The first-time director, 43, spoke to FilmStruck to discuss his reimagining of the film in a PEOPLE exclusive clip from the interview.
Cooper plays musician Jackson Maine, who struggles with personal issues while helping an up-and-coming artist, Ally (Lady Gaga), to fulfill her dreams of a music career.
Maine’s name comes from the first two versions of the film — the 1937 film with Fredric March as Norman Maine and in the 1954 version with Judy Garland in which actor James Mason picked up the mantle of Norman.
Cooper was also conscious of a familiar line in the first three films, in which a version of his character asks his leading lady for “another look at you.”
The moment can be seen in the trailer for A Star Is Born in which Maine leans out from his car and tells Gaga’s Ally, “I just wanted to take another look at you.”
“There’s a little bit of Where’s Waldo? in the movie,” Cooper said. “That was fun cinematically. [Gaga] sings the preamble to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as she’s walking up the ramp from her job and that was a nod to Judy Garland. Even though that was not sung [in the previous films], oddly enough it was the first song that we had to learn in grad school.”
“I always had that in the back of my mind, that I wanted Ally to be singing that song,” he continued. “And, oddly enough, when I pitched it to Stefani [Gaga’s real name is Stefani Germanotta], she said, ‘That’s so crazy that you know that because a lot of people don’t even know the preamble.’ She said, ‘I used to sing that as a kid.'”
“It feels sort of classic, that was a nod to Judy Garland,” Cooper explained.
He also revealed that a scene in which he takes off Gaga’s prosthetic eyebrow in the film was a nod to Garland’s version as well, in which Maine take off a prosthetic nose.
Fans of previous films can also see other familiar scenes in Cooper’s version, including a bathtub scene and a heartwrenching moment in which Maine hijack’s Ally’s award speech.
“That was one of the first scenes that I thought about. I thought, ‘I’ll put these two characters in that situation — what happens?’ He has no desire to hijack her speech,” Cooper explained. “He actually is operating out of a place of support but he is so struck by his inability to have grown since that 13-year-old trauma.”
“I thought, ‘Oh that scene is about how he thinks she’s asking him up on stage to help her,'” he added. “To me, that decimates me,” he added.
All previous versions of the film can be streamed on FilmStruck.
A Star Is Born is in theaters Oct. 5.