Bradley Cooper and Joaquin Phoenix are both featured in “W” Magazine’s February 2014 “The Movie” issue. Both actors speak about their different takes on being actor in the entertainment industry. Having read through the entire article, it is definitely worth the read. You can view Bradley’s parts of the interview below, but if you want, you can click the link at the end to view the full article. Personally, I think both views are worth the read. So I encourage to check the whole article out. You can also check out 1 HQ outtake from the issue. A preview is shown below, but you can view the full version in the gallery. Enjoy!
Nearly two months later, on a Thursday night, I was at the Greenwich Hotel again, this time to interview Bradley Cooper, who was staying there while in New York for the premiere of American Hustle, in which he plays an ambitious FBI agent. When it comes to promoting his films, Cooper, who is also 39, may be the polar opposite of Phoenix. Cooper is a film lover who thinks like a businessman; he will enthuse about, say, how much he admires The Royal Tenenbaums and how it’s a crime that Wes Anderson, the director, never won an Oscar. What’s more, he doesn’t hesitate to fly to any city anywhere to meet and greet and to present at a premiere or a film festival. He seems to view doing press as a form of campaigning, and it works: Last year he was nominated for an Academy Award for best actor for his part in Silver Linings Playbook, a dark comedy about a love affair between two mentally unstable people. Cooper, who didn’t start acting until after he graduated from Georgetown University, has a kind of puppyish zeal for every aspect of filmmaking. Even though he is quite accomplished and is no longer required to audition, he will make a video of himself to prove to a director that he is right for a part. Cooper is so enthralled by the process of acting that it doesn’t even seem to bother him when directors turn him down. “I read for Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street,” Cooper told me. “But the part went to Jonah Hill.” As usual, he sounded upbeat.
In the many months between the release of Silver Linings and the Oscars, Cooper crisscrossed the globe several times to publicize the film. “I loved it all,” he said, plopping down on a velvet couch in the corner of the hotel’s cozy bar. He was wearing jeans and a navy sweater that zipped at the neck and accentuated his bright blue eyes. That afternoon, he had flown in from Hawaii, where he was shooting Cameron Crowe’s latest film, in which he plays a military contractor. “The way I look at it is, I always dreamed of being in the room with actors like Daniel Day-Lewis and Robert De Niro, so how can I mind being there?” Cooper said. “If I’m a kid and my whole fantasy is to be part of this world, and then I’m actually doing it with my heroes, shame on me if I complain about having to do an interview on the red carpet.” He paused and took a sip of mint tea. “Although it is a helluva grind.” Cooper was, perhaps, thinking back to the many, many forced flirtations on the awards circuit when TV entertainment reporters asked him to speak French or dance or dish about his Silver Linings costar, Jennifer Lawrence. Whatever the request, Cooper was a gentleman throughout: He knows the value of media attention. “There were times when I felt like a fucking monkey,” Cooper said now, laughing. “But most of the time, it was amazing! I love Q&A’s. I love talking to people about films. I can do it for hours and hours. And I wanted the film to be seen.”
During the campaign for Silver Linings Playbook, which made more than $236 million internationally at the box office, Cooper, who has an almost fanlike enthusiasm for actors and filmmakers, grew very close to David O. Russell, the film’s writer and director. “Bradley became like my brother,” Russell told me at a party for their latest collaboration, American Hustle, a loose retelling of the ABSCAM sting in the ’70s. “He has a rare ability to think of the whole film and not just his performance. Most actors concentrate on their part, and that’s fantastic, but Bradley can hold the entire movie in his head. I started to ask him what he thought about certain scenes in Silver Linings, and the next thing I knew, I had asked him to be in the editing room.”
Unlike Phoenix, Cooper has no problem watching himself. “I don’t give a fuck about my character—I love storytelling,” Cooper explained. “In the editing room, you have to be vicious. You’re sitting in a cave for 12 hours, and you get the knives out and carve out the story together. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not a selfless thing: If I’m great in a bad movie, it doesn’t matter. But if I’m good in a great movie, then that’s good. All I care about is making the movie great. I’m not precious about my work in the film. Not at all.”
Like Phoenix—and this may be the one thing they have in common—Cooper has a romantic streak when it comes to acting and movies. He grew up in Philadelphia; was very close to his father, a stockbroker, who died in 2011; and seems to view show business as a large, extended family. After starring as the toxic playboy Phil in The Hangover in 2009, which was a $467 million worldwide blockbuster, Cooper, who was then known for his work in comedies, fought to be seen as a dramatic leading man. In 2011, Relativity Media, an independent studio, financed Limitless, a mix of thriller and intellectual parable that starred Cooper as a writer who discovers a drug that allows him to use 100 percent of his brain power for personal gain. Limitless was a hit, redefining Cooper’s profile in Hollywood. Suddenly he was considered an actor who could guarantee box office returns, and he had range: He could be romantic, funny, charming, threatening. “Careerwise, Limitless changed everything,” Cooper told me. “That film paved the way for someone like David O. Russell to consider me for Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle.”
Richie Di Maso, the character Cooper plays in American Hustle, has a boyish enthusiasm for both capturing bad guys and disco dancing. “My character was originally very straight,” Cooper explained. “I said, ‘I love you, David, and I’ll do anything for you, but why don’t we make the character fucking amazing? Let’s make him someone we haven’t seen before.’?”
In March 2013, about a week after the Oscars, American Hustle started shooting in Boston. The timing was good: Despite a huge push from Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook won only one Academy Award (best actress for Jennifer Lawrence), and returning to work was an excellent way for Russell and Cooper to quell their disappointment. “At the time, I was with David 12 hours a day, and I told him I wanted Richie to be different and to look different,” Cooper said. “We tried wigs and that didn’t quite work. One day, we curled my hair. The minute we did that, Richie was born.”
There’s a kinetic energy to Cooper’s performance in American Hustle, a kind of manic intensity that is also true of the actor himself. Unlike Phoenix, Cooper wants to be liked and understood. Phoenix may be the more daring, complex actor, but Cooper has a contagious love of the game. They share a deep respect for great directors, but while Phoenix has an almost mystical relationship to his craft, Cooper is proactive: He writes letters to people like David Fincher, whom he longs to work with, and he options books, including the one for his next project, American Sniper, in which he’ll play Chris Kyle, a soldier who served in Iraq. “Clint Eastwood is directing that movie,” Cooper said as he prepared to leave for dinner. “I’ve tried to work with Clint since Flags of Our Fathers. I put myself on tape for that, and also to be in Gran Torino, and again, to play Leo’s [Leonardo DiCaprio] boyfriend in J. Edgar. Nothing worked out. And yet, when I was an adolescent, I believed in two things: I was going to work with Robert De Niro, and I was going to work with Clint Eastwood.” Cooper paused. “Now De Niro is like a father to me, and I’m making a film with Eastwood! My life is a real dream. Sometimes I get afraid that I’m going to wake up. And then I realize, if I work hard, good things will come.”
The nominations for the 2014 BAFTA Awards were announced on Wednesday morning (January 8) and Bradley scored a nomination for Supporting Actor for his role in “American Hustle.” Big congratulations to Bradley! The film scored 9 other nominations, including Best Film, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, Supporting Actress, and more. You can view who Bradley is sharing the nomination with below and check out the full list of nominees at the official website.
Matt Damon – Behind the Candelabra
Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Daniel Brühl – Rush
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
The 2014 BAFTA Film Awards will be hosted by Stephen Fry and will take place at London’s Royal Opera House on February 16, 2014.
Bradley Cooper joins NBC’s “Morning Joe” to discuss his latest film “American Hustle,” which finds the actor working again with “Silver Linings Playbook” director David. O. Russell and actress Jennifer Lawrence. Cooper also discusses his recent birthday and getting into politics. You can watch the 15-minute interview below and view 512 screen captures of Bradley from the interview in the gallery. Enjoy!
Screen Captures > Talk Shows > Talk Shows from 2014 > Jan 07: NBC News – Morning Joe
Rarely has a male hairstyle dominated awards show discussions as much as Bradley Cooper’s tight curls in American Hustle. (We may be biased though. . . we are currently running the awards campaign for Cooper’s Hustle coiffure out of our cubicle, assembling pink-roller “For Your Consideration” swag mailers during lunch breaks.) This afternoon, Cooper hit the awards campaign trail on behalf of both himself and his hair during a Google Hangout with the Los Angeles Times. Over the course of the 22-minute conversation, Cooper graciously devoted about a third of the time to explaining and answering questions about the precise, 70s-inspired style.
At one point, Cooper even offers up a oral history of the hairstyle, explaining why he and the hair department decided to manually curl the actor’s hair each morning—a process that took three hours!—rather than go the lazy route with a wig or perm.
“We tried a lot of wigs, and I just looked like somebody from Three Stooges. It was bordering on taking you out of the movie. We curled the hair one day because to perm it would be permanent [so we wanted to see] if that would work. So we curled it, which basically meant putting curlers—they put this solution in it and we put 110 curlers in it and I sat underneath a heat lamp for 45 minutes . . . the whole thing was three hours. We loved what it did so we thought, ’Let’s just do that. Let’s not mess with that—not really thinking, oh I will have to do that every single day. But it was really born out of the necessity that we did not have the chance to try it as a perm. And then we made it a character thing, that he likes that much control and he enjoys this [routine] he does every day.”
Other Bradley Cooper hairstyle fun facts: the look was inspired by Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis. And no, Bradley Cooper is not averse to recycling the look for special occasions. “I gotta say, man, that I personally kinda fell in love with it.” Just how much did he love the style though? “I definitely would try to stave off showering as long as I could because the minute the water touched it, it went limp. But I definitely went out with it at night.”
To quote the Los Angeles Times journalist moderating this discourse: “The hair gets a lot of run in this movie.”
Bradley Cooper is dashing while attending the 2013 New York Film Critics Circle Awards Ceremony held at The Edison Ballroom on Monday (January 6) in New York City. Bradley was on hand to accept Jennifer Lawrence‘s Best Supporting Actress award for her since she is busy filming “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay.” You check out 33 HQ photos of Bradley at the award show. Enjoy!
Public Appearances > Events from 2014 > Jan 06: 2013 New York Film Critics Circle Awards – Arrivals
Public Appearances > Events from 2014 > Jan 06: 2013 New York Film Critics Circle Awards – Inside
Bradley Cooper is one dapper dude on the red carpet at the 2014 Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala on Saturday evening (January 4) at the convention center in Palm Springs, California. Bradley and his castmates from his newest film “American Hustle” were in attendance at the gala to accept the Ensemble Performance Award. You can check out 149 MQ and HQ photos of Bradley on the red carpet, inside at the awards presentation, and at the after party. Enjoy!
FYI: Bradley is wearing Tom Ford.
Public Appearances > 2014 > Jan 04: 25th Annual Palm Springs Film Festival Awards Gala – Arrivals
Public Appearances > 2014 > Jan 04: 25th Annual Palm Springs Film Festival Awards Gala – Show
Public Appearances > 2014 > Jan 04: 25th Annual Palm Springs Film Festival Awards Gala – After Party
For many the grueling, six month awards season is a blessing and a curse. It’s great to be nominated but theBradley Cooper marathon race takes its toll on the contenders who might be crawling to the finish line after being on the circuit for such a protracted period of time. But that’s not the case for Bradley Cooper. It seems like he just got off the awards whirlwind after being nominated for everything in sight including an Oscar for last season’s Silver Linings Playbook, but he’s back with a vengeance with American Hustle for which his role as the innocent and somewhat loopy FBI agent Richie DiMaso has already been nominated for a Golden Globe and Critics Choice Movie Award, as well as a SAG Cast award along with co-stars Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner among others. And there’s Oscar buzz again, this time in supporting rather than lead. So is he really happy to be going through all of this craziness again so soon? You bet. “If I am lucky enough to be a part of it, yes. I am excited. Last year was amazing. I loved it. Maybe it’s because I still have a sort of innocent love of movies but to be in these rooms with these actors who I admire, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time. I really love it,” he said when he called me from France this week. Cooper is having a little R and R as he says in Paris (“my favorite place for sure”) after wrapping Cameron Crowe’s untitled new film in Hawaii right before Christmas. He’ll be back in the States this weekend for the Palm Springs International Film Festival when the Hustle cast receives the award for outstanding ensemble. And then next week it’s the Globes, CCMAs , SAG and on and on.
Hustle, like Silver Linings, was directed by David O. Russell and Cooper considers their collaboration a full partnership. He also serves as an Executive Producer on the film which has already grossed over $70 million domestically, won the New York Film Critics Award for Best Picture and has so far racked up Best Picture nominations at the Globes, CCMAs and the PGA as well as landing on AFI’s top 10 film list. Did he see it coming so soon after the success of Silver Linings? “The thing I’ve learned is that if you expect anything you’re a fool. But I did love the movie. We were so excited about it. We definitely did hope that it would catch on. And like Silver Linings the biggest promoter of the film is the film itself, ” he said adding he is especially happy for Russell. “HeSilver Linings Playbook would be the first to say he hit his stride with The Fighter. It’s almost as these three films are linked together. And he’s just in that place of knowing exactly the kinds of movies he wants to make and he’s found like-minded actors who get his sensibility. I’m lucky enough to have met him for Silver Linings. I feel like we’ve been working together straight for three years even though I did two other films. We were in post for Silver Linings Playbook last year and during awards season also prepping for this movie. And then the Oscars happened and literally the next day we got on a plane and flew to Boston where we were in prep. And being able to be the Executive Producer on both movies I was able to be in the editing room with him. It’s been like film school, really,” he said.
Cooper really enjoyed playing Di Maso , a terrific comic creation and different sort of FBI agent than is usually David_O_blog seen in movies. Although the film is very loosely based on the FBI stings aka the Abscam scandal of the late 70?s, the characters in the script Russell re-wrote (from Eric Singer’s more straight-forward original) were brand new creations. It was important to Cooper and Russell that the character be as colorful as the main guy, as textured and complicated. “That’s where we started. It just sort of built and built and all of a sudden we just sort of felt we met this Richie DiMaso character who was very clearly locked into his childlike entity, basically like a 15-year old adolescent kid who wants to hang out with the cool kids and has big ambitions but doesn’t have the maturity to deal with it. And that’s where this guy is. He’s still very innocent. I loved playing him. I think it’s the most fun I had to date for sure playing a character and I have gotten to play some wonderful characters,” he says adding some of the character traits even come from his own life such as Richie’s habit of chewing his tongue. He also spent two and a half hours a day in pink curlers (as he’s seen in one scene in the movie as well) under an old-style hair dryer.” It was crazy. I definitely have more sympathy for those who are in the make-up or hair trailer for a longer time. Usually I get in and out. I was there longer than anybody which is hard to believe considering how everyone looks in this movie,” he laughed. The film’s make- up and hair stylist team are among the seven finalists already named in that Oscar category.
As for his future films post-Russell he enjoyed doing the Crowe picture which he says has a great cast including Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams and many others. Next he goes into American Sniper, a true story which starts shooting April 1st under Clint Eastwood’s direction. He starts training on Monday for the demanding role of the late Navy Seal Chris Kyle, known as the most lethal sniper in American history. It requires an entirely different physical transformation. “If you do see me during awards season don’t be surprised if I start to gain a lot of weight and my hair turns red. There’s nothing wrong with me so don’t worry,” he laughed. Steven Spielberg was initially attached to the project being produced by Cooper’s company, but the actor says for whatever reason his deal did not go through, so he’s thrilled Eastwood came on board. And after that it appears Cooper is going to be doing The Elephant Man on Broadway in the Fall. He had previously done the role for his thesis in grad school and then a couple of summers ago in Williamstown with no idea that it would lead to Broadway but that’s the way it is working out, he says. There’s also another film in the can, Serena, with Lawrence, his Silver Linings and Hustle co-star. He’s not sure when it will be released but says it is in the final stages of completion by Oscar-winning Danish director Susanne Bier. It was shot before Hustle.
Busy guy, but not too busy for yet another awards season go-round. Actors should have these kinds of problems.
Hey everybody! As mentioned, Bradley graced the cover of the January 2014 issue of “GQ” magazine. I have uploaded 10 magazine scans for all of y’all to view in the gallery! It’s a great article and some awesome photos! So be sure to check it out and enjoy!
Magazine Scans > Scans from 2014 > Jan 2014: GQ
Hey everybody! As you may know, Bradley has covered the January 2014 issue of “GQ” magazine. I have updated the gallery with 9 MQ photos of Bradley from the photoshoot. If you haven’t catch the article yet, you can read it here. I’m hoping to get scans in the gallery as soon as we possibly can. Enjoy!
Studio Photoshoots > Photoshoots > Photoshoots from 2014 > Set 001
Oahu, Hawaii: Speeding down the side of a volcano in a rental-car-colored Chevy Cruze, Honolulu spreading out like a sun-glazed mirage beneath us. Bradley Cooper is eating a salad and driving at the same time. A little white dog noses out into the road in front of us, then retreats. “Can you imagine if we just ran over that dog?” Cooper says, eyes bright and blue, like they’ve been plugged into an invisible outlet. He’s wearing a white Philadelphia Eagles baseball cap, navy blue shorts, flip-flops. In the Cruze with him, you feel the amiable presence of all the on-screen characters he’s played—Phil from The Hangover, say—who might good-naturedly joke about ending a small dog’s life. Who’d probably break down in real, unfeigned tears if it actually happened. Anyway, he swerves in plenty of time. Then sets aside his salad.
Cooper has been here for the past couple of months, starring as a military contractor in a new, as-yet-untitled Cameron Crowe film with Emma Stone and Bill Murray and Danny McBride, living in a temporary apartment, and marveling at his good fortune. We drive for a while, then emerge from a tunnel to see Kailua Bay, all glittery and green in front of us. “Isn’t this beautiful?” Cooper asks. It is.
Just last night, Cooper and David O. Russell got on FaceTime to wrap the final bit of editing on American Hustle, their follow-up to Silver Linings Playbook, the screwball romance that provided Cooper with an Oscar nomination and, more or less, the career he’s suddenly in the midst of now, far from the trenches of monster movies and made-for-TV fables and B-list romantic comedies in which he played characters with names like Faceman and Demo. He’s got a sideline in antic dreamers these days: In American Hustle, based on the real-life Abscam FBI operation of the late ’70s, in which the bureau employed two con artists to help bring down a number of dirty congressmen and other assorted government o?cials, Cooper plays Richie DiMaso, an FBI agent burning bright with ambition and self-delusion. David O. Russell has a skill, unique among modern filmmakers, for exalting and adoring people at their worst. And Cooper, it turns out, is wonderful at this, too: playing guys who are ruined but five minutes from realizing it. Guys who want to make it so badly that they undo themselves trying. DiMaso talks as fast as he thinks slow, but you sort of love him for it, and this is because of Cooper—at 39, he has become a master of indignity, hilarious to the degree that his characters have no idea that they’re funny at all.
Cooper parks the Cruze outside a café he likes in Kailua, a few blocks from the ocean. On the way into the restaurant, Cooper—who grew up just outside Philadelphia and has an actor’s eye for the mannerisms of others—points out that I walk like I’m from Philly, too, with a kind of exaggerated limp (guilty, on both counts), and for a while we talk about home. They seat us in the back, under some palm trees, just off the street. Out past the curb there’s a man covered in filth, ranting in the road. “I felt like I was back in Philly,” Cooper says, laughing, watching the guy head down the street. We start talking: about Cooper’s childhood, which was idyllic as childhoods go; about his early days acting in New York City, sweating it out in commercials for Spanish cell phones and in bit parts on shows like Sex and the City; about finally coming to Los Angeles.
Here in Hawaii, where the blue of the sky seems to come right down to the pavement, it’s all a little incongruous, going back through this stuff—the time before Bradley Cooper was Bradley Cooper—and you can tell he’d rather be hours into the future, in civilian mode again, talking after the interview. (One clue: “I can’t wait to talk after we have the interview,” he says.) His past couple of years, ever since 2011’s Limitless proved that he could be a box-office draw sans Wolf Pack, have been the type of years that guys with bit parts on shows like Sex and the City don’t get to have: awards, famous and/or model-y consorts—Renée Zellweger, Zoe Saldana, and current girlfriend, Suki Waterhouse, to name three—prestige directors, saying “no” a lot instead of leaping to say “yes.”
He’s made it to the other side. But now he’s waiting for the rest of the world to realize it. “‘People aren’t going to give it up for you right away,’” Russell says he told Cooper just recently. “They’re going to be like, ‘Well, wait a second, you get to be this guy in this comedy and have these girls, you know, different girlfriends you’ve had, and you’re an actor with great depths and substance and awards consideration? Not so fast.’ ”
Cooper would like it to be that fast. But in the meantime he’ll make due, narrate the story of his past life one more time. He’s just begun to tell me about Alias, the J. J. Abrams show that brought him out to California for good, when he notices the filthy ranting guy is back and zigzagging our way.
Cooper stops midsentence—the first thing Jennifer Garner, his Alias co-star, ever said to him was “Do you want a cookie?” but we will never find out the rest of this story—and interrupts himself.
“I think we’re going to fucking get in a fight, bro.”
Aside from the drug-enhanced novelist/stockbroker/corporate raider he portrayed in Limitless, Cooper has probably never played a guy as smart as he is in real life. At Georgetown, where he graduated with honors, Cooper wrote his thesis on Nabokov’s Lolita, remembers shedding actual tears in the campus library reading Romeo and Juliet, and still speaks with an eerie recall of and sincere affection for the other writers he read in the English program there. In the backyard of the café, I watch him, moved to something close to joy, recall his first encounter with Paradise Lost.
“Milton, bro? Milton. Fuckin’—that was the end of it. Motherfucker’s 57 or whatever, blind, dictating it to his fucking daughter-nurse—Paradise Lost? I mean, I just couldn’t… That poem fucking killed me. Satan? That character was un-fucking-believable. I could taste him in my mouth, dude, reading that. I really, really, for some reason, connected with that poem.”
It probably helped that he was out of the Irish Catholic home he grew up in. His father, who died in 2011, was a stockbroker; his mother worked for the local NBC affiliate. Cooper’s love of cinema comes from his dad, a guy who, if not for the place and time he came from, might have ended up a lot like his son did. “He had to carry a knife to fucking school, so he just wanted to get the fuck out of there and make money,” Cooper says. “In another world, my father would be doing the same thing I’m doing.”
After Georgetown, he moved to New York and worked nights as a doorman at the Morgans Hotel while he studied acting at the New School with celebrity-whisperer James Lipton. He skipped his graduation to “get fucked in the ass by Michael Ian Black” in 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer—his first-ever film role—and, that same year, landed a supporting role on Alias as Will Tippin, a journalist but more fundamentally the best, most understanding friend and possible romantic interest that Jennifer Garner could ever have.
Alias was an education; it also nearly ended Cooper’s career before it began. His part, full of promise at the beginning of the series, grew less substantial as the show progressed: “I would only work three days a week. And then for the second season, I got even more sidelined. I was like, ‘Ugh.’ And then next thing you know, I was like, ‘I want to fucking kill myself.’ ” So against the advice of nearly every single person he knew, and despite having exactly zero future jobs lined up, he asked to be written off the show. “J.J. was like, ‘Okay.’ He probably would’ve fired me, anyway.”
Two weeks later, he tore his Achilles playing basketball and spent the next year on a couch, swallowing Vicodin, watching the Tour de France, and fantasizing about quitting acting altogether: “At some point, you have to come to terms with The business just doesn’t want you, you know what I mean?”
But he healed, and then, in 2004, he got cast in Wedding Crashers. “A fucking tyrant” is how he describes the character now. His very own Satan, from Paradise Lost.
Cooper has attempted many, many different characters on-screen—film agents, community-radio-station DJs, geologists, novelists, cameramen, child psychologists—but to this day he is primarily known for just one of them: Sack, from Wedding Crashers, Rachel McAdams’s shotgun-toting fiancé, a frat bully with emotional-vulnerability issues. This character type, a villain in that film, recurs in Cooper’s subsequent movies, most famously as a hero in The Hangover, in which Cooper—playing a more warmhearted though equally retrograde Sack—became an inspiration to millions of men, some significant percentage of whom are on the Las Vegas Strip right now, behaving badly.
Back then, whether by intention or happenstance, Cooper was putting together a catalog that detailed a universally recognizable species of American manhood: khaki-clad, open-shirted, bestubbled, improbably charming. He has sported more cargo pockets and worn more nylon, usually in the form of track pants, than any other male actor in the history of cinema. For a while on-screen, Cooper seemed less aspirational—yet another movie star we admired from a distance—than simply someone we knew or had once met, possibly at a fraternity. (This, perhaps, was never exactly true: “I’ve just never seen him as a frat boy,” his American Hustle co-star Amy Adams says. “I understand how people could perceive that. But he’s a very soulful person, a very open person. I think that people can mistake a sort of laid-back quality for that frat thing.”)
Cameron Crowe says he cast Cooper for this exact approachable quality: “You want to be able to find somebody that makes you go, I feel like him.”
It’s that persona—Uncomplicated Complacent American Man—that Cooper is now busy subverting and humanizing, with the help of guys like Crowe and Russell, who’ve lately been turning Cooper’s easy likability against itself. The Place Beyond the Pines director Derek Cianfrance cast Cooper last year as a cop whose very American ambitions curdle everything good around and inside him; the first time you see him on-screen, he’s putting a bullet in Ryan Gosling, an act that took him about as high up the unlikability index as you could go in 2013. Russell, in Silver Linings, dressed the actor in an actual trash bag, and it changed Cooper’s life.
Now that he’s an Oscar nominee and working with directors he never thought he’d even make it into a room with, there’s a temptation to tell his story as one of redemption, as if Silver Linings Playbook and all that’s come after it bailed him out of the purgatory of his earlier roles.
But in Cooper’s case, before and after are inseparable: Some significant part of why he’s so good in Silver Linings—as a guy whose stint in a mental institution has left him with nothing but lingering rage issues and a potentially misplaced faith in the power of positive thinking—is the weird electricity that comes from watching a guy known for playing jerks with all the answers suddenly realize that he was, in fact, a jerk and that all his answers were wrong.
And anyway, it was Wedding Crashers that got Cooper the Silver Linings role in the first place. “He was to me a palpably angry person in Wedding Crashers,” Russell says. “And then when I met him, his answer when I said that to him revealed so much dimension and depth from him as a human being. [Cooper] said how he had been someone who was thirty pounds heavier. He had been someone who tended to be not as happy. He had used sarcasm or anger to hide behind some of his fear. He was more afraid and less happy, so he had used that bristliness to hide that. Which was such an amazing answer that I just felt a real soul connection to the person, you know?”
There are events in Cooper’s life during the years after Wedding Crashers that he’ll talk about openly and others that he won’t. This is understandable: Cooper spent a good amount of the past decade being stalked by photographers and plagued by tabloids, in part because of a high-profile relationship with Renée Zellweger and in part because he was otherwise single, handsome, and maybe being confused a bit with some of the Lotharios he was playing on-screen. He also made mistakes—mistakes that made him as a man and as an actor, but mistakes nonetheless, ones he’s not too eager to revisit. Questions about his personal life
in this period tend to be met with a glare. And yet if you want to understand why Bradley Cooper is so happy to be where he is now, it helps to understand where he was before and how he’s still, in some ways, dealing with it.
In 2006, he got married—to the actress Jennifer Esposito—and then divorced, four months later. A year or two before that, he’d gotten sober after a bad run with alcohol and drugs, the varieties of which he declines to specify. He was 29, confronting the fact that “if I continued it, I was really going to sabotage my whole life.”
Did it ever have any effect on your work?
“I mean, it has to have. And to this day, of course, because it’s a life experience. And all I do is bring life experience. That’s all anybody really does. It’s inescapable.”
But it was never like, “Oh, I didn’t show up on set.”
“Oh no. No, no, no, no, no, no. No, never. No. You mean like, in a logistic point of view, like: ‘He’s late?’ No, no, no.”
So it was more of a personal thing—it wasn’t like work was getting fucked up?
“No, I think work was getting fucked up.”
In what way?
“In the way that if—the one thing that I’ve learned in life is the best thing I can do is embrace who I am and then do that to the fullest extent, and then whatever happens, happens. The more steps I do to not do that, the farther I am away from fulfilling any potential I would have. So the answer to that question, then, is: Yes, of course it hindered the work.”
Emma Stone, who also worked with Cooper on 2008’s The Rocker, says she’s asked him to pinpoint the moment he feels like he improved as an actor. This period of drying out, and what came after it, is what Cooper invariably refers to. Says Stone: “He has been very clear he’s gotten more and more present in his life as he’s gotten older.”
Cooper says that afteffr getting sober, he took the roles he could get and felt grateful to have them. Six episodes on Nip/Tuck. A quickly canceled sitcom based on Anthony Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential. He got his first proper lead in a horror film called The Midnight Meat Train (Wikipedia plot excerpt: “They fight in between the swinging human meat, Leon’s knives against Mahogany’s meat hammer”) and played opposite Sandra Bullock in a Golden Raspberry–winning turn as worst couple in 2009’s All About Steve.
The work wasn’t great, but it was constant. Plus, he was happy, basically, arriving at a kind of self-acceptance. “I was doing these movies, and I got to meet Sandra Bullock and meet these people and work with them. And I’m sober, and I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m actually myself. And I don’t have to put on this air to be somebody else, and this person still wants to work with me? Oh, what the fuck is that about?’ I was rediscovering myself in this workplace, and it was wonderful.”
He pauses. “Now, in the back of my head, or in a place of my heart of, like, creativity, did I feel utterly fulfilled? Absolutely not. But I was grateful and happy to be working, and filling that void in smaller moments.”
It’s dark now, out in the backyard of the café. The ranting guy is gone; our fight ended up being with each other, not with him. Mostly because I keep asking about the things Cooper enjoys talking about least: his marriage, getting sober, the years of playing jerks on film—characters whom he came to love and so resents the suggestion that they were just frat guys with no redeeming value. “We’re obviously both from Philadelphia,” Cooper says to me at one point, mid-argument, kinda laughing, kinda not. Mostly not.
As the light fails, Cooper and I hop back in the Cruze, drive back up through the mountains in the twilight air. We talk about what his life’s been like lately, since Silver Linings Playbook changed it. He says being nominated for an Oscar was cool but never felt entirely real: “Did I want to win it? I never thought that I would ever win it. So it wasn’t even a question of that.”
In the car he pulls out his phone, shows me a picture he’s got saved on it. It’s a still from the set of American Hustle. Cooper is in full ’70s regalia, kneeling in a stairwell, talking to Russell. They’re conferring about the scene where DiMaso—well, let’s just say he fully cracks up. The scene where you love the character the most for the terrible choices he’s making.
In the Cruze, Cooper looks incredulously at the photo for a minute, like it’s confirmation of something he knows but doesn’t totally believe: This is his life now, working daily with guys like David O. Russell. Then he hands it over, still marveling at what it contains. “That’s us in the stairway. Me and David.”
We come down into Waikiki, where my hotel is. Cooper is quiet the last few blocks, like he’s said what he’s gonna say, and in the deepening, awkward silence, I think again about one of those tense exchanges in the backyard of that café. We were talking about his life before sobriety. I asked if there was anything he did specifically where he felt like, Damn, I regret that. He said no.
What about that phase of your life in general?
So it’s not a time you look back on with sadness.
“With sadness? Sad parts of it.”
But not as a whole, like, “If I could go back and do it again, I would do it differently”?
He smiled—one of those smiles that aren’t really smiles at all.
“I’m glad I don’t have to.”