Hanging with Mr. (Bradley) Cooper

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Bradley Cooper gets a different kind of hangover in his new movie.

In "Limitless," the "Hangover" star graduates from beer-guzzling, fun-loving dude to Eddie Morra, an author-turned-businessman who gets hooked on NZT, a drug that lets him use 100 percent of his brainpower. Before long, Eddie catches the attention of a Wall Street titan (Robert De Niro), the Russian mafia and some long-stemmed socialites.

His latest on-screen image came with new responsibilities. The Philly native is not only the star of the film, he's an executive producer as well. Cooper embraced the challenge of making the "hard" decisions while carrying the darkly comic thriller that opens Friday.

"I loved it," he said at a New York City news conference to support the film. "I love being a big part of the storytelling process. It really fulfills me. Whether or not I get that opportunity again, I don't know. I hope to. If this movie is successful, I probably will. If not, it will be harder to."

Chances are he will. Cooper, with his steely blue eyes and dusty blond hair, has movie-star looks and a successful comedy franchise in the form of "The Hangover" and this summer's "The Hangover II," which he refers to as "the 'Apocalypse Now' of comedy."

He has worked with some of the top show runners in TV, including Ryan Murphy ("Nip/Tuck") and J.J. Abrams ("Alias"), and co-starred in memorable movie romcoms such as "He's Just Not That Into You" and "All About Steve."

If that's not enough, Cooper holds his own opposite co-star and two-time Oscar winner De Niro in "Limitless." Cooper, an honors graduate of Georgetown (English degree) who earned his MFA from the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University, considered De Niro his idol.

"That was just icing on the cake," Cooper said. "He's the reason I became an actor, pretty much. He came to our school and I asked him a question, which meant, like, the world to me. It was a wonderful experience working with him and I hope to do it a lot more in the future."

Cooper first met De Niro in 1999 when the Oscar winner recorded an episode of "Inside the Actors Studio" while Cooper was a student there. Cooper asked his idol about his technique in the film "Awakenings," and De Niro said it was a good question. It exceeded Cooper's wildest dreams.

Years later, in between "Wedding Crashers" and "The Hangover," Cooper sent De Niro a homemade audition tape to get cast in the actor/director's "Everybody's Fine." The tape earned Cooper a brief audience with De Niro, who told him, "Not gonna happen."

But Cooper campaigned hard for the role of Morra, who with the help of those NZT pills has the ability to recall everything he's ever seen, heard or read in any language.

"To play a guy who just goes from A to Z like that would be incredible," Cooper said. "I like the idea that when we meet him he's at a point where his life isn't fulfilled."

Given a chance, Cooper said, he would be interested in exploring the benefits of NZT. Becoming a better actor is one of Cooper's immediate goals, but he also has aspirations to direct and produce films. NZT, obviously, could help.

"I think, for sure, I'd try and learn as many languages as I could right away," he said. "I'd learn as many instruments as I could. ... But I would still be an actor and a director because I'd finally be getting off my ass and facing the fear.

"All I really want to do is direct movies anyway. I just haven't done it."

MIKI TURNER IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR. THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER CONTRIBUTED.

 

QUOTABLE COOPER

"One with a lot of laughter, where I'm amazed at how relaxed I am, where I have a sense of time changing."

—Bradley Cooper, describing his best date

"I can't answer that."

—Cooper, responding to a question about actress Renee Zellweger, with whom he has kept company for nearly two years

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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