There are some very light spoilers in this interview, just so you know.
In a recent interview with People, the ever-effusive Bradley Cooper mentioned that he’d cast his own ear doctor, Dr. Slattery, to play his character’s ear doctor in A Star Is Born. (“My ear doctor is the doctor in the movie, Dr. Slattery,” he told the publication.) Of the many intriguing aspects of Cooper’s highly anticipated A Star Is Born remake — the makeup wipe, the song, the fact that Bradley Cooper’s own sweet little doggy named Charlie was also cast — this, to some at the Cut, was most intriguing. His own ear doctor? How did that come about? Did he just, uh, ask him? Was Dr. Slattery already an actor? Did he wear his own doctor clothes, or someone else’s idea of what a doctor wears?
Unable to rest easy with our queries, we reached out to Bradley Cooper’s ear doctor, William Slattery, III, M.D., president of the House Ear Clinic in Los Angeles. He was gracious enough to answer all of our most pressing questions.
How did this come about? Was Bradley Cooper just like, hey, do you want to be in A Star Is Born?
That’s pretty much it, yep. He wanted the hearing loss to be part of it — when you see the movie there’s a subplot of ringing in the ears, or tinnitus. So he was asking me some questions about that, to make sure he was appropriately putting it into context, because he was working on the script for the movie. So, he was asking me questions, and I was giving him some advice, and then the next thing you know he calls me up and says, “hey can you help me?” And I said, sure, what do you need. And he said, “We were thinking about having a part where we have a doctor testing my hearing, and I thought why don’t you come do that?” And I said, well, okay, how does that work? And that’s how it started.
Had you ever acted before?
I was probably one of those kids who was the tree in the fifth-grade play, you know? So yeah, no acting experience at all.
Were you up against anyone else for the role?
That I have no idea. I just know he needed someone, and he asked, and I said okay.
Did anything surprise you about the acting experience?
It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be, even with something where I know the content very well. It was interesting. When he asked I said, well, okay, you want me to help you do this — when are you going to do this? And he said, well, next week. And I said, well, where are you going to do this? Because I’m in LA., and they actually shot my scene in Coachella, which was in Palm Springs, two hours away. That’s where they were shooting at the time.
It was kind of a whirlwind of a week. They sent me my script, and my wife and I drove out to Coachella while I was trying to practice my script. And I got there and told them I had my script all worked out and memorized and he said, “Oh, don’t worry, we’re gonna ad-lib it anyway. You know this stuff much better than whatever we wrote into the script, so we’re gonna rely on you to improvise.” And that’s what we did!
Was the original script medically accurate?
Oh, yeah, he did a great job with the script. It was very accurate and very appropriate for the story. So he did a very good job with that.
Did you get to watch them film anything else while you were on set?
Yeah, we got to spend the whole day there watching them film four different scenes of the movie, so that was kind of interesting as well. It was my first time on a movie set.
Did you wear a costume or did you wear your own doctor clothes?
No, so — they called up, they asked me what sizes I wore, and next thing you know there were, you know, costumes. We did the whole hair and makeup routine where they did my hair and makeup and took pictures of me. And I said, why are you taking pictures? And they said, this is so we can make sure we know exactly what you looked like if you have to come back and shoot anything else. So I was like, well that’s interesting. Everything was very new to me and very interesting. I’m not trying to start a new career, but it was just fun to participate, and it was nice of him to ask me. There were a lot of brand-new things to explore.
What was it like filming your scene?
My part was interesting — again, it’s fascinating how they do everything. We took multiple different shots and, of course, they had the whole gang there, so my first scene was testing Bradley Cooper’s hearing, and then Lady Gaga walks up behind me. That was my first acting debut, between two fantastic, international, prominent stars. Unfortunately I think in acting for me the only way to go from here is down, so I may just stop right now.
For somebody — you know, I work at the House Clinic. So, for somebody doing ear surgery all the time, this was a very different world to be in. It was fascinating. Just to see how many people it takes to make one scene, you know — we saw four different scenes shot that day, and it’s just interesting how that all gets edited down into small, little parts. How much of the filming was not used was surprising to me.
So you’ve already seen it?
Yeah, there was the L.A. premiere — that was a week ago Monday. We went to the premiere, and that was obviously a lot of fun. Bradley Cooper was very courteous to thank everybody who participated in the movie. He had all the extras stand up, all the crew members stand up, all the cast members stand up, and then he actually gave a shout out to the Warner Brothers people, and the Dolby people. And he also gave me a shout out there, he said, “Thank you to my ear doctor, Dr. Slattery, for helping, too.” It was very kind of him to do that at the beginning of the movie, so it was a lot of fun. It was totally unexpected but also very much appreciated.
Is your family very excited to see you in the movie?
Oh, well, you can imagine! How many times do people get to participate in something like this? Unfortunately there are so many people who are really trying hard to break into the acting world — you know it’s a tough, tough thing. So to be involved was just a really nice privilege and I’m so thankful, and so grateful to have the opportunity.
And of course, from my perspective — you can see the subplot with the hearing loss and the ringing plays a role in the main character’s issues. They actually highlight the hearing loss; they show a person wearing hearing aids very prominently. So that’s a nice way to emphasize the fact that hearing loss as it affects people. You know, it affects people’s lives and their ability to communicate. So that’s an important thing that he was trying to get out with this movie as well, at least from my perspective.
This interview has been edited and condensed. A Star Is Born is currently in limited release and will be released widely on October 5, 2018.