As “Silver Linings Playbook” comes out on DVD, the film that earned Bradley Cooper his first best actor Oscar nomination, well-reviewed “Place Beyond the Pines” is playing around the country, “The Hangover Part III” hits theaters on May 24, and Steven Spielberg has picked as his next movie “American Sniper,” which was developed by Cooper’s Warner Bros. production company. He’ll star as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, an ace sniper who was tragically killed. This actor is clearly doing something right.
In February Cooper rejoined David O. Russell for his next film, Abscam 80s drama “American Hustle,” set for year-end award-season release from Sony, in which he’ll co-star with “Silver Linings” pals Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro, plus “The Fighter” Oscar-winners Christian Bale and Amy Adams, as well as Russell newbies Jeremy Renner, Jack Huston, Louis CK and Michael Pena.
And just to keep things interesting, Cooper has already shot “Serena” a North Carolina 1929 period drama co-starring Lawrence as his ambitious wife, directed by Susanne Bier, who won the Oscar for Danish foreign entry “In a Better World.” “I keep working with this amazing woman,” he says. “It’s another big swing. Susanne’s a very strong director, very collaborative
too. There’s not much dolly track, it’s hand held.”The film will likely turn up on the fall festival circuit in advance as it seeks a North American distributor.
Cooper isn’t sitting back and waiting for things to come to him. When he’s not turning down raunchy comedies from the studios –unless it’s an actual “Hangover” sequel–he’s doing favors for friends, like playing a deliciously creepy criminal in no-budget road comedy “Hit and Run” for Dax Shepherd, or the author who takes credit for writing a bestseller in “The Words,” for director Brian Klugman. “He’s my best friend since I was a kid,” says Cooper. “Those two choices were no-brainers. If I’m in a position where I can help
somebody else fulfill their goal I’m going to do it. It may be seen as
stupid. But I loved the experience of both of those films, I love those guys.”
He also defends the diversity of his roles in bigger movies like Joe Carnahan actioner “The A Team” with Liam Neeson and Sharlto Copley (“I learned to run and gun in a real way”) and Neil Burger’s smart-drug thriller “Limitless,” which “couldn’t have been more different.”
Cooper has his eye on role models Ben Affleck and George Clooney: yes, he’s watching his directors carefully, because he wants to direct. He’s even co-writing a screenplay adaptation of Dan Simmons’ sci-fi entry “Hyperion,” about seven travelers tracking a demon god. “My experience with David [Russell] opened the doors for that,” he says. “He shared his
process, I learned so much from him, I will steal everything I can to make a movie
on my own.”
Cooper was in the middle of shooting his dramatic role as a beat cop who rises to district attorney in Derek Cianfrance’s “Place Beyond the Pines” when he got the call from Russell on “Silver Linings Playbook.” He knew that Jennifer Lawrence and his old friend Robert De Niro were involved, so he just said ‘yes.’ He had already read the script and thought it had gone away. “This and the character I played in ‘Place Beyond the Pines,’ although for different reasons,” he told me, “I really felt I wasn’t right for the roles. I just didn’t know if I could do this, if I could pull this off in a real way.”
What was so scary?
“I know how demanding David is, it’s really no bullshit acting, you have to be real. I go, ‘God I don’t know if I can create a character that can take this audience on the arc of this movie and introduce them to all these different characters vis a vis this character.’ I gave all that fear away and looked him in the eyes and said, ‘if you believe that I am the guy, than I will go down this road with you, because I have never seen a bad performance out of anybody in any of your movies.’ I decided I was just going to roll the dice.”
Wasn’t the idea of working with Russell scary?
“I’ve been in the business since 2001, and any director worth their weight in gold is
intense, because it’s an intense atmosphere. It can manifest itself in a calm
way, or in a high octane infectious energy way. David has all of those
colors. He has a very soothing voice. For me, it was the most amazing
experience, I’m doing another with him, based on Abscam in the 80s, around what happened with Mel Weinberg, a snake oil salesman who worked with the FBI to take out some congressmen in Philadelphia. I feel grateful that he wants to work with me again, It worked with Jen and Bob, the three of us, it just clicked.”
How did you pull off that group scene with Jennifer and Bob and the sports stats?
was like doing intimate theater that day. David had two cameras going
at all times. We shot on 35 mm, steadicam or handheld, the d.p. lit for
360 degrees so in the middle of it we could turn it around.
We were all there for each other. During the dance scene, Bob spent two days on the
sidelines, that guy was there as an extra watching that scene, all day
long. My character’s relationship with his father is very different from the book, we were creating
a different thing. There’s no reason to go against the thing Bob and I have in our
lives, he’s a friend. I loved to say Dad on set all the time, it was nice to
believe that he’s my father. In the book they don’t talk to each other, what
a waste that would be. There are chunks of truth that’s born out of love that resonates in the book and script.”
How did you and Lawrence handle those dance routines?
“It was the best thing that could have happened, since I was coming from another movie,
I drove straight from Schenectady
to Philly to rehearse in a studio. We had to learn how to dance, all sweaty, we had three weeks to nail it. She’s 22 years old, she has this quality, like Bob, that is really
powerful. It’s not so much that he’s a great actor, which he is, but he has this
quality, as does she. You can be great actor, she’s a chameleon, but I do see this
similar quality in all her work. She’s 45
and 25 at same time, and so much so that when I hang out with her I realize
she’s just a kid. Physically she’s built like a throwback movie star. She doesn’t look like a child, she moves like a beautiful
How did you approach the bipolarity of your character?
“There was a lot of discussion. The way that David works, you do a lot of different variations on a take, quickly, because we only had 34 days to shoot the movie. It’s all modulation. In the beginning when we started filming, we did a lot of takes. There was an Asperger’s tendency working its way in, then we thought, ‘that’s just too much.’ We had this idea of his being bipolar, where extreme situations that occur catapult him into this high emotional place. But for him to be in that place all the time, we found that in scenes with other actors, you’re not going to sustain a movie like that. We found that, all the time being very truthful to our experience with that condition, whether via family members or people who we know, all the time being conscious of that, it became clear what was working and wasn’t working.”
Why did you want to work with David again?
what David brings, it comes from love, and there’s zero ego, he’s a
collaborator, I learned what that word meant on ‘Silver Linings.’ The
only thing he requires of you is to really show up, don’t bring your
bedroom perfect take on character or the
scene. If you do that, it’s not going to work, you’re going to have a
day. You show up for work, take all
your clothes off, get naked and bomb, you have to get ready to rock on
‘ok, camera!’ This is
like,’ready? Cry here, cry, ok, come on, come on, come on, what’s
happening? Everybody standing around, get out of your head, now!’
How would you compare working with Cianfrance and Russell?
“It’s the same core, that same love is shining as brightly in both beings, but the funnel by which it goes through and comes out is at a different mode. When you meet Derek: ‘Hey man, let’s try that Bradley,’ it’s different, you’re marching with everybody at the same beat. With David you’re a sprinter and you never know where you’re going to go in terms of marching with this creative man. I love it, we fit, it’s perfect, I honestly found a kindred spirit. Creatively, I love the way he works. Anyone who can bring you out of your comfort zone and can get you in a place quickly. He’s interested in what’s happening now, that’s all he cares about.”
Given the right vehicle, the fluent French-speaker
does want to shoot a film in France, someday, ideally, with Melanie
Laurent. And inspired by the movie that made him first want to be an
actor–David Lynch’s “The
Elephant Man”–he starred last year as the deformed Joseph
Merrick in the play, sans makeup, at the Williamstown Theater Festival.
(He’d like to take it to Broadway).