Actor Bradley Cooper is blunt about the chances his new film, The Hangover, will break through the wall of blockbuster surrounding theaters this summer.
“This movie will live or die by word of mouth. There are no stars in this movie,” Cooper says.
Not so fast.
Cooper, who burst onto the film scene playing the unctuous boyfriend in Wedding Crashers, stands on the cusp of movie stardom. He works regularly in rom-coms ( He’s Just Not That Into You, the upcoming All About Steve ), big-budget comedies ( Yes Man ) and even the occasional horror fest ( The Midnight Meat Train ).
All the Philadelphia native needs is one more big film and his projects won’t require word of mouth to sell tickets.
In The Hangover, Cooper plays a sensitive teacher by day and a party animal by night—and during bachelor parties.
The film focuses on one bachelor party in Las Vegas to forget, and that’s exactly what the main characters do. They wake up the next day and can’t remember a single detail about what happened—or where the groom to be has gone.
When the 34-year-old actor first read the script he didn’t find it so out of the ordinary.
“This is actually believable, as outrageous as it is, so I bought it,” he says.
When on-set improv broke out he started getting anxious. Suddenly, the film’s boundaries were getting pushed further than he anticipated.
“We did things that weren’t in the script and I said, ‘ooh,’ but [director Todd Phillips] kept it in, and he was right,“ he says.
Along the way the main characters pick up a stray tiger, temporarily care for an anonymous baby and managed to tick off a certain former heavyweight champion.
Cooper idolized Mike Tyson growing up and felt intimated to share the screen with him. But the troubled pugilist proved a quick comic study, he says.
“He’s incapable of saying anything inauthentic. You put a camera in front of him and he’s perfect,” Cooper says.
The Hangover co-stars an eclectic blend of actors including Ed Helms of The Office fame and stand-up comic Zach Galifianakis. It’s the right blend to appeal to today’s comedy audience, he says.
Moviegoers today are “more verbally minded,” he says. “Comedy is all about pushing the envelope and doing things people haven’t seen before.”
What once worked on screen is no longer an option for today’s comedy scribes, he says, one reason the level of screen humor is on the rise.
“The set up, set up punch line rhythm of comedy has run dry,” he says. “It doesn’t excite an audience any more. People are much more aware of where it’s going.”
It’s the way popular culture is evolving, he says.
“Everything’s getting more sophisticated and complicated. The same thing is happening with comedy,” he says.
Cooper good-naturedly swatted away rumors he’s set to star in an A-Team movie or a Green Lantern film. In fact, he hasn’t even signed on for a Hangover sequel, even though Warner Bros. appears eager to rally the boys again should the first film fly high this weekend.
“They’re writing it and Warner Bros. is interested but no deals have been made,“ he says. “But I would do it in a heartbeat.“
Even if Cooper becomes part of a comedy franchise he seems unlikely to buy into his own fame and fortune.
“This is a very humbling business,” says Cooper, who still auditions for many of the roles he plays. “There’s so much rejection and criticism.”
But the harshest feedback is found online from film fans all too eager to tell actors exactly what they think of them.
“You wanna feel [lousy] about yourself? Go read a message board. Feeling too big for your britches? Hop on a web site,” he said, smiling.