Bradley Cooper on ‘Nightmare Alley’ Nude Scene: ‘You Have to Do It’

The Oscar winner never hesitated to appear naked in Guillermo del Toro's film because "there was nothing gratuitous about it."
"Nightmare Alley" Bradley Cooper in Lilith's Office
Lilith's Office in "Nightmare Alley"
Searchlight Pictures

Bradley Cooper is establishing himself as one of Hollywood’s top directors with “A Star is Born” and the upcoming Leonard Bernstein biopic “Maestro,” but as an actor he continues to push himself as hard as ever. He currently stars as Machiavellian carny Stanton Carlisle in Guillermo del Toro’s noir “Nightmare Alley.” The role forced Cooper to explore some new territory as an actor, as it marks his first time doing full frontal nudity in a film.

A bathtub sex scene between Cooper and Toni Collette has emerged as a memorable moment in the film, and Cooper stands by the decision. In an interview with Kim Masters on her KCRW show “The Business,” Cooper recalled the awkward experience but expressed no regrets about the finished product (from The Hollywood Reporter).

“I remember reading in the script and thinking, he’s a pickled punk in that bathtub and it’s to story. You have to do it,” he said. “I can still remember that day, just to be naked in front of the crew for six hours, and it was Toni Collette’s first day. It was just like, ‘Whoa.’ It was pretty heavy.”

While he admitted that his first nude scene was “a big deal,” Cooper said that the decision to appear naked was made for purely artistic reasons. “Because the content of what the movie is, what we were exploring, in order to do it in a real way, it demanded that we’d be naked emotionally and soulfully,” he said.

Cooper was far from the only male thespian to strip down in 2021. Benedict Cumberbatch is drawing Oscar buzz for his role in “The Power of the Dog,” which also featured full frontal nudity. Much like Cumberbatch, Bradley Cooper went through an intense period of preparation to understand his “Nightmare Alley” character. “It really is akin to putting on a miner’s kit, hat and flashlight, and looking at each other and then going down in the tunnel,” he said. “Knowing that you may be excavating a route that won’t ever get you to the end that day but you come back up and go down again the next day.”

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