Bradley Cooper signed on to play the best friend in “Yes Man” for one simple reason. “Jim Carrey,” he says. “The idea of working with him is like having a chance to play one-on-one with Michael Jordan. Jim is the reason, and the goal I had -- because I’m just the best friend in a Jim Carrey comedy -- was to hopefully make you really believe that these guys have been friends since they were kids, to humanize that relationship in a big, broad comedy.”
“Yes Man” stars Carrey as Carl Allen, a banker who is closed off to all of the possibilities that life has to offer until he enrolls in a self-help program that requires him to say yes to everything. His life becomes a series of adventures -- flying planes, learning Korean, starting a relationship with a beautiful, freewheeling girl (Zooey Deschanel).
“It’s actually based on a book that a British guy did where he tried it for a year,” Cooper says. “He was going to write a commentary, a criticism of self-help books, so he decided to do this one where you say yes to everything for a year, and it actually improved his life. He wound up, rather than writing a critique of it, being kind of fond of the whole concept.”
On the first day of shooting, Cooper had a scene in which his character, Peter, spotted Carrey’s Carl through the window of a video store and caught him avoiding his phone calls. “We took it to just a whole other level where we were shooting guns at each other through the window, like pretending to shoot arrows and all this crazy [stuff],” Cooper recalls.
Improvisation and invention were the rule rather than the exception on set. In the film’s dream sequence, Peter finds Carl dead in his apartment.
“We started to play it in this ‘Dragnet’ style,” he says. “There were a couple takes where it was very stilted language. But the best part of it was that, every time, Jim would just have this [different] expression that he’d have to hold for like 50 seconds. It was hilarious.”
Even as a child in Philadelphia, Cooper knew that he wanted to be an actor. “I grew up across the street from a movie theater. My father was such a cinephile, I was in love with film since I was very young.”
An early job as the host of “Lonely Planet” required him to take out a $50,000 life insurance policy and travel to such far-flung locales as Peru, the Arctic Circle and Croatia, sleeping in tents along the way. “I’m so happy I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of different things because that informs one’s acting,” he says.
Next up, Cooper can be seen in “He’s Just Not That Into You” in February; the romantic comedy “All About Steve” with Sandra Bullock in March; and “Case 39,” a thriller costarring Renee Zellweger, in April. He also recently wrapped the Vegas-set comedy “The Hangover” and a guest role on TV’s “Nip/Tuck.”
But for all his success, what he really wants to do is -- you guessed it -- direct.
“I always have in my head that Clint Eastwood directed his first movie at 42 years old,” he says. “I’m 33. I’m like, ‘OK, so I have some time!’ ”
Where you’ve seen him
Bradley Cooper is probably best known for his role as Rachel McAdams’ obnoxious fiance in 2005’s “Wedding Crashers.” Other movie appearances have included “The Rocker,” “New York, I Love You” and Clive Barker’s “The Midnight Meat Train.” He has also become familiar through his television roles, which have included recurring parts on “Nip / Tuck,” “Kitchen Confidential,” “Alias” and “Jack & Bobby.”