By Lori Acken
Bradley Cooper seems to have taken a page from the George Clooney playbook — cloak your matinee-idol looks in such an easygoing everyman charm that ladies will happily sit through man-centric films and their guys won’t question the reason they’re there.
Still, it took 10 years and a pair of irresistibly goofball buddy films to make Bradley Cooper a Clooney-class star (and People‘s Sexiest Man Alive for 2011).
Sure, plenty of folks loved him as Sydney Bristow’s sidekick Will Tippin on the ABC spy series Alias. And as egotistical Hearts ’n Scalpels doctor Aidan Stone on FX’s critical darling Nip/Tuck. Ladies especially took notice of Cooper’s ice-blue eyes, Cheshire smile and chiseled chin — a sharp Italian handsomeness which often seems on the verge of bursting through page and screen — when he played bad boyfriend Sack Lodge in the 2005 Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson comedy Wedding Crashers.
But it was a pair of Hangovers that millions of moviegoers couldn’t wait to have that launched Mr. Cooper into headliner status.
“Once we began screening it, we realized it was something special; but we were really surprised when it just took off,” says director Todd Phillips of the first, 2009’s The Hangover, which introduced audiences to the quartet of pals with a knack for celebrating upcoming nuptials by misplacing people — populated by Cooper, his New York, I Love You costar Justin Bartha, and comic sure-shots Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis. “I know my movies [including other multi-bud immorality tales Road Trip and Old School] primarily attract a certain audience because of the outrageousness of the comedy. But The Hangover connected across the board. I think that’s largely because of the love between the four guys. Their friendship feels authentic; it’s just this magic combination.”
That’s because, says Cooper, it is authentic, even when the cameras stop rolling — and especially when the group reunited in a land far, far away to film the box office record-breaking The Hangover Part II, which premieres this month on Video On Demand.
“When I think of The Hangover, I honestly only think of the second one, because it was an indelible experience, and the love for everybody was so palpable,” Cooper admits. “I love Ed, I love Zachie, I love Todd — and we were halfway across the world. It wasn’t Vegas [this time], it was @#$%in’ Bangkok, you know what I mean? It was intense.”
Still, it’s the gentler company of the fairer sex that the 36-year-old Philadelphia native seems to prefer when his time is his own. With no discernable preference between the cerebral and the starlet, Cooper frequently finds himself linked — and photographed — with ladies who ably blend the two, including his blink-and-you-missed-it bride Jennifer Esposito, his He’s Just Not That Into You costar Jennifer Aniston, and his Case 39 costar and live-in love of two years, Renée Zellweger. At presstime, he was a tabloid cover mainstay for a burgeoning romance with Jennifer “J.Lo” Lopez.
And his professional dance card is just as full. Cooper has a pair of films — TRON: Legacy cowriter Brian Klugman’s The Words and Lawrence Kasdan’s Paradise Lost — due out in 2012, another pair (The Place Beyond the Pines and The Silver Linings Playbook) set for 2013 and a nearly done deal to star in Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming big-screen revamp of the legendary ’60s spy series The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
As for The Hangover Part III? It’s a maybe/maybe not proposition (none of the actors nor Phillips has officially put pen to contract), but it’s safe to believe that Cooper would return to lead the Wolf Pack on one more misadventure. “It’s like making a movie with your brothers,” he says of the Hangover franchise. “No one has to think too hard about the process. You just go with it. Our only real objective is that people will laugh their asses off.”
“The Hangover Part II” is available starting Dec. 6 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
© 2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Legendary Pictures