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03.14.11

Bradley Cooper's Dirty Secret

Best known for his drunken adventures in The Hangover, the star of the new thriller Limitless is actually a Georgetown grad who says his life is “better” without alcohol. He talks to Ramin Setoodeh.

Bradley Cooper has been acting since he was an English major at Georgetown in the mid-'90s, but 2009’s The Hangover turned him into one of Hollywood’s most bankable hunks. For the first time in his career, Cooper landed on magazine covers. He had the paparazzi stalking his every move. He even started dating movie star Renée Zellweger.  

Now we’re about to get a double dose of Cooper at the multiplex. He’s in this summer’s Hangover sequel, set in Thailand, and Limitless, an action drama in theaters this Friday about a struggling writer who takes a “smart” pill that transforms him into a star on Wall Street. Along with The Adjustment Bureau (Matt Damon) and Source Code (Jake Gyllenhaal), it’s one of a crop of new movies with a protagonist who becomes increasingly detached from reality. It’s also the best of the three, a trippy thriller that feels like the distant cousin of Fight Club or Trainspotting.  

Cooper spoke to us about his life, his career and his one night on Sex and the City.  

I think I saw you at the gym once.

Bradley Cooper: Where?

It was an Equinox.

Did we talk?

No, but I remember you were wearing a headband.

That’s definitely possible. A headband, that was a while ago.

So that was you!

That must have been two years ago. I’m trying to remember why I stopped wearing headbands. I started wearing a samurai ponytail instead, so the hair wouldn’t get in my eyes when I sweat.

What’s the secret to Bradley Cooper hair?

A lot of work goes into that. Why? Do you like it? My hair has been mocked a lot.

When you were little?

My mother emails me stuff about when she finds a paparazzi photo and they’re like, his hair is out of control.

What’s your hair doing right now?

Right now? No product. I washed it this morning. I just got a haircut, too.

That’s good.

Thank you.

I really enjoyed Limitless. Did you have to do any preparation for the role?

You mean in neuroscience? No, I didn’t. What I was concerned with, how would I get to a place where I could function like Eddie on NZT [the drug his character takes]?

What about preparation with actual drugs?

I was trying to figure out where you were getting. No, no, no. Have I ever done research? You know, that’s private.

The drug your character takes is like Adderall.

I’ve never taken Adderall. So I wouldn’t know. What is Adderall for?

It helps you concentrate. When I was in school, people would take it to write papers.

“I used to have a Google alert. I just stopped doing it because it’s narcissistic. I know one thing: If you want to feel shitty about yourself, go on the Internet.”

That was a couple generations past me. When I was in college, the only thing I remember was No-Doz. I never took it.

Do you take Advil?

I don’t take anything. Can you believe that?

What happens if you get a headache?

I drink a lot of water.

What about alcohol?

No.

And they cast you in The Hangover?

Uh-huh [laughs]. I didn’t say I’ve never done that, but I don’t do that now. Fortunately, my life is much better without it.

I read that you used to be a doorman at a hotel.

I was 22, and in grad school. It was at the Morgan Hotel in New York on 38th and Madison. It was one of the first Ian Schrager hotels. I used to work the graveyard shift. I’d take people in, take them to their room:  “Thank you for staying at the Morgan. Can I get you a cab? Watch your step. Here let me get those?” That was pretty good, right?

I’m impressed. How long did you do it for?

I did it for a year.

Did you get good tips?

I wasn’t one of the best-tipped doormen. I liked the uniform.

Did you have any other odd jobs?

I was a busboy at Alexander’s Restaurant, a Greek restaurant, when I was in high school. I used to work there at nights. I was a prep cook at Mirabella’s Italian seafood restaurant on Somers Point, New Jersey, during the summer. I was a creative landscaper one summer.

What does a creative landscaper do?

We painted. That’s what my high school science teacher called the job.

Was your first acting job really on Sex and the City?

My first speaking job. I just went on an audition and Darren Star was in the room with Michael Patrick King. I was lucky, they cast me as Jake the Downtown Smoker. I was still in school so I got to shoot in New York at 14th Street at Beauty Bar at 2 a.m. on a school night.

Did you get to have any sex?

You have to watch the episode. “They Shoot Single People, Don’t They?” That’s the title. In case you want to look it up.

I’ll see if I can find it on YouTube. Are you on Facebook?

I was on Facebook. I’m not anymore, but my sister always sends pictures to a page. I’m sure you can find a Bradley Cooper there.

There’s one with 198,000 friends.

That’s probably another Bradley Cooper.

Do you Google yourself?

No. I don’t anymore. I used to have a Google alert. I just stopped doing it because it’s narcissistic. I know one thing: If you want to feel shitty about yourself, go on the Internet. What sites do you go on?

I read the New York Times online.

I love the Times. I read it every day. Are you a big Huff Po guy?

No. Are you?

I just like saying that. Zach Galifianakis said it one time. I’d never heard it called Huff Po. It’s funny. It sounds like Puff the Magic Dragon. It sounds fantastical.

Will you tell me about The Hangover 2?

We shot in Bangkok for 10 weeks. What else would you like to know? Have you been to Thailand?

When I was in college.

Where did you go to college?

Stanford.

I’ve always wanted to visit Stanford. I always had a fantasy of going to Stanford. I thought it was like The Paper Chase. There’s something about people when they go to good schools, and you ask them, they can’t help but apologize when they say it.

Did I just do it?

Yeah.

Why is that?

I don’t know. Maybe they’re embarrassed. They don’t want to come across like they’re bragging.

Do you apologize when you talk about your school?

No. I sing it, actually. I’m so proud I got in.

Do you have a good singing voice?

It’s awful.

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Ramin Setoodeh is a senior writer at Newsweek. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times and U.S. News & World Report, among other publications.