Bradley Cooper Reflects on the ‘Utterly Meaningless’ Nature of Oscar Season

With eight Oscar nominations under his belt, including four for acting, Bradley Cooper is no stranger to the awards circuit.
Bradley Cooper poses for photographers upon arrival at the BAFTA awards in London, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)
Bradley Cooper
Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

Bradley Cooper is no stranger to Oscar season. As a performer, Cooper has earned three Academy Award nominations for Best Actor thanks to his work in “Silver Linings Playbook,” “American Sniper,” and “A Star Is Born,” and one Supporting Actor nod for “American Hustle.”  As a producer, Cooper has three Best Picture nominations with “American Sniper,” “A Star Is Born,” and “Joker.” Cooper even earned a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination for co-writing “A Star Is Born.”

With so much Oscar season experience under his belt, Cooper has learned something important about the awards circuit: It’s “utterly meaningless.” Interview magazine recently paired Cooper with “Hamilton” and “In the Heights” actor Anthony Ramos for a frank discussion about their careers. Cooper directed Ramos in “A Star Is Born,” where the latter played the best friend of Lady Gaga’s character. When the discussion turned to awards season, Ramos and Cooper got honest about the perils of the circuit.

“It’s funny, you hit awards season and it can be easy for us to make it about individual people,” Ramos said. “But on set, you have your call sheet, and even though you have your leads, it’s a team effort. The grips, the director of photography — that movie is not happening without them. Everyone is the star of that movie.”

“For whatever reason, we choose to single people out at a certain time of year,” Ramos continued. “And if you’re ever asked to be a part of any of those events, it can be very easy for you, meaning me, to think, ‘It’s about me. I’m the only one here from my cast, so it’s only me.’  But what we forget is that we’re a representation of the story that those 150 to 200 people told together. We’re like a walking flag.”

Cooper responded, “That awards season stuff is a real test. It’s set up to foster that mentality. It’s quite a thing to work through, and it’s completely devoid of artistic creation. It’s not why you sacrifice everything to create art, and yet you spend so much time being a part of it if you’re, in quotes, ‘lucky enough to be a part of it.’ It’s ultimately a great thing because it really does make you face ego, vanity, and insecurity. It’s very interesting and utterly meaningless.”

After Cooper failed to land an Oscar nomination for Best Director with “A Star Is Born,” he said the awards circuit tricked him into thinking the snub meant he did not do his job on the movie. This realization left Cooper “embarrassed” and proved to him that “even if I got the nomination, it should not give me any sense of whether I did my job or not. That’s the trick, to make something that you believe in.”

Cooper said at the time that Oscar nominations “play into things that have nothing to do with creative art,” adding, “It’s a whole other element of the business. So, it’s really reconciling its effect on you. That’s the thing I have to deal with.”

Looking ahead, Cooper will follow “A Star Is Born” with his second directorial feature about the life of composer Leonard Bernstein. Cooper is also set to star in the project, which already has the backing of Netflix and producers Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese. Cooper’s upcoming acting credits include Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s untitled new project, both of which could bring him back to the awards circuit.

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