Bradley Cooper’s seeming overnight success as one of the co-leads in the two “Hangover” films was not exactly overnight.
Bradley Cooper’s seeming overnight success as one of the co-leads in the two “Hangover” films was not exactly overnight. The actor had paid his dues, breaking in as a gay camp counselor in the cult hit “Wet Hot American Summer” in 2001, and starring as a photographer-turned-stalker in the horror quickie “The Midnight Meat Train” in 2008.
Though there were lots of small parts in between, it was “The Hangover” that got him seen, and got him the lead in last year’s “Limitless.” But it was a phone call from an old pal that got him the part in “The Words,” playing a talented writer who can’t catch a break, then publishes a manuscript he finds – without a name on it – and puts his own name on it, resulting in critical and financial success, but emotional ruin.
The script was written and directed by two boyhood pals of Cooper’s, Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal. Cooper said yes to playing the part of protagonist Rory Jansen long before “The Hangover” even existed.
“Brian and Lee wrote the script in 1999, and I saw a reading of it when I first moved to L.A.,” said Cooper. “They decided they wanted to direct it about four years ago, and asked me if I wanted to play Rory. They already had financers, and I said yes, and that was it. We just tried to find a date.” Cooper found it fairly easy to identify with the film’s struggling writer after spending so many years as a struggling actor. That kind of thinking helped to inform his portrayal.
“You try to bring whatever you can from your own life so that you can make yourself believe the lines you’re saying that have been written for you,” he said. “Absolutely rejection, on a daily basis, multiple times, as an actor, is something you have to become accustomed to.
“But Rory’s moral dilemma was not something that I could relate to,” he added. “Rory robbed himself of the experience of creating. The only thing that I could relate it to is that it’s like playing a tennis match and hoping your opponent double faults so you can win the point, as opposed to wanting him to get the serve in so you could beat it in the point. So I was thinking, ‘Why do I want him to double fault? Do I just want to win? No, I want to play tennis.’ It’s really similar.” Another case of something seeming to be similar – Cooper plays a writer struggling for inspiration in this film as well as in “Limitless” – isn’t anything he planned. Cooper came onboard both films after they were already written.
“It’s really just coincidence that I happen to play two writers,” he said. “I do think that Eddie Morra (in “Limitless”) and Rory Jansen are both interesting, compelling characters. I see them as very different, though. Eddie is Rory if Rory was 10 years older and had given up on writing. When we meet Eddie at the beginning of ‘Limitless,’ he knows he’s not who he thought he was. All he knows is he’s worthless. Rory is much more idealistic when we meet him, and impatient and wanting and hungry. So they just happen to both be writers.” Cooper admitted that aside from having a successful career in making movies, he is and always has been a fan of them.
Page 2 of 2 - “I’m definitely a victim of the magical essence of movies,” he said. “I still to this day feel like I did when I was 10 years old going to the movies. I love when the lights go down and the movie’s about to start.”
He was very candid about the fact that he was totally star struck when he met Jeremy Irons, who plays the character that actually wrote the manuscript found by Cooper’s character.
“The first time I met Jeremy and heard his voice it was incredible,” he said. “But then very quickly what starts to happen is they become human. Robert De Niro is the best example of that for me. I love him, and he’s really just ‘Bob,’ and I never thought that that would be possible! But in many ways, he’s the reason I became an actor, and now we’ve done two movies (“Limitless” and the upcoming “Silver Linings Playbook”).
“That process is so fascinating. I think it happened for all of us with Jeremy, and it’s because these guys – like Liam Neeson and Christopher Walken – are so present and down to earth and make you feel at ease. In terms of acting with them, it’s just effortless because they are so good and you are in such great hands. When you’re acting with a great actor, it’s not as if you’re playing against them in a sport. I don’t want to be playing against Jeremy Irons; I want to be playing with him. Acting is a collaborative sport, and what you’re up against is telling the story. So you’re all on the same team.”
“The Words” opens on Friday.
The Patriot Ledger