Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper Feted at National Board of Review Awards

Bradley Cooper-Lady Gaga-Steven Spielberg-Getty-H 2019
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for National Board of Review

The previously announced honors were handed out Tuesday night in New York at Cipriani 42nd Street.

On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump addressed the nation about funding for a wall along the southern border of the U.S., while at the same time, writer/director Barry Jenkins addressed the audience at the National Board of Review Awards about the president. 

“Fuck him,” Jenkins declared from the podium, accepting the award for best adapted screenplay for his film adaptation of the James Baldwin novel If Beale Street Could Talk. The crowd erupted into applause, as Jenkins took the moment to quote Baldwin. “He wrote so many things that are relevant to today because so much that needs to be changed has not been changed. Mr. Baldwin said — and the President of the United States does not say this of himself — the questions which one asks oneself begin at last to illuminate the world and becomes one’s key to the experience of others," said the filmmaker. "One can only face in others what one can face in oneself. … I admire so many people in this room who, through their work, are willing to face themselves with wisdom and compassion. Let’s all continue to do that and let’s be an example for the President of the United States of America. No walls. No borders. Fuck him.”

On the red carpet before the ceremony, Jenkins spoke to the many calls to action for representation and diversity that were made Sunday night at the Golden Globes and how he hopes to carry out those missions: “I hope that people actually listen to things that Regina [King], Glenn Close and Sandra Oh were saying from the stage. What was so powerful about what Regina said is that’s an actionable goal. I have a production company. In the next 18 months, we better damn well produce something directed by a woman, otherwise I’m going to fail Regina and all the other women in the industry.”

King was also honored at the NBR Awards with the best supporting actress prize for her work in If Beale Street Could Talk. Uzo Aduba presented the award to King, and the actress took her moment at the podium to talk about love and making a long career in the entertainment business. “At the end of the day, we want people to see this film because we know it's special and love is the theme tonight — I feel it,” she said.

The other acting honors went to Sam Elliott and Lady Gaga for A Star Is Born and Viggo Mortensen for Green Book, which also received the award for best film. Elliott called the experience of working on Star Is Born “a transformative experience,” and thanked his director Bradley Cooper by saying, “I’m clearly up here because of you, my friend.”

Elliott told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet that he’d never met Cooper before working on the film, but he now feels like his older brother.

Mortensen received his award from his Green Book co-star Linda Cardellini, whom he credited as the heart of the film. “One could argue that we’re in the worst of times right now in our country in many ways, but the acts of kindness, the good listeners and observers, the sincere apologies, the children and all things new in the world are there if we pay attention to them,” said the actor. “They’re there to contrast with negative aspects of society and remind us of our better selves.”

Stephen Colbert presented the award for leading actress to Gaga, saying he was “moved by a movie in a way [he] hadn’t been in ages” and “just give her every award.”

Gaga took a solemn and honest moment to sincerely thank a swath of people from the film and from her life, reflecting on how crafting the character both mirrored and shaped her own journey as an artist.

“Ally was all the things that I was not when I went out into the world and decided to pursue my dreams,” she said. “I had to reflect on an earlier time in my life in high school and earlier when I was bullied, I felt unheard. I was traumatized by people telling me over and over again that I wasn’t and could never become who I dreamed of becoming. … Looking into your past. Reawakening the pain. Being brave enough to show the world that I didn’t even want to show myself. This is how I manifested Ally.”

Gaga also thanked Cooper, whose award for best director was presented to him by Steven Spielberg. “I think a good director is someone with the inability to compromise when they’ve got a movie stuck in their heads,” Spielberg said. “A Star Is Born is not only the culmination of his work, but it’s something much more exciting. It’s the beginning.”

On the carpet before the ceremony, Cooper told THR that the experience of being honored for his first film was “gratifying” and he was blown away when he heard that he had been tapped for the award.

“It means everything. It means maybe my hunch about doing it wasn’t so ill-thought. It means that maybe I didn’t let all these people down that I begged to do the movie,” Cooper said, adding that he hopes the film has made him grow as an artist and allowed him to go deeper and be more vulnerable.

Trevor Noah presented the cast of Crazy Rich Asians with the best ensemble award, which was accepted by Constance Wu, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan and Michelle Yeoh. Yeoh took her moment at the podium to make a case for the importance of representation and universal stories.

“This is a landmark, historical moment for our culture,” said the actress. “To be accepted, to be embraced, to be included like this, not just a token. Yes, we have stereotypes. We’re not ashamed of that. We can laugh at ourselves. But give us dreams. Give us background. Give us aspirations, and let's laugh together at it.”

Also during the evening, Eighth Grade star Elsie Fisher presented the honor for best directorial debut to Bo Burnham, recalling her audition with the helmer. Olivia Wilde presented the Freedom of Expression Award to Alexandria Bombach for On Her Shoulders. Richard Gere presented the award for best original screenplay to Paul Shrader for First Reformed. Meredith Vieira presented the best documentary award to RGB filmmakers Julie Cohen and Betsy West. Incredibles 2 star Sophia Bush presented the award for best animated feature to Brad Bird for the film. And Maggie Gyllenhaal presented the award for best foreign film to Pawel Pawlikowski for Cold War.

The Other Side of the Moon and They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead also received the William K. Everson Film History Award.

And Leave No Trace director Debra Granik presented the star of her film, Thomasin McKenzie, with the breakthrough performance award. “I want to take this moment to acknowledge the goodness in people, people who lift others up,” said McKenzie, who is from New Zealand. “Through the goodness in people we can make a start toward a better a world, a world that won’t come about if we build walls to keep each other out.”