Bradley Cooper: “The Words” with Friends

"The Hangover" actor talks working with his icons and the jobs that kept him going during the lean times.

Words rarely fail Bradley Cooper, and he’s hoping “The Words” won’t either.

While he serves as both star and executive producer of the drama, which weaves a complex multi-story tapestry out of a tale of literary plagiarism, Cooper’s got more than a professional or creative investment in “The Words." The film was co-written and co-directed by his childhood friends from Philadelphia, Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, who’ve been cultivating the story for over a decade, making it a genuine labor of love for the 37-year-old star.

In keeping with the movie’s themes, Cooper reflects on living a life in the arts – both in the struggling years and the era of red-hot successes, both of which he knows a little something about.

On coping with the regular cycle of rejection that comes with a creative career:

“Actually, when I first started auditioning, I didn’t realize – and I’m not even kidding – that you actually could book a job. I remember like after a week, I was hanging out with my friends and yeah, I got a couple of callbacks. That was a very successful weekend because I always had another job. So when I actually started…I still remember like when I booked "Sex in the City," I was very frightened because I had to actually DO the job. I didn’t really understand that concept. Believe me: ‘It’s not a videotape and this is a room where I actually have to be like on the street – What do you mean? With Sarah Jessica Parker? Are you kidding?’ So I came at it from another side where rejection was normal and getting it was odd.”

On experiencing success and the challenge of trying to maintain it going forward:

“I remember being in school and Meryl Streep came to our school and said that the easiest thing is to do your first good movie but then to do your second, that’s the hardest…You know, I don’t really look at it that way. It depends, I guess, where your goal is and if your goal is to just grow as an actor, then everything’s an opportunity, so that’s how I look at it. Everything’s an opportunity. It’s not that this has to land and this has to land. I don’t want to act or create in a bubble. I care very much about how things are received and want them to be enjoyed, but I don’t see anything bringing more pressure than not.”

On appreciating why his writer character in "The Words" makes some questionable moral choices:

“I see Rory as a man who’s not really a man and grappling with what it is to be a man, and I think his Achilles heel is his impatience. And the thing that I really liked about the script, the hook for me, was the fact that he actually is a good writer. He’s not a poor writer who’s just looking for any way to get success. He’s a writer that has talent, but he’s just so preoccupied with living up to some idea of who he thinks he should be and that’s his fatal flaw.”

On working opposite much-admired actors – in this case, Jeremy Irons:

“[It was] a dream, yeah. I think excitement superseded any nervousness. Sometimes you have a feeling about somebody, but he is a very welcoming individual. Like a lot of great actors – they make you feel comfortable. I remember the most nervous I’ve ever been was to meet Christopher Walken during "Wedding Crashers," and talk about a guy who puts you at ease! I mean, I just kind of fell in love with him, and the same thing with Robert De Niro. And Jeremy Irons follows suit completely, and Liam Neeson – all these sort of icons that I’ve had the honor to work with have all had one thread, which is normalcy. I mean, he’s a very normal guy. He was great and everybody felt that way. I mean, these two guys never directed a movie before and Jeremy Irons shows up and he made everybody feel completely at ease. I mean, he could have just come in like a wrecking crew and destroyed everything, and he didn’t. Quite the opposite and we had to do it in 25 days and he had tons of dialogue. It’s not like he could, say, ‘Let’s talk about the scene,’ and ‘Let me take my time and figure out where I want to sit on the bench.’ It was like, ‘No we've got to do this, boom. We’re going to lay the track here, we’re going to shoot the scene,’ and he was game.”

On returning for one more go-round with the “Hangover” fellas:

“I just got so lucky: Todd Phillips is, in my opinion, the best comedic director around and he’s a real filmmaker and Zack [Galifianakis] and Ed [Helms] are incredible and Ken Jeong has just grown and grown. He’s a wonderful actor and we got great actors coming aboard this third one too so I can’t wait. And I love Phil – I love that character.”

On that day job that got him through the no-role-booking period:

“It was at the Morgan Hotel as a doorman, 38th and Madison. Do you need a taxi? I’ve still got it!”


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