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Why do we always want onscreen couples to be together IRL too?


By Sarah Finnan
16th Sep 2022
Why do we always want onscreen couples to be together IRL too?

Bradley Cooper confirmed that his relationship with Lady Gaga was purely platonic, but why do we always want onscreen couples to get together IRL too?

La Vie en Rose

“Are Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper dating?” was one of the most searched phrases on Google back in November 2019, and unsurprisingly so. Fresh off an international media tour promoting their movie A Star Is Born, the duo put on quite the show throughout and had many fans convinced that they were more than just onscreen lovers. 

“There can be a hundred people in the room and 99 don’t believe in you, but you just need one to believe in you and that was him,” Gaga gushed in just about every interview she did at the time. A catchphrase she would follow up with an adoring look over at her leading man. 

That all but confirmed it for most. They’re definitely together, we thought. Didn’t matter that he was still going out with Irina Shayk. That was but a minor detail and one we were mostly willing to overlook. They probably broke up ages ago but just haven’t said so publicly yet, we surmised. Any day now, we nodded to ourselves. 

Orchestrated performance

Sure enough, the couple confirmed their split a couple of months later with a source telling Us Weekly that the romance rumours had played a role. Gaga and Cooper never actually got together in the end though. She always maintained that the whole thing was highly calculated, telling Oprah Winfrey (who else?!) that she thought the press were “very silly” for believing otherwise. “For me, as a performer and as an actress, of course, we wanted people to believe that we were in love,” she continued. 

Fast forward to late last year and Cooper also finally had his say on the matter, reiterating much the same thing and commenting that their relationship was purely platonic. According to him, they stayed in character for *that* Oscars performance to help him ease his fear of singing live. Not something that came naturally to him, he admitted that he found it easier to play a part than to march up on stage and perform as himself. 

“Just from a personal standpoint, it reduces the anxiety level,” he said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “They [Jackson and Ally] kind of fall in love in that scene in the film. It’s that explosive moment that happens to happen to them on a stage in front of thousands of people… it would have been so weird if we were both on stools facing the audience,” he pointed out.

As Gaga previously put it, they wanted people to feel that same love from their performance. “We wanted it to go right through the lens of that camera and to every television that it was being watched on,” she added. “And we worked hard on it, we worked for days. We mapped the whole thing out – it was orchestrated as a performance. In truth, when we talked about it, we went: ‘Well, I guess we did a good job!’”

Red carpet smoulder

You might even say they did a great job, because three years on and we still talk about that press tour and that night at the Oscars. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Gaga and Cooper walked so the likes of Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac could run. Another couple that put on the performance of a lifetime, even after the cameras had stopped rolling, they had us all falling at their feet after a clip of Isaac kissing Chastain’s upper arm went viral last year. Yes, we knew it was for show – both are happily married and to other people – but I personally, didn’t really care. 

The clip saturated our social media feeds from the moment it first popped up online. You couldn’t avoid it even if you wanted to… though who would?! Several months on and I still think about it on the regular. Like most other fans around the world, I’m well aware that the whole thing was a ruse but I’m thoroughly invested all the same. At the Venice Film Festival to promote their new HBO series Scenes From A Marriage, they were committed to selling us a dream – and they succeeded in doing so too. 

On a break?

A month prior to Jess and Oscar, there was the whole Ross and Rachel thing. One of TV’s most-loved couples, Friends fans almost lost their minds when rumours of a potential in-real-life romance between Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer started doing the rounds. First leaked by Closer, an insider reportedly suggested that the co-stars had gotten together after “20 years of buried feelings”.

This after they revealed that they kinda, sorta had feelings for each other back in the day. Making the admission during the anniversary special hosted by James Corden, Schwimmer assured the public that nothing actually ever happened between them – one of them was always in a relationship, so they kept it strictly professional. Matt LeBlanc wasn’t having any of it and quipped “bullsh*t” in response, only further fanning the flames of a rumoured romance.

Why is it that we always ship onscreen love interests IRL too, though? In most cases, the subject matter that they’re portraying is fiction. They have been hired to play a part and depict a “reality” that isn’t actually “reality” at all. This, we know. Unlike that deluded Days of Our Lives superfan Brooke Shields once played on Friends, we’re well aware that actors aren’t their characters… and yet, sometimes we can’t help but project our own fantasies onto them all the same. 

A question of chemistry

Perhaps it all boils down to chemistry. Referring back to Lady Gaga for a moment, there was renewed interest in her love life thanks to media coverage around her latest project, House of Gucci. Premiering in late November 2021, the film saw Gaga star as the formidable Patrizia Reggiani alongside Adam Driver as Maurizio Gucci. 

However, unlike with Gaga and Cooper, I just don’t buy the dynamic between Gaga and Driver. Admittedly, I never really thought that the former were together but I was still willing to believe the story all the same. I doubted there was any truth to it but I wasn’t 100% sure and even the faintest whisper that there could be more to it, kept me invested. This time, it’s different. 

House of Gucci isn’t necessarily a love story, but it does revolve around a relationship. Gaga has been lauded for her performance but praise extends to her accent, and likeness to Patrizia Reggiani. Very little has been said about her interactions with her onscreen husband, Driver. Even the media tour focused on each of them as individuals as opposed to as a united team. 

A Star Is Born was all about the relationship, so I can understand why it was more important for its cast to ensure it was the focal point of all coverage, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. 

Happy endings

I loved Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones in Normal People, but I didn’t want them to be an off-screen couple. Which suggests that maybe it’s less about chemistry (which Connell and Marianne definitely had) and more about compatibility. In House of Gucci, Reggiani hires a hitman to murder her ex-husband. Kind of self-explanatory why our preconception of their relationship might be tainted. Normal People is about awkward coming-of-age love… love that may not culminate in a lifelong partnership. 

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Scenes From A Marriage. Not your average love story, but it is clear that Chastain and Isaac’s characters have something they’re unlikely to find with other partners and the ending leaves us wanting more, as does A Star Is Born. Though absolutely devastating (did you really see the movie if you didn’t leave the cinema a snivelling mess?), it introduces us to two people whose love for each other is so palpable that we’re moved to tears. 

Connecting to a story and its characters is important, but we’re all (mostly) optimists at heart and I think the promise of a happy ending is what convinces us we want actors to make their onscreen love their actual reality too.