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Bradley Cooper On Getting Back To His Roots

Nov 20, 2012
Originally published on February 20, 2013 3:31 pm

Actor Bradley Cooper became famous for a bachelor party gone wrong in the hit comedy The Hangover. From that role, Cooper went on to People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive." Now there's talk of Oscar buzzing around his new movie Silver Linings Playbook, directed by David O. Russell.

In the film, Cooper plays Pat Solatano, just out of a psychiatric facility and struggling with bipolar disorder. Pat moves back home, where his parents try to manage his moods.

This movie is steeped in family, football and love both lost and found. Cooper tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer that it's a story about emotional extremes.


Interview Highlights

On what his character is going through

"He unfortunately thinks that he can control everything in his life. He really didn't seek any help. He won't take medication, and he thinks that if he can just get his life back together, everything will be fine. But the problem is his wife has a restraining order out against him, he lost his job at the high school, and he's had to move back in with his parents."

On the film's chaotic, quirky, sports-obsessed family

"David O. Russell, who directed the movie — all he really cares about is telling a story that's authentic, that's about a group of people living in a house that feels authentic, in an authentic neighborhood. And these people happen to be on the extreme emotionally, yet the hope is that we can all relate to them.

"The element of the [Philadelphia] Eagles — the element of a sports team, its involvement in the family, how it almost serves as another character within that family — to me, growing up in Philly myself, is very true. Our Sundays revolved around what time the game started. Whenever, you know, we were eating and the game was on, we would bring the TV from the living room into the kitchen, and it's a huge part of the culture."

On the appeal of playing a vulnerable character

"I was actually trepidatious about playing Pat. I didn't think that I really could, and that was probably because deep down somewhere I had just utter fear ... of being able to be that open on film. I had never been asked to do a role that demanded that kind of dexterity and truth.

"And I was terrified, and because of that, the conscious mind said, 'I don't really know if I'm right,' which is kind of crazy because I am from Philadelphia, I'm Italian-Irish, as is Pat Solatano, and I'm a massive Eagles fan. The one thing I did know was if I was going to do this movie, there's no hiding from the minute you show up to set to the minute you wrap that day."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Actor Bradley Cooper became famous for a bachelor party gone wrong in the hit comedy, "The Hangover."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE HANGOVER")

BRADLEY COOPER: (as Phil) We lost Doug.

SASHA BARRESE: (as Tracy) What?

COOPER: We can't find Doug.

BARRESE: What are you saying, Phil? We're getting married in five hours.

COOPER: Yeah, that's not going to happen.

WERTHEIMER: For that role, Cooper went on to become People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive.

COOPER: Oh, no.

WERTHEIMER: But, seriously, there's now talk of Oscar buzzing around the newest movie. It's called "Silver Linings Playbook." Cooper plays Pat Solitano, just out of a psychiatric facility, struggling with bipolar disorder. Pat moves back home, where his parents try to manage his moods, like the night he wakes them up after he's just finished a Hemingway novel.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK")

COOPER: (as Pat) The world's hard enough as it is, guys. Can't somebody say, hey, let's be positive? Let's have a good ending to the story?

JACKI WEAVER: (as Delores) Pat, you owe us an apology.

COOPER: Mom, for what? I can't apologize. I'm not going to apologize for this. You know what I will do? I will apologize on the behalf of Ernest Hemingway.

ROBERT DE NIRO: (as Pat Solitano, Sr.) Yeah, have Ernest Hemingway call us and apologize to us, too.

WERTHEIMER: You probably noticed Robert De Niro there. He plays Pat's dad, a bookie, a diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan. This movie is steeped in family, football, love - both lost and found. And Bradley Cooper joins us to talk about it.

Good morning.

COOPER: Good morning.

WERTHEIMER: So, as this movie opens, your character is talking about remaking himself. What does that mean for Pat?

COOPER: He, unfortunately, thinks that he can control everything in his life. He really didn't seek any help. He won't take medication, or he's reluctantly going to a psychologist's office. And he thinks that if he can just get his life back together, everything will be fine. But the problem is his wife has a restraining order out against him, he's lost his job at the high school and he's had to move back in with his parents.

WERTHEIMER: He spends much of the time in the movie in sweats and a garbage bag with holes poked in it for head and arms. What's that about?

COOPER: Well, you know, his playbook of how he's going to get his life back involves losing weight, and in order to do that, he wears a trash bag to help him sweat more as he runs every day.

WERTHEIMER: So, this is a sort of a de-glamorization of Bradley Cooper here - trash bag?

COOPER: I'd say maybe it's a realistic portrayal of Bradley Cooper, what he usually looks like.

WERTHEIMER: You know, this Italian-American family in Philadelphia that Pat comes from, all of these people who are supposedly trying to help Pat stay sane, all of them are nuts.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: That's one way to describe them, yes. The thing that David O. Russell, who directed the movie, all he really cares about is telling a story that is authentic, that is about a group of people living in a house that feels authentic, in an authentic neighborhood. And these people happen to be on the extreme emotionally, yet the hope is that we can all relate to them.

WERTHEIMER: And Robert De Niro, his character is a person who is passionate about the Philadelphia Eagles. Almost all of his very strange, obsessive behavior has to do with the Eagles. One of the family superstitions is that many things, many good things happen if the family can just all sit down together and watch the Eagles.

COOPER: Mm-hmm. The element of the Eagles, the element of a sports team, its involvement in the family, how it almost serves as another character within that family, to me, growing up in Philly myself, is very true. Our Sundays revolved around what time the game started. Whenever, you know, we were eating and the game was on, we would bring the TV from the living room into the kitchen. And it's a huge part of the culture.

WERTHEIMER: So did you always have the same food?

COOPER: Oh, superstitiously?

WERTHEIMER: Yeah, lucky food?

COOPER: No. The only superstition that I have, which is really very unfortunate, is every time I tend to watch the Eagles, they lose. So I have this superstition that I actually shouldn't be watching the game, because even when I, like, go to the rest room or something, I come back and they've scored a field goal.

WERTHEIMER: Now, one of the most extraordinary performances in the movie is Jennifer Lawrence playing Tiffany. And Pat's life sort of takes a turn when he meets this kindred spirit, Tiffany. There's a scene where they meet, somebody that has a dinner party, you know, and sort of doesn't tell either one they're going to meet somebody. And they start talking about their medications.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK")

JENNIFER LAWRENCE: (as Tiffany) What meds are you on?

COOPER: (as Pat) Me? None. I used to be on lithium and Seroquel and Abilify. But I don't take them anymore, no. They make me foggy, and they also make me bloated.

LAWRENCE: Yeah.

COOPER: You ever take Klonopin?

LAWRENCE: Klonopin, yeah.

COOPER: Right?

LAWRENCE: Jesus.

COOPER: Like, is it what? What day is it? How about Trazodone?

LAWRENCE: Trazodone.

COOPER: Well, it flattens you out. I mean, you are done. It takes the life right out of your eye.

WERTHEIMER: These are two people who don't seem to have much in the way of a filter.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: No.

WERTHEIMER: Was the appeal of playing Pat the fact that he was just so totally open, so kind of vulnerable?

COOPER: I mean, in retrospect, yes. And I was actually trepidatious about playing Pat. I didn't think that I really could, and I think that was probably because deep down somewhere, I had just utter fear that - of being able to be that open on film. I'd never been asked to do a role that demanded that kind of dexterity and truth, I think, emotionally on film. And I was terrified. And because of that, the conscious mind said: I don't really know if I'm right - which is kind of crazy, because I am from Philadelphia. I'm Italian-Irish, as is Pat Solitano, and I'm a massive Eagles fan. The one thing I did know was if I was going to do this movie, there's no hiding, from the minute you show up to set to the minute you wrap that day.

WERTHEIMER: Well, you can see the skill of the director and the very - the amazing actors that are in this movie in the way that it sort of slips in and out of moods. I mean, at one moment, it's incredibly funny, then incredibly dramatic. There are times when it is genuinely uncomfortable.

COOPER: Yeah, absolutely, especially in the beginning of the movie. Pat, when you meet him, he's pretty out there, and it's not until Tiffany Maxwell comes in and calms him a bit that we - I think we could sort of get onboard with this guy.

WERTHEIMER: Well, now, the neighborhood in Philadelphia where Pat runs up and down the straits and whatnot in his trash bag trying to lose weight, were you from a neighborhood that's anything like that?

COOPER: Oh yeah. I'm from a place called Jenkintown, which is very similar to that.

WERTHEIMER: Did that help for you to...

COOPER: There were so many anchors for me. No one drives in this movie. There's a lot of walking. That's very much how I grew up. You know, you walked to the movie theater. You walked to the diner to eat, you know. Because many times, your parents didn't want to drive you or the train didn't go there. Although I have to say my parents did drive me places, to be clear. It's funny, when you do these interviews and you talk about - you know, this movie is very similar to my life, you know, I always have to be careful, because I don't want to upset my mother. After the interview, she'll say: What do you mean, it was like that? How could you say these things?

WERTHEIMER: Bradley Cooper. He stars in the new movie "Silver Linings Playbook." Thank you very much.

COOPER: Thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.