After a rough start to 2011, Bradley Cooper is back with his latest film, Limitless. ShortList’s Lee Coan finds him rallying in style…
Sixteen days prior to this interview, Bradley Cooper’s father died. A day later, his mother’s house caught fire. This gets worse. The Cooper living room burned while Brad, his girlfriend Renée Zellweger and his newly widowed mother were all inside, grieving. Thankfully, nobody was hurt.
“Life is full of… you know,” Cooper begins. His tone is pensive. There’s a sigh, then a silence - a long silence, the kind you can feel in the back of your throat. This is very awkward.
It’s 10am, and with the smell of damp soot still overpowering his family home in Philadelphia, I need to turn this mess into a funny interview. I need to coerce this understandably devastated man into making you, the readers, laugh via ink on recycled paper. It seems an impossible task, but I’m willing to persevere.
“Every day brings up something else,” he continues. “You never know what is going to happen next. I’m a very blessed person. I’m blessed with gratitude. I’d say it’s an asset that I’m lucky to have. I’m just grateful to be where I am, and alive.”
To be fair, there’s more to be grateful about than just that. Cooper is ‘him’ from The Hangover. He’s in a new film with Robert De Niro. He got paid to play Face from The A-Team and blow up stuff with BA. He hosted WWE Raw last year. Surely that’s every 36-year-old man’s dream? “Oh man, I had so much fun doing that,” he says, picking up. “When I was 12, forget it, no kid was more into Blackjack Mulligan, Andre The Giant, all those old WWF guys. The best thing is, all those dudes have now been given jobs backstage. I’d come out of a toilet, and there’d be Dustin Rhodes and Rowdy Roddy Piper chillin’ out.”
There’s a warm laugh - my ‘let’s talk wrestling’ tactic seems to be working. I push on. What would his wrestling name be? “That’s a good question. That’s the best question anybody has ever asked me. You have to consider how the name is going to work into a theme song and everything.” He’s reading too much into this. “I need some time to think.” He’s reading far too much into this. “For now, can I say it’d be The Caped… something. I’d like a cape. And maybe a midget. A little kinda sidekick dude.”
“Right,” I say earnestly, as if I’m some kind of registrar with powers to license wrestler names. Cooper seems relaxed now, jovial even, but our interview is slipping towards farce, so I mention his latest co-star, De Niro, and how his presence on the film set must have been awe-inspiring if not educational.
“Oh, man, that guy just taught me a lesson in how to not do a f*cking thing,” he explains. “Just communicate with the other actor. Listen to what they’re saying. God, he’s just so good. So good. Bob and I really hit it off.”
I point out that Cooper just called De Niro ‘Bob’. “I know, man, what was I thinking?” he laughs. “Even as I was saying it, I felt that I’m going to need to apologise here for calling him Bob. You know what he calls me? He calls me ‘Hey’. Like, ‘Hey, Hey, come look at this.’”
De Niro and Cooper’s exciting new thriller Limitless centres around a drug that makes people operate at a much higher functionality. So, if art imitated life, if Cooper could take a pill to make him better at something, what would that thing be? “Oh, God. I’d like to be better at everything. For starters, I’d like to be able to give better answers to questions like these. You know what I mean? ‘I’d like to be better at everything.’ Jeez. I’m also awful at skiing and roller-skating. But you know what else really annoys me about myself?” he continues unprovoked. “I have never been that cool guy who sleeps in. You know what I mean? Even as an adult it’s cool to go to bed late and get up late. I just get up so goddamned early, and that annoys me. Why can’t I lie-in like other people?”
“What time do you go to bed?” I ask. A question that wasn’t in my notes. A question I have not asked any celebrity since an ill-fated interview with Lou from Neighbours in 2006.
“Early, man. It’s not right. I don’t even want to say how early.”
“Well, yeah, I’m pretty much tucked up by then.”
BACK IN THE SADDLE
This startling revelation, which will no doubt send the gossip magazines into sheer frenzy, brings us nicely to
The Hangover: a film where Cooper played a party animal who hung with tigers and Mr Michael Tyson.
“When I meet new people, they want to know two things,” he explains. “Was The Hangover fun to film, and how scary was the tiger. Well, it was the most fun you could ever really have, and Katy – well, she was fierce. Whatever you do in life, try not to work with a tiger if you can at all help it. Katy was far scarier than Tyson.”
You can tell from the excitement in Cooper’s voice just how madly proud he still is of The Hangover.
“I think it made $475m (£290m) – you can’t really predict that. There were a couple of scenes where I turned to Todd [Phillips, director] and said, ‘I don’t know if this is even a comedy any more.’ It felt like we were doing this really weird film, which was a good feeling to have, and I had that feeling all over again this time around.”
Next summer’s The Hangover Part II features Phil [Cooper], Alan [Zach Galifianakis] and Doug [Justin Bartha] travelling to Bangkok for Stu’s [Ed Helms] wedding. Bill Clinton and a monkey are rumoured to be involved. From the little we have seen, it looks like the film could be a winner.
“Again, it was just the most fun to shoot. The crazy thing about that movie is that there’s such a microscope on it, that things just become wildly exaggerated. While we were out filming in Bangkok, me, another cast member and Todd went to see Bill Clinton speak out there. That was where the whole Clinton cameo story came from. But we didn’t hang.”
There’s one last subject I want to touch on before we return to normal life: rowing (as in on rivers, not as in on The Jeremy Kyle Show).
“Did I ever tangle with those twins from The Social Network? Well, I crewed at Georgetown,” Cooper explains, “but I never had the pleasure of rowing against the Funklemeisters. I believe I’m older than they are, so we would have been in different years.”
“It’s the Winklevosses, not Funklemeisters.”
“Winklevosses! Right. Funklemeisters? Ha! God. That could be my wrestling name. Funklemeister.”