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Gentlemen’s Quarterly

GQ Magazine Australia
Published: May 27, 2011

A few hours before I speak to Bradley Cooper, star of 2009’s gross-out comedy smash The Hangover and its sequel The Hangover Part II, Elizabeth Taylor dies. It’s unexpected news, the end of an era; as we speak, the counter of online news stories ?is clicking over into the thousands. Asked if he was a fan, Cooper’s response is incredulous. ?“Of course, are you kidding me?”

Asked to nominate his favourite Taylor role, Cooper doesn’t hesitate: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. A discussion of the 1966 classic and other Taylor moments ensues.

“It was Mike Nichols’ first movie,” says Cooper. “Isn’t that nuts? Before The Graduate. ?It seemed to be a precursor to a Cassavetes movie or something. And I remember her in Giant — she was so gorgeous. Oh my God.”

Cooper is an excitable conversationalist, especially on the topic of films. When it comes to the movies, entire sentences are italicised and abrupt interjections pepper our discussion. Without warning, he suddenly blurts out “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof!”

The conversation shifts to the 1958 film adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play.

“There’s one scene in the movie that’s not in the play where he’s being so cool towards her and then goes into the bathroom,” says Cooper on the relationship between Taylor and Paul Newman’s character, Brick, and the film’s rather genteel treatment of the play’s homosexual themes. “You see this private moment with Brick where he envelops his face in her gown and you realise how much he wants her. The movie shied away from what the play implied. That one scene changed everything, because if you take that out, then it’s just like… he doesn’t want to fuck her. Know what I mean?” Cooper pauses and laughs. “Probably more than that… obviously.”

As our movie discussion continues, I realise I am having one of those rare moments in a Hollywood interview — a very pleasant time. Interview? Forget the interview: I’m happy to talk movies with Bradley Cooper all day.

Speaking with Cooper, it’s easy to forget that the genial, self-deprecating, 36-year-old actor with ?a face somewhere between football quarterback, Renaissance portrait and young Ralph Fiennes is now, and within only the last few months, ?a bona fide star.

After being paid $5 million, plus four per cent of gross box office, for his part in The Hangover sequel, and as executive producer and star of the surprise sci-fi hit Limitless, Cooper is being touted as the latest Next Big Thing. It’s the kind of label that brings with it a weight of expectation of which any actor might be as terrified of as excited by. In Cooper’s case, however, it is difficult not to see it as a mere statement of fact.

From a childhood spent in suburban Philadelphia to his current status as someone who is approaching the base camp of fame’s Everest, Cooper’s journey has been an unlikely one. After completing his undergraduate degree in English at Georgetown University, Washington DC, the athletic actor studied at New York’s Actors Studio Drama School and worked as a hotel doorman. In that time, by his own admission, he simply did whatever work came his way. This included short stints on Sex and the City, teen movie parody Wet Hot American Summer (his big-screen debut and first on-screen gay kiss) and, most bizarrely, as self-described “worst host ever” of several episodes of Treks in a Wild World, released in Australia as Pilot Guides (there’s a clip of him on the internet modestly removing his clothes at ?a nude beach in Croatia, for those interested).

Eventually he was cast in cult hit spy series Alias, but his first break on the big screen — at least the first to hint at the scope and versatility of his talents — was as Sack Lodge in Wedding Crashers. His comedic turn as a psychopathic jock got him noticed and eventually he got the role of Phil in The Hangover, the nonchalant libertine who leads the cast into a Las Vegas bacchanal involving a tiger in the bathroom, Mike Tyson drumming to Phil Collins and co-star Zach Galifianakis pretending to masturbate a baby.

© 2011 GQ Australia | Written by Brendan Shanahan | No copyright infringment intended.