Brad Pitt arrived as a surprise guest to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Thursday night to pay tribute to Bradley Cooper, the Maestro and A Star Is Born actor and director who was honored as the festival’s Outstanding Performer of the Year before a sold-out audience of 2,000 at the stately Arlington Theater.

We’ll have highlights soon from Cooper’s Q&A, in which he discussed all of his films, did impersonations of collaborators Clint Eastwood and Robert De Niro, and said he would make another Hangover film “in a heartbeat.” But in the meantime, here are the remarks by Brad Pitt as he presented the award, and made fun of Cooper’s favorite football team.

Brad Pitt’s Remarks on Bradley Cooper

Tonight, we celebrate the brilliant writer, director, actor, producer, singer-songwriter, Bradley Cooper. Now the first time I saw Bradley, I said to myself, one day — one day — I’m gonna milk this guy for a free trip to Santa Barbara.

Before we start, I want it known, for the record, I was this close, this close to getting A Star Is Born. And in the end, the director went with Bradley.

It’s selfish, really.

But truthfully, the first time Bradley made me sit up and start taking notes was in The Hangover. And really, if you look closely, amongst all the chaos of trying to, you know, find their friend, you’ll see the more irreverent that that Alan — Zach Galifianakis gets — the more that Phil — Bradley — is enjoying that irreverence. It’s subtle, it’s often to the side of the frame, but it’s there.

And it’s interesting. And I know this sounds strange, but I’m watching that, and I knew no one else would have brought that to the to the table. And it was something fresh. I knew this guy was going to be around.

And then he decides to write and direct. And to do that he chooses A Star is Born. A film that’s been made a few times — and been made really well. The bar is so high. Yet he’s able to bring in this performance where he’s able to play drunk, where he breaks down, and still keep an eye on the crew, the scene, the time, when to know that he’s got to take and he can move on. And to do that really, really well is nothing short of Herculean.

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And Maestro. For me, Maestro is a masterwork. And I want to point out one scene that does two amazing things at once. It’s the scene where Leonard and Felicia [Carey Mulligan] first meet, and they’re outside smoking in front of the window. And they’re talking over each other and they’re enthralled with each other.

Brad Pitt Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper, presented by Brad Pitt.

What’s masterful about this scene is first of all, it sets the tone for the entire film and gives us the cadence. But second, its construction of the way Bradley and Carey were able to talk on top of each other — it’s alive. It’s kinetic. It’s so natural. And this is really really, really difficult to achieve. And yes, it takes great actors but it also takes great construction. And I’m telling you: Not since Redford have I seen anyone do it so well.

Now, I’m not going to say I know for certain what’s at the heart of Bradley’s brilliance, but I am going to take a stab at it. What I think it is, knowing him a few years now, is his verve and his voracious love for this little thing we call the human experience, and all its struggles and joys and messiness. My man’s in it. He doesn’t run from any of it. I think it’s that that he infuses into each frame that he puts up on the screen. Either that or he’s just manic.

Okay, so Maestro is nominated for seven Academy Awards. Bradley’s nominated for producer, writer, actor — apparently the movie directed itself.

To date, he’s been nominated 12 times and I really, really hope — I really say really a lot is what I’m realizing — 12 times. And I do hope that this is his year because it’s well overdue.

But if it’s not, it’s okay. Everyone knows it’s just a matter of time. And truly Bradley’s okay, he’s fine — he’s a Philadelphia Eagles fan.

Chiefs vs. Eagles

At this, Pitt coughed “Chiefs!” to which Cooper calls out, “That’s f—ed up!”

Cooper then added, “If you told me when I was watching Thelma and Louise that Brad Pitt is gonna give you an award…”

Main image: Honoree Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan, and Brad Pitt pose with the Outstanding Performer of the Year Award during the 39th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival at The Arlington Theater. (Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for SBIFF)

Editor’s Note: Corrects main image.

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