EXCLUSIVE: Bradley Cooper certainly can’t complain these days. He’s had a run most actors would kill for, earning Oscar nominations three years in a row, starring in and producing Best Picture nominee American Sniper, the biggest hit released in 2014, and earning a Tony Nomination for his return to Broadway in The Elephant Man. Yes, there have been bumps along the way. In the wake of the overwhelming success of Sniper, he had two films, Aloha in May and Burnt in October that hit a wall critically and at the box office (though both, as I said in my reviews at the time, deserved better than they got). Now though he is back in action with 20th Century Fox’s Christmas Day release Joy, which reunites him for the third time with director David O. Russell, the man responsible for two previous films, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle for which Cooper received two of his three acting Oscar nods (the other of course was for Best Actor in Sniper). His working relationship with Russell is a match made in heaven as Cooper told me when we spoke recently. The funny thing is that for every collaboration with Russell he has tried to talk himself out of taking the role, and even recommended other actors he thought would be better! That’s a very un-actor like thing to do, Cooper.
In Joy, he plays Neil Walker, young programming wunderkind of the QVC home shopping network, an amalgamation of several executives who really were at QVC at the time fledgling entrepreneur Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) came to pitch her Miracle Mop. “We had discussions about this guy and whether I was right for the role, but he saw something in me I didn’t think was there. I thought that an older actor would have been much better suited and actually I remember we were talking about it in the lobby of the Greenwich Hotel when one of the actors I was pitching to him walked through the lobby. It was pretty funny,” he laughed, adding that in the end Russell was right, and Cooper now feels the character of a guy who gets calmer as things get more pressurized really does work.
So why does Cooper keep trying to talk himself out of roles that turn out so well? “I don’t know. It happened with American Hustle too. I pitched him this actor who I was like. I don’t know what that is. Maybe I need to talk to somebody. Because the truth is I do my best work with him and I feel like I really can latch on to his rhythm and what he’s looking for. Maybe it’s like fear, because when you work with him, you really are acting without a net. I mean, you have to be vulnerable and you have to take chances, and maybe that’s some part of me, the fear of jumping off the plane or the bridge, or out of a helicopter, The moment before, I think maybe I’m not the right guy, maybe I shouldn’t do this, but he just pushes me out there, no matter what,” he says.
This is the fourth time Cooper has also worked with Jennifer Lawrence, and though he says they don’t see each other or talk much outside of making movies, there is something intangible about their on-screen chemistry. He thinks it clearly began when, barely knowing each other, they had to learn their now famous dance routine in Silver Linings Playbook. “I wonder if these guys who do Dancing With The Stars like have a connection forever. I really do think that really provided the basis by which we can just work together. We don’t talk often, but when I showed up in Boston for Joy, then all of a sudden it was like we never stopped. We just started where we left off, and that’s rare. It’s just easy to look at her and feel like I’m telling the truth,” he said of the 25-year-old actress with whom he co-starred in Silver Linings, American Hustle and the little-seen indie drama, Serena.
Cooper, playing a supporting role in the film that Lawrence dominates, loves the fact that there is absolutely no love interest between Neil and Joy in this movie, not even hinted at. “I’m glad she found him because he’s somebody who believes in her. By the way, that was really fun to play. And it was all real. You know, there was a guy who gave Joy a chance and she was the first at doing a spokesperson at QVC. It all happened,” he said. Cooper’s Neil Walker seems to want her to succeed even more than himself which is an unusual trait in the way movies normally portray TV executives. The actor sees him as more of an old style movie mogul with a vision, and QVC of all places is really like Emerald City to him.
Finding himself in this world wasn’t all that much of a stretch since Cooper says he was indoctrinated with QVC on constantly in his Philadelphia home. His mother ordered things all the time – and still does. “QVC is alive and well in our household. I grew up with it. I remember going on a high school trip to Amish Country, to Quakertown where QVC is. That was a whole thing and when that hit, when Comcast owned it, it was a big thing for the Tri-state area and I would come home every day from school and there’d be QVC boxes by the door. Often at night when I’d come into my parents room you’d see Joan Rivers selling with this other woman, who was a huge hit. My mother used to say people would actually tune in to just watch them, and it wasn’t even about buying products,” he recalled.
For Bradley Cooper there wasn’t much research to do for Joy. He already lived it. Check out the exclusive scene above between Cooper and Lawrence as she first comes to QVC with her product, the Miracle Mop.