of L.A. Law.
In the early 1970s, she starred with Christoper Reeve on the CBS soap opera Love of Life and later appeared in Henry Jaglom’s Eating (1990) and Abel Ferrara’s Welcome to New York (2014).
Kemp also tutored the likes of Harvey Keitel, Sigrid Thornton and Stacie Greenwell.
Hugh Jackman tweeted: “Elizabeth Kemp I celebrate your life and am profoundly grateful to have spent precious time with you.”
“I think the most exciting thing is when you truly do help,” she said in a 2012 interview with CNN. “And you see [the students] grow and open. Because it isn’t about me. It’s about helping them grow. That’s all I care about. Anything and everything I will do to make that happen, I’ll do.”
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