On Movies: Cooper drinks in life after 'Hangover'

Bradley Cooper , who grew up in Rydal, came back to the area - here he's at Two Liberty Place - to promote "The Hangover: Part II."
Bradley Cooper , who grew up in Rydal, came back to the area - here he's at Two Liberty Place - to promote "The Hangover: Part II." (DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 23, 2011

Barring the end of the world (it didn't happen yesterday, did it?), or the even less likely scenario in which no one bothers to go out next weekend to see three guys wake up completely blotto, there will be a Hangover: Part III.

"Obviously, it will depend on the success of the second one," says Bradley Cooper, whose participation in the inaugural Hangover had more than a little to do with his rocket launch to stardom.

"You never know," Cooper adds, trying to sound cautious about the box-office prospects of the much-anticipated follow-up. "But if there's a sure thing. . . ."

The first Hangover, released in 2009 and likewise costarring Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms, went on to earn $469.5 million worldwide. It was, in case you missed it, set in Las Vegas, where a bachelor party headed into a Bermuda triangle of amnesia, anarchy, and absurdist raunch. In director Todd Phillips' The Hangover: Part II, the setting is more exotic - Bangkok. And the straits the trio find themselves in, believe it or not, are even crazier.

It's "Defcon 5 in Bangkok," Cooper says.

The actor, who dropped back in on his hometown recently (he grew up in Rydal, across the street from the Baederwood Shopping Center), promises, however, that when the third Hangover comes around, it will break from the now-established formula. Like the first, Part II finds its protagonists unable to piece together the evidently tumultuous events of the preceding evening. The fact that Helms' character, mild-mannered dentist Stu Price, wakes up with a tattoo across half his face is only the beginning of the mystery.

"I'll do a third no matter what," says Cooper. "We've all talked about it, Ed, Zach and I, and Todd, and it really is about us coming together and agreeing on a concept. And we've all agreed to the tone of the third one, and what it has to be - which is completely not adhering to the formula of the second.

"That said, I do think that this one had to adhere to the structure, so you can get to know the characters more - they're much more fully developed. Now we can depart from that. . . . So, for the third one, there will be no missing night. It will be an interesting thing."

Cooper has already had a good year, box office-wise. Limitless, the deft, dark thriller about a slacker scribe who takes a drug that makes him preternaturally smart and successful, was number one its opening weekend, and has now grossed close to $80 million domestically and $60 million overseas. It won terrific reviews, too.

Limitless' director, Neil Burger, originally had Shia LaBeouf in mind for the lead, but (happily) that didn't happen, and Cooper came along instead. About his leading man, Burger said: "Bradley's worked hard and he's struggled, and I'm sure in his life he's had times where he felt like, 'Well, is this ever going to work out for me?' "

We read that quote back to Cooper, who's hanging out at Daniel Stern's Two Liberty Place restaurant, R2L.

"Oh absolutely, there were low points," he responds. "I remember being on Alias, a TV show that was sort of my 'break,' it gave me a way to make a living as an actor, a real living. . . . So, I'm out in Los Angeles, I'm doing this TV show, and then I was relegated to three scenes an episode, and I was just completely depressed. I felt like I was on location in a place I hated, doing a job that I wasn't able to do, really."

Cooper was also auditioning for parts in films and not getting them - "putting my soul into trying to get these roles, and being rejected." Frustrated, he decided to call it quits.

"That was a real low point," he recalls. "Then I severed my Achilles tendon and I asked to be written off the show, and I called my business manager and told him to stop representing me."

Cooper's retirement didn't last long, however. He went to see Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch Drunk Love in a theater and couldn't imagine not being in a business where work like that was getting made.

"I thought, wow, I have to do this. I don't want to be doing something else - I'd be sitting watching this movie and wanting to kill myself.

"So, I kept acting and I was lucky enough to get work. But there was still rejection, and disappointment. And there still is. Last week is a great example: There was this movie I really wanted to get, I did everything I could, but when I found out I didn't get it, it didn't kill me, I didn't feel that low. And then when I found out that I got this other movie that I was dying to do for three years, I also didn't feel that tremendous high.

"So maybe I'm growing up," he reflects. "But this [business] means everything. I love what I do. It's part of my life. But it's a marathon. I understand that more now."

And then he laughs.

"Of course, it's very easy to say all that when we're sitting here talking on the 37th floor of this restaurant and I'm working."

And working, and working.

This is how Cooper's next year is likely to go, at least as things stand right now: After stops in Toronto, Cannes, New York, Los Angeles, New York again, and Berlin, mostly to promote The Hangover: Part II, Cooper goes to Montreal to start work on The Words.

"That's my buddy Brian Klugman, who I grew up with. I've known him since I was about 10 years old. We went to high school together," says Cooper, whose alma mater is Germantown Academy. "And he wrote this little movie about a writer. Jeremy Irons is doing it, Dennis Quaid, Amanda Seyfried, Zoe Saldana . . . it's great. I looked at [the screenplay] the other day and I realized I have a huge role."

He laughs.

"I thought it was much smaller. Oh shoot. You know that feeling you get before an exam? That's me right now."

And after The Words?

"Five days on a new movie by another buddy of mine, Dax Shepard." And then The Place Beyond the Pines, from Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance, with Blue Valentine's Ryan Gosling opposite Cooper. And then Paradise Lost in October - yes, the Milton poem about the devil and the fall of man - and then a reboot of the dark comic-book saga The Crow, to be directed by 28 Weeks Later's Juan Carlos Fresnadillo.

Phew.

"Well, you know how it is," Cooper says with a grin, after running down his schedule. "None of that could happen - and then you'll see me walking down the street in a total daze."


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/

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