A Story about Second Chances at Life
In Aloha, a celebrated military contractor (Bradley Cooper) returns to the site of his greatest career triumphs – the U.S. Space program in Honolulu, Hawaii – and reconnects with a love from long ago (Rachel McAdams) while unexpectedly falling for the hard-charging Air Force watchdog (Emma Stone) assigned to him.
After creating a finely tuned signature style as writer-director in such films as Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, and Say Anything…, Academy Award-winning director, Cameron Crowe, has turned his eye to Hawaii, bringing his unique talent for creating unforgettable characters and his extraordinary ear for dialogue to the story of Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper), a man who finds himself caught between a woman he thought he had moved beyond, and a woman who represents all of the possibilities yet to come. Aloha also stars Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, and Alec Baldwin.
DIRECTOR – CAMERON CROWE
SMARTY: Tell us about the romantic story behind your new film, Aloha.
CROWE: I wanted to tell the story of the lure of the past and the promise of the future. It’s always easy to look backwards, to remember all of the good moments that happened, and to long for those moments. It’s scarier to look at the future and try to create a future that’s as rich – and even more rich – than the past. I wanted to tell the story of a guy who’s been looking over his shoulder with a certain amount of regret, who learns to look forward. That was the dream of what a story set in Hawaii could be.
SMARTY: And does your lead character (Bradley Cooper) choose a happy ending for himself?
CROWE: Gilcrest, played by Bradley Cooper, is a very complex character. He’s gone from being an idealist as a younger man to being a compromised person. In the movie, he receives another chance in life to reclaim the thing that powered all of his original idealism when he was a younger person. The question is: Is he able to take the best of the past and move forward? This movie has a bittersweet quality, but it also has a real kick of hope. Ultimately, this is a film in the continuing story that I’ve always been trying to make: What is it to be an adult? What is it like to grow older? Who are your friends? Who are the people that matter? Who sticks by you, who doesn’t, how do you shape your life as you continue to live it?
Bradley Cooper plays the role of Gilchrest: once the most talented and in-demand military contractor in the business, he’s stinging from a recent failure and only now is getting the opportunity to show that he’s still got what it takes to lead a mission, which happens to bring him back to his old stomping grounds of Hawaii, where he left a few loose ends dangling, namely former girlfriend Tracy (played by Rachel McAdams). Coinciding with a second chance to remake a career that has reached a breaking point, Gilcrest starts to fall for Allison Ng (Emma Stone), the hard-charging Air Force pilot assigned to babysit him.
BRADLEY COOPER as “BRIAN GILCREST”
SMARTY: What was one of your favorite things about working on this film with Cameron Crowe’s unique direction?
COOPER: I really love the puzzle-like nature of storytelling through cinema, and capturing all these moments and then putting them together and fulfilling the vision that a writer and director has. Cameron treats all his characters as the stars of the film, so it really felt like each one of their storylines became the epicenter of the story while we were shooting it. So it was almost like all these little stories, all these little movies in one.
SMARTY: What was it like reconnecting with Rachel McAdams?
COOPER: I knew that we would have a great chemistry, at least I thought we would, based on Wedding Crashers, a movie that I’d done with her ten years ago. I always thought: ‘Wow, she’s just so easy to work with. She’s so present.’ And it only got stronger after ten years. I think she’s the perfect Tracy, and I think it’s a role that people haven’t seen her do hopefully, and will be very excited.
SMARTY: Did you like working with Danny McBride?
COOPER: I was probably most excited, besides Emma, to work with Danny McBride. I just think he’s unbelievable, ever since The Foot Fist Way, so I really couldn’t wait to work with him, and I was not disappointed. He is really just an incredible human being, number one, which I didn’t know, and just a great actor.
Emma Stone stars as Senior Captain/Major Select Allison Ng, an overly efficient, no-nonsense Air Force F-22 pilot who, as part of her career broadening, is assigned to be Gilcrest’s official handler during his mission. Known among her fellow airmen as a “fast burner,” Ng (pronounced “Ing”) – who is one-quarter Hawaiian – has a firecracker personality and a fierce spirit for life that quickly makes an impact.
Prior to production, Stone trained with several advisors to execute the multitude of tasks her character has to perform in the film – from hula dancing to guitar playing to learning the proper protocols and cadence of an F-22 pilot. She also trained with a local flight school instructor to learn to manipulate the controls of the twin-engine propeller plane, a Piper PA-44 Seminole, that her character uses to shuttle herself and Gilcrest from Oahu to the Big Island. Playing a fighter pilot offered the actress a unique experience. As a special concession permitted to the filmmakers, Stone became the first person who was not an official pilot or mechanic to be permitted in the cockpit of an F-22. The filmmakers even had to make a special G-suit for Stone to wear since she was smaller than most of the pilots.
EMMA STONE as ALLISON NG
SMARTY: What was your original attraction to working on this film?
STONE: I’ve loved Cameron’s movies. They’re so infused with authenticity. I trusted his vision and his ability to tell a story, his unique tempo and rhythm. I just wanted to be part of that process.
SMARTY: It must be so interesting to work with Cameron Crowe…
STONE: Yeah, it is interesting, because with Cameron, so much is already on the page, because he is such a wordsmith. So many of the lines are perfectly crafted. He’s a perfectionist, and he will admit to that, and I have a tendency towards that, too. He’s a journalist, so he can write, and write and write, and create and create and create! And, a screenwriter, obviously, but that kind of mentality of someone telling you when to stop, and then the article is published. I think he just keeps going unless someone tells him to stop, which is the most amazing gift. So you’re never done mining a line, or an idea, or a feeling or a scene, it can just go and go and go, and that’s something I really appreciate, I could do a jillion takes of anything. I always want more opportunities and more options, and I think he does, too. It was always digging, always exploring, and excavating, and diving deeper and going again and again, and using different music. There’s so much music and there’s so much shouting out and collaboration in his process. So that was very exciting, as I hoped it would be.
SMARTY: What exactly was it that intrigued you so much about playing your unique character, Ng?
STONE: Ng is this beautiful, powerful, funny, dynamic character. There are so many facets to what’s happening with her, it was like finding a gold mine. She’s a great example for women – she’s a fighter pilot, she’s sensitive, and is in love for the first time.
SMARTY: Tell us about your process of becoming the character.
STONE: The single biggest challenge for me was probably not getting too into my head about all the amazingness of Ng. Ng has so many things going for her and so much happening at once. I think if I thought about it too much, I would get overwhelmed by all the magic of Ng, but when I was able to let that go and just really breathe into her, she’s a pretty fantastic woman and character, and that was a lot to live up to every day, but I was so lucky to get to attempt to.
SMARTY: You worked closely with members of the military. What was that like?
STONE: They were just so warm and welcoming; they were really excited that we were shooting on their base. I got to know some members of the Air Force and it was incredibly inspiring. They’re also the best people to be in a scene with – they go from zero to sixty in a second and back again. It was incredible to see that kind of discipline.
SMARTY: Were you given any special privileges when on base?
STONE: I was the first civilian to ever get to sit in an F-22 Raptor plane, which is basically the most stealth and deadly weapon the U.S. military has.
Rachel McAdams plays the part of Tracy Woodside, a complex character who was the long lost love of Bradley Cooper’s Gilcrest. She questions whether she married the right guy; she questions how that relationship with Gilcrest fell apart. She represents a question about the past that needs to be resolved.
RACHEL McADAMS as TRACY WOODSIDE
SMARTY: What was your first attraction to this film?
McADAMS: I just loved the script. I read the script first, and I just thought it was nothing like I’d ever come across before, and she was a complicated, interesting woman with lots on her plate at a very important time in her life. She’s a very rich and colorful character, and I love how Cameron writes women. It was really exciting and I felt very blessed to get to play her. I know she’s been in his head for a long time, so it was a little bit of pressure to get where he saw her going, but a wonderful challenge at the same time.
SMARTY: Tell us what it’s like on the set with Bradley Cooper.
McADAMS: It’s such a wonderful thing to come to work with Bradley everyday, because he has so much passion, for not just his character, but the whole film and the whole process. He approaches every scene like he wants it to be the best scene ever, filmed ever. So he comes at everything with that kind of energy and enthusiasm and generosity. It’s really inspiring to watch and it’s been a lot of fun. He’s very free, I think all the time, but he’s found a freedom with this character that’s beautiful and surprising, and so fresh and something I’ve never seen before.
I’m excited to see how it’s all going to come together.
SMARTY: What was it like working with comedian John Krasinski?
McADAMS: You think of John as such a fun and outgoing guy, but he has this other really sweet, stoic, heroic side to him, too. He was such a great presence on set, always making everybody laugh and keeping it light, but he also has that still-waters-running-deep quality that’s such an integral part of Woody.”
John Krasinski (best known from NBC’s “The Office”) plays the character of Woody Woodside, the husband to McAdams’ character, Tracy. He is a calm and soft-spoken Air Force C-17 pilot – in fact, he’s so soft-spoken that he’s often silent.
JOHN KRASINSKI as WOODY WOODSIDE
SMARTY: What was it like playing your non-speaking part of Woody?
KRASINSKI: A part like this, a part like Woody, is a part you’d play at any point in your career. I think it’s just a really interesting character for sure, mostly because he doesn’t speak, and I think that that’s really exciting. I think there’s something really stoic, and something really timeless, and sort of like a 1940s, ‘50s type of guy that’s stuck in present day. Being a dad is one of the big weights on him, but also the big draw for why he gets up every single day. I thought that was really, really exciting to play. I’d play it now, I’d play it ten years ago, and I’ll play it ten years from now. Yeah, this was a really fun part to play and certainly an awesome project to be a part of.
SMARTY: Tell us about your preparation for the role of an Air Force C-17 pilot.
KRASINSKI: It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. It’s an incredibly immersive experience and I was terrified through the entire process, because it feels like you’re flying a real plane. All the weight distribution, all the turns, all the controls, everything feels very real, and you feel that you have a responsibility to land everybody safely, despite the fact that it’s basically a video game. I loved it.
SMARTY: What was it like working with Rachel McAdams?
KRASINSKI: It was my first film with Rachel. I couldn’t have been more excited to work with anybody. I think she’s one of the most talented people out there and I’ve loved every single thing she’s done. I think she’s truly a remarkable actress, but then when you actually get in a scene with her, or get in a room with her, you realize that your understanding of how good she is was off by huge, huge leaps and bounds, because she’s so much better. She’s so incredibly real, and subtle, and just so perfectly toned in every single way that it was sort of jarring. You really gotta bring your “A” game when you’re in scenes with someone like that.
Alec Baldwin plays the extremely self-confident four-star head of the Pacific Air Command and top guy at Hickam Air Force base, General Dixon.
ALEC BALDWIN as GENERAL DIXON
SMARTY: What was it like working with Cameron Crowe?
BALDWIN: Cameron is smart and funny, but warm at the same time, which is quite rare. Cameron reminds me a lot of John Hughes, where he’s very organic with the material and very self-deprecating about the material if he doesn’t think it’s working as well. He’s very flexible and changes things. Hughes was very faciled that way and flexible, and very warm about it all. There wasn’t this kind of rigidity. But, Cameron is… like Woody and like John, he is the best interpreter of his material. Cameron, he’s one of those guys that when he calls you, if you are available, you go. When he called me to do this, I was just thrilled. I was elated!
SMARTY: We’re told your character does a lot of yelling?
BALDWIN: It’s not an easy thing to do, especially with actors you admire, like Bradley Cooper. When you work with people like that, you want to bond with them and have some camaraderie, but when you have to play that negative value in a piece, straightening everybody out and pounding away at them, it’s really tough.
SMARTY: What was your experience like working with actual members of the military?
BALDWIN: Whenever you go into the world of the Military, you see that, people’s politics aside what you think the country should do and shouldn’t do, the people who serve in the Military make you proud. You see how dedicated they are, you see how well trained they are, you see how proud they are to do what they do, and you realize that no matter what happens in our country, we have great people who serve in the Military. So it’s always thrilling to meet them up close and in a more relaxed setting, ‘cause I’m not going to go hang out with them in Iraq or Afghanistan, I doubt. To get to meet them here and get to talk to them about why they do what they do, and how they feel about what they do, is very interesting.
Comedic actor Danny McBride plays Colonel “Fingers” Lacy, the second-in-command at Hickam Air Force base, who earned his nickname from his peculiar habit of compulsively flexing his fingers.
DANNY McBRIDE as COLONEL “FINGERS” LACY
SMARTY: We understand you were already a big fan of Director Cameron Crowe when you were approached to do the film?
McBRIDE: I love the heart that he has in his movies, so when he wanted me to be a part of this, I thought it would be really cool to be involved in the project.
SMARTY: Tell us about your nickname, “Fingers.”
McBRIDE: I had to develop that. I had to practice it so much that, in my life now I catch myself doing it. It’s very soothing to sit there and just let your fingers roll.
SMARTY: What was it like working with Alec Baldwin as your superior?
McBRIDE: Being screamed at by Alec Baldwin was definitely one of the highlights of being involved with this film. A lifelong goal of mine was finally achieved. For two days, Bradley Cooper and I sat on a couch while Alec Baldwin screamed at us. I think at one point he screams at me to ‘just shut my mouth’ – I’ve always wanted to hear those words from him directed at me. I felt like I was in Glengarry Glen Ross, being screamed at about leads. It was great.