Bradley Cooper is the 'Face' of the new "A-Team" (INTERVIEW)
Bradley Cooper is the new 'Face' of 'The A-Team," one of the summer's anticipated film blockbusters. Photo: Norman Jean Roy/Details Magazine; LA Premiere image: Wireimage.com; Film Stills: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox. Related articles 'Splice' of Life: The Personalities Interview with director Vincenzo Natali (PHOTOS/VIDEO) From 'Daisies' to 'Marmaduke': The Personalities Interview with Lee Pace (PHOTOS/VIDEO) '24' counts down to TV history: A Personalities Interview with Kiefer Sutherland (VIDEO) Box Office Report: 'Shrek' leads a weekend of June doom over 'Greek,' 'Killers' & 'Splice' (VIDEO) 'Sex and the City 2' struts into theaters at last: A Personalities Preview (PHOTOS/VIDEO)
Here's one man who is enjoying the effects of a 'Hangover.' Go face to 'Face' with Bradley Cooper, who may leap from heralded character player to major movie star thanks to a key role in 'The A-Team,' his first-ever actioner.
After a decade of his adding his own dash of comic spice to such memorable films as “Wedding Crashers” and the cult classic “Wet Hot American Summer,” actor Bradley Cooper is now enjoying the effects of a post-“Hangover” high. So, what happens when slow and steady wins the race? As Cooper can attest, you can achieve rich career that allows for diversity and longevity. And that’s a very good thing in an industry that tends to think you’re only as good or popular as your last hit.
The appeal of Cooper offers that interesting of contradictions, of being a handsome cad with a wicked charm all his own. While he has played his share of loutish hunks, you can almost forgive his on-screen trespasses thanks to those glacial blue eyes and that Pepsodent smile. Then, there is his penchant for cutting a stylish pass across the screen, too. All combined, he has gone on to master the art of portraying the upwardly modern metrosexual, as seen in the recent hits “He’s Just Not That Into You” and “Valentine’s Day.” So, who knew Cooper harbored a secret yen to man up and become an action hero?
After the box office firepower earned by his starring role in last summer’s global comedy smash “The Hangover,” the 35-year-old Philadelphia native leapt at the chance to run with the big guns. He’s now Templeton ‘Face’ Peck in Joe Carnahan's eagerly awaited big-screen incarnation of the 80s TV classic, “The A-Team.” Perhaps the biggest film project of his career, Cooper deftly makes the transition from nuanced character actor to brawny leading player.
Standing tall with another formidable male ensemble team that includes “District 9’s” breakout star Sharlto Copley, UFC champion Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and the great Liam Neeson, this new “Team” has already generated plenty of media buzz in what is now a bloody and competitive summer film season. Comparisons to the camp 1980s series aside, this movie incarnation was built to last for today's fickle movie audiences.
“The great thing about this incarnation of the ‘A-Team,’” Cooper said, “is that it’s an origins piece and hopefully the first in a series of movies. You get to know each guy individually and how they came to be the A-Team, which I love.”
It is an unusual but not uncommon decision for any actor to be courted into a heavyweight project like “The A-Team” on the heels of a big success. Life after “The Hangover” now finds the actor one of the most sought after talents in Hollywood, an interesting reality for Cooper.
Since making his film debut in the 2000 with “Wet Hot American Summer,” he’s always been on the proverbial cusp of the “next big thing.” For a decade, he’s carefully amassed strong roles in film, theater and television, forging a niche as supporting player primed for that one big role. That comedy is where Cooper has been best displayed is an ironic twist for someone who says he can’t tell a joke. Yet, career is no laughing matter, who takes his job in the making and promotion of his work very seriously.
Catching up with Cooper at a beachside hotel in Santa Monica hotel on a recent, sunny afternoon found the actor in a relaxed and excited mood. Proud of his work for “The A-Team,” he is making every effort to enjoy this charged ascent into the public eye. And while this new media age has given many of today’s celebrities reason to bristle, Cooper is taking it all in stride. While gossip blogs and magazines are now covering his life in a completely invasive manner, he remains resolute about what remains the important task ahead.
“That I’ve been able to have a job for 10 years,” Cooper said, “steadily doing stuff and getting better, learning and working with better people? F*@k, it’s beautiful!”
Here’s more with Cooper about all things that begin with the letter “A,” from the “Team” to being an Alpha male and why he has yet to even think about a plan B.
JORGE CARREON: “The A-Team” remains one of those pop culture hallmarks with a very rabid and loyal fan base. Let’s address their concerns first. How is this different is this big-budget film incarnation from the TV series, if at all?
BRADLEY COOPER: I think that we were definitely conscious to adhere to the integrity of the TV show for sure and the creator (Stephen J. Cannell) came by the set. One of the best days was when he came and looked at about 20 minutes of assembled footage of the movie. He came down to the where we were shooting and he said it was how he always envisioned the show, which was really cool. When he wrote the pilot, at the beginning before the sort of network got involved, that’s sort of how he envisioned all the characters. That’s pretty much what we do in the movie. You have the essence of everybody, but it’s a little grittier and a little bit darker. It definitely has the same tone in terms of there’s a lot of comedy and a lot of enjoying the mood of the movie, do you know what I mean? If we’re successful at doing it, we will have been able to walk that fine line, which is being funny, sort of laughing at it, enjoying the action. But, at the same time, all of the sudden you can have a very sort of dramatic scene and you’re dropped into how high the stakes are for everybody. That’s what (director) Joe (Carnahan) does well if you look at his other work. Everything’s very grounded in reality even though it’s so outlandish.
CARREON: Is it fair to say that this 21st century “A-Team” is a result of what happens when you set it free from the confines of a television set?
COOPER: I mean, certainly they had restrictions of what the budget was for TV shows. This is a huge Fox tentpole action movie, so we were able to do things like having a tank falling from an airplane, shooting in the sky and just huge set pieces, set stunt pieces. For me I’d never worked on a movie like that so it was like a dream come true to be able to do that.
CARREON: Playing a variation of the “A-Team” archetypes is something every boy does at a young age. What’s it like taking on the action genre at this point in your career?
COOPER: As a kid, the movies that inspired me were always like Indiana Jones, and other dramatic movies, too, and comedies. But, definitely, this genre was a huge influence on me. I don’t know any guy growing up who didn’t want to learn how to shoot a gun and run around and pretend you’re doing all these things. It’s crazy. It’s pretty great because when I was I kid we would play these epic war games with sticks. Now we’re actually learning how to run an M4 machine gun with fully loaded blanks and it was really intense.
CARREON: And now, we’re reporting live from the heart of Butchville!
COOPER: That’s funny you say that! I would call home to friends and stuff as we were shooting because we were up there for six months in Vancouver and I thought, “This is unlike any other movie experience I’ve ever had.” I almost have to liken it to joining a sports team and having a season. It was just tons of guys the whole movie and then Jessica Biel. God bless her. She had to submit to all this very male energy for six months. It was unbelievable in that aspect. It just felt like it was some rugby team or something. It was funny.
CARREON: I’m sure the roughhousing and male posturing off-screen was just as epic as the action on-screen. Any “Apocalypse Now” moments you care to explain?
COOPER: There were a lot of men on set. It was what you would think maybe John Ford sets were like back in the day. That’s the kind of thing Joe Carnahan creates. He has music pumping while we’re doing scenes, huge movie music that’s actually going on as we’re shooting the movie. You actually feel like we’re pretending to be in a movie, but we’re actually shooting a movie. It’s true. It was like “Apocalypse Now” in that sense. There’s a scene where we land this carrier down in Baghdad. Liam and I were up 45 feet up in this huge crane. Joe’s blasting music from “Aliens” and it was incredible. Big wind machines. I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to do it. It was the best experience I’ve ever had in my life working, this movie. I’ve had amazing experiences, but just in terms of what it did for me as an actor and as a person who would love the experience was, I mean, I couldn’t get enough of it. Could not get enough of running that gun, learning how to do all that stuff.
CARREON: Part of what makes this new “A-Team” unique is its casting, with many of you going against more genre than type. Appropriately enough, you get to take on the challenge of giving Templeton Peck a new ‘face,’ so to speak. It seems style remains very much a part of the mix.
COOPER: I’m glad you say that because we definitely wanted to hold on to that element that Dirk Benedict (from the original series) so iconically played, which was the chic aspect of it and the suave. We didn’t want to forgo that in lieu of what was happening now which is he’s definitely harder and tougher. The “Face” in the TV show really never liked to get violent and this “Face” sort of loves his gun and loves getting in the middle of it. But, he also has this very sort of twinkle in his eye as he’s doing it, which is also the “Face” character in the TV show. We were trying to accomplish both things at the same time.
CARREON: Joe Carnahan certainly made his agenda known the minute the full “A-Team” was revealed. Once that first image of all of your was released, it seemed to quell plenty of blogosphere chatter about gathering actors like yourself with wild cards Sharlto Copley and Rampage Jackson. All of this and Liam Neeson, too? Who surprised you the most once the team got together?
COOPER: As a matter of fact, I can’t imagine anybody else playing Hannibal after this. Liam grounds the movie and all of us as we were shooting it. I mean you’re in a scene with Hannibal and there’s no doubting that it’s Hannibal. Sharlto sent an audition tape in and we all tested together with him during pre-production because that was the last role cast. Joe Carnahan and I were talking to him and I said there’s no way anybody else can play this role. He just nailed it. He was a huge fan of the TV show and he loves to do different voices. He also kind of looks like him, too. Put that leather jacket on and the hat and it’s over. Besides being a fantastic guy, he’s a big guy who doesn’t mind getting in the middle of everything, which you needed of every actor in the movie.
CARREON: Comedy has its own challenges, but a film as hardware-laden as “The A-Team” makes a lot of agents and managers nervous because of the physicality involved. Were you ever nervous about being physically injured because even a former boxer like Liam Neeson actually got hurt?
COOPER: I never even thought about it. I don’t know if anybody else did, but I jumped to it. The only thing I was wary about? I got cast maybe two months before we started shooting and Joe called and he was like “Hey, brother. We got to get you big for the movie. This guy’s got to be able to handle himself.” I was like, “Well, I think I’m in shape. I run.” He’s like, “ Yeah. Your neck’s too thin. We’ve got to get you big.” And I was like, “Oh shit!” I had two months to get really ripped and I hired a trainer and I started this food program. That aspect of it was really difficult, but it was perfect for the movie. Luckily I was able to completely transform for the movie in a very short period of time. But why I wanted to become an actor in the first place was to be able to do stuff like that. Still I tore my hamstring during shooting so it was definitely tough.
CARREON: And for those reading along at home. Exactly what does someone do to get a He-Man neck?
COOPER: You eat 2,000 calories a day, which is not that much at all. No sugar, no salt, no flour, nothing. Then work out maybe two hours a day everyday, no day off. That was basically it. It was the worst, but I don’t know if my metabolism is fast or what was it. I couldn’t believe how much my body changed. And then literally right when the movie ended, I had this fight scene with Liam and that was sort of the apex of it because I had to have my shirt off the whole scene. I didn’t drink any water the day before which you can, once you’re in good shape you can get in ridiculous shape in like four days, but then right when that ended I remember it was the Eagles were playing. And I’m from Philly so I like went home, I got three pizzas and I watched the Eagles name and then I walked over to the place and bought like tub of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia and then I got trail mix and I put it on it and I was eating the trail mix and the ice cream and I thought I had to go to the hospital because my stomach wasn’t used to all that flour and everything and then I did it again two days later and then that slowly was the, but I actually lose weight when I don’t work out. I don’t gain weight, which is crazy. I have no remnant of it at all.
CARREON: Let’s review your career trajectory. Some people may have just discovered you after “The Hangover,” but you’ve been methodically building an impressive gallery of roles for nearly a decade.
COOPER: “Wet Hot American Summer” was in 2000, which was ten years ago! In terms of me personally experiencing it all. It’s been a very sort of slow, gradual progression and I’ve had so many experiences from that to now that it doesn’t feel like this boom, all of the sudden, crazy change. I’ve done a lot of things in the past ten years. I’ve been lucky enough to do tons of television and a handful of movies, so yeah, it’s great. It’s the dream to be able to do these kinds of things, but I had a great time on “Wet Hot American Summer.” If you were casting that movie now I would do it! Look at the cast that I was with in that movie. Michael Ian Black, David Wayne, Amy Poehler, Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Chris Meloni, Paul Rudd. I mean it was incredible.
CARREON: Are you a “guy’s guy” or do you embrace the label of “metrosexual?”
COOPER: How interesting! I guess it’s a compliment to be seen as metrosexual! (Laughs.) I didn’t know that’s how I’m seen. I guess that would mean that I bathe? (Laughs.) Is that would that would mean? I guess if you would talk to people that know me very well, they may argue that label of ‘metrosexual.’
CARREON: But given some of the men you’ve played of late, the aesthetic is that of what people would expect of a Hollywood star. But right now, you’re wearing basic black trousers and a t-shirt.
COOPER: Those are roles I’m playing; do you know what I mean? But in today’s world, people tend to identify the actor with the roles they play.
CARREON: So note to everybody, “I’m not a douche.”
COOPER (Laughs): That’s right! I hope not, at least.
CARREON: Do you like the notoriety that grows exponentially as your movies become bigger hits and you begin to amass a larger share of screen time? Such increased media attention has a pack mentality these days.
COOPER: Well, it all depends in what you want out of it. My goal has always been to get better as an actor, to work with great people and great directors. So, I’m not really going to do press unless it has to do with promoting a movie. I love talking about a movie. I love doing this. I don’t find it to be taxing in a way like, “Aw, I have to do this” at all. In that way, I’m sort of a studio’s dream in the sense of my mindset for it. I want to sell the shit out of this movie. It would only serve everything that we did because I’m proud of it. I don’t even see that there’s any separation.
CARREON: But what happens when media does go too far, which it can. Particularly with the speculation game when it comes to an actor’s private life.
COOPER: I don’t really think about what’s going to happen because nothing could happen. Who knows? All I know is how I deal with my life today. Today, it’s great! You know, luckily I’m 35 years old and I know enough of who I am. I am willing to risk saying what I think. I can make my own decisions about what I won’t talk about.
CARREON: Given the importance of comedy to your career, do you find yourself a truly funny person? Or are you that clown that cries on the inside?
COOPER: (Smiles, but takes a thoughtful pause): Like any human being, you got parts of everything. There are funny parts of yourself and dark parts; not that dark isn’t funny. I really don’t know how to answer that, other than to say I’m just a regular person. I love comedy, but I guess that’s an unfunny answer. (Laughs.) I’m an awful joke teller. Nor do I have a desire to. Jokes have never been something that makes me laugh.
CARREON: After such a career upswing with movies like “Wedding Crashers” and “The Hangover,” how deliberate are your choices now? Are you taking on certain roles and projects like “The A-Team” to take better advantage of this time in your life?
COOPER: It’s a double-edged sword. One feeds the other. I don’t want to do the same role because if I was a viewer, I would think, “That’s all he can do.” From a business point of view, that works. As an actor, I don’t want to do the same thing over again anyway. So, the two meet perfectly. After “Wedding Crashers,” I really didn’t want to play a dick again or that level of asshole. I just want to keep doing different things.
CARREON: All right. ‘Fess up. What can people expect of “The Hangover” sequel?
COOPER: We start shooting it in the fall. But, no one knows anything about it except (director) Todd Phillips. It’s going to be a musical in space! (Laughs.)
CARREON: Strong male ensembles seem to work quite well for you. Are you still in touch with the rest of “A-Team?”
COOPER: Rampage and I still text. Sharlto’s been out of the country in South Africa, but he got back recently. Liam’s been in Berlin. We all know where we all are and we’re certainly going to spend a lot of time together promoting this movie this summer. But I’d say my biggest relationship has been Joe Carnahan. I fell in love with that guy. We’re going to try to do this movie called “The Grey” together next. I just think he’s just a tremendous talent.
CARREON: Taking a cue off “The A-Team” not having a Plan B, do you believe in having a back-up plan and if so, what is it for you?
COOPER: I think that these guys have a lot of different plan A’s. That’s basically what they do. That’s how they get around saying there’s no plan B. If plan A doesn’t work they’re like, “No, no, that really wasn’t the plan, There’s another plan A!” One thing I always thought, if I wasn’t going to be an actor, I was pretty screwed because I don’t know what the hell else I was going to do. So, maybe I don’t have a plan B! (Laughs.)
"The A-Team" Personalities Interviews continue tomorrow with a profile on Jessica Biel. Only in Examiner.
THE A-TEAM (20th Century Fox)
Directed by: Joe Carnahan
Written by: Joe Carnahan & Brian Bloom and Skip Woods
Cast: Liam Neeson (Hannibal), Bradley Cooper (Face), Jessica Biel (Charissa Sosa), Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (B.A. Baracus), Sharlto Copley (Murdock), Patrick Wilson (Lynch), Gerald McRaney (General Morrison), Henry Czerny (Director McCready), Yul Vasquez (General Javier Tuco), Brian Bloom (Pike), Maury Sterling (Gammons) and Omari Hardwick (Chopshop Jay).
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