Bradley Cooper stays true to Eagles and Philadelphia

Bradley Cooper stars in "Silver Linings Playbook."
Bradley Cooper stars in "Silver Linings Playbook."
Posted: November 16, 2012

IT'S NICE TO FIND somebody happy in his own skin.

Actor Bradley Cooper is that guy.

He sat in the executive dining room at the NovaCare Center on Wednesday, and he giggled when he recalled meeting Eagles LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson an hour before.

He is an Eagles fan, unabashed and delighted.

He is People magazine's Sexiest Man emeritus (actor Channing Tatum unseated him Wednesday), a designation that cemented him in the American consciousness.

He is the lead in "Silver Linings Playbook," a romantic comedy set in Philadelphia and centered on the Eagles, that premieres Friday in limited release. The film goes wider next Wednesday.

It is a role made possible in part because he is the pretty face of the "Hangover" franchise, a clever, if implausible, series of postadolescent high jinks flicks. Cooper isn't concerned with being typecast; he is grateful for the stardom.

Cooper is of Philadelphia - he still calls Rydal home - and he is everything that is Philadelphia: passionate, sycophantic, raw. He has New York cool with some L.A. swagger, but he also is the kind of guy who will punch you, hard, three times, in the face, at a pregame tailgate because you're messing with his brother.

See? All Philly.

So much so that Cooper asked to be interviewed about "Silver Linings" by a sportswriter instead of a movie critic or a features writer or, frankly, someone qualified.

Cooper plays bipolar Eagles fan Pat Solatano, recently released from a mental institution and frantically trying to get his ex-wife back. Cooper's character is distracted by Tiffany, a manipulative, fetching young widow played by Jennifer Lawrence ("The Hunger Games"). And he's continually hindered by a superstitious obsessive-compulsive father played by Robert De Niro.

There's a lot more going on in this movie than a love-hate relationship with DeSean Jackson, but the movie does not fly without the Birds.

"Such a big part of this movie is the sports aspect, and the Eagles, specifically," Cooper explained. "There's such a great sports angle to this movie. And we tried to be as authentic as we could to the reality of what it's like to be in a sports town. And, to do it here, would be cool."

Cooper thrilled to be this close to his heroes. He jerked his thumb over his shoulder, where, perhaps 30 yards away, huge defensive linemen Cedric Thornton and Phillip Hunt sprinted down a sideline toward another practice drill.

Cooper, 37, has a special place for defensive linemen; Reggie White is his all-time favorite. He spent part of Wednesday watching the Eagles' closed practice session. He was still giddy.

"This is nuts - are you kidding?" said Cooper. "To shake McCoy's hand? Brent Celek? DeSean? This is crazy."

"Crazy" is the recurring theme in "Silver Linings."

"Crazy" is a recurring theme in Philadelphia fandom.

Cooper graduated from Germantown Academy, and he regrets never playing football. He did play a little basketball and baseball. He is a softer sort of crazy now.

He marvels that Mitch Williams thrives as a Philly icon after blowing Game 6 of the 1993 World Series: "After that game, I thought he might get assassinated."

Cooper certainly is attuned to the Philly fan psyche. And, like a typical Eagles fan, he relishes the rare and precious bright spots.

"Fourth-and-26, the pass to Freddie Mitchell down the center was incredible, that Green Bay playoff game with Donovan McNabb [in 2004]," Cooper recited, then recalled Jackson's last-minute punt return against the Giants from 2010: "The New York game was insane, with the fourth-quarter runback. And the Fog Bowl [1988 playoffs in Chicago], with Randall Cunningham, when he punted the ball 99 yards, was insane."

The softer side of Cooper's crazy surfaces.

Yes, the Eagles are 3-6, and yes, the season seems lost, but Cooper will not abandon it:

"The Eagles aren't done. That's the only thing that frustrates me about us as fans. We just write everything off so fast."

Like the wildly successful 14-year run of head coach Andy Reid? The reclamation by quarterback Michael Vick of his ruined career?

Should Reid be fired? Should Vick be cut?

"I'm not qualified to answer those questions," Cooper said, which made him the first Philly fan to ever say that. "I've learned, unless you walk in the shoes, maybe you should keep your mouth shut."

It is a lesson learned by experience and one his parents took pains to teach him.

Cooper took his father, Charles Cooper, to the Eagles' playoff loss to Green Bay in 2011, but Cooper never had access like this.

Certainly, Bradley Cooper would have loved to bring his father here, too, to the practice facility, to rub elbows with the stars.

Charles Cooper died just six days after he and Bradley stood together on the sideline of the Green Bay game.

Not surprisingly, some of the movie's more captivating moments come when Cooper and De Niro work to fix their flawed and fractious relationship.

Cooper paints his relationship with his own father as wonderful. Of course, Charles Cooper might have become a stockbroker who lived in the suburbs, but he never fully lost the rough edges that come from a childhood at 22nd and Indiana.

De Niro's character is notorious for his aggressive behavior at Eagles games. Cooper's father, a burly traditionalist who took Bradley to Phillies games in a shirt and tie, occasionally had to teach a bigmouthed punk a lesson for teasing Bradley about his outfit.

"My dad was always having to deal with some drunk jerk," Cooper said.

Cooper loved it.

It was all a part of the Philly experience.

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