Is Bradley Cooper For Real?

Skeptics might sniff around for a love child or a bulging-boxers tweet, but they'll find a likable (French-speaking!) guy

There’s something about Bradley Cooper that doesn’t quite seem right, like the guy is just too damn perfect to be for real. One of the Sexiest Men Alive. Movie star. Funny. Possessing a Clooney-esque ability to walk the fine line between being a charming movie star without tripping into unbearable douchbaggery. Is he really from Jenkintown? A Germantown Academy grad? An Eagles fan? Is that all some fictitious backstory concocted by his publicists to make him seem like a “regular dude”?

That’s what I wondered back in 2009, when I interviewed Cooper in advance of He’s Just Not That Into You. That was, of course, BCPH (Bradley Cooper, Pre-Hangover). At the time, he was best known as Sack Lodge, the epic dick in Wedding Crashers. It’s probably fair to say he was somewhere on the Hollywood B-list then, but was scoring some high-profile roles and already a bona fide heartthrob. I braced myself for what I expected would be a guy who was cocky, who had life by the balls and knew it and would let you know, too. Instead, I found Cooper to be completely likable, proud of his Philly roots, self-effacing, ready to roll with my jibes about his heartthrob status and the fact that I’d never been so popular around the office as the day my female co-workers heard I was interviewing him.

I’d like to say that my Exit Interview column catapulted Cooper to the A-list, but since then, a few other things have happened—including his starring role in two of the most successful comedies ever. This month he’s on the cover of Esquire and the subject of a lengthy profile that compares him to both Bruce Springsteen and JFK. He’s also the subject of a New York mag blog post titled “Is It Time To Rethink Bradley Cooper?,” which suggests he’s also considered a “polarizing” love-him-or-hate-him star and a “fizzy-souled showbiz whore.”

That take on Cooper surprised me. With all the press he’s had in the past two years, I figured everybody knew what I’d already discovered—he’s not the next Charlie Sheen. No TMZ scandals, no milking his high-profile romances for face time in US Weekly, no stories about how the “real” guy was a jerk, like some of the characters he played. But apparently these days, along with success comes the expectation that there’s always a smoke-and-mirrors act, and that what lies behind it is a love child with a maid or Twitter pics of your boxers or a houseful of “goddesses” and crack.

It’s both revealing and a little sad that what’s converting Cooper’s skeptics is a promotional interview for The Hangover Part II that he gave in French. Turns out the guy isn’t a bimbo after all! Yet there’s nothing he’s done to suggest otherwise. Whether you think Cooper is the real deal because of—or in spite of—his knowledge of Romance languages, the dude deserves his props, not just for his acting chops (which critics applauded in Limitless), but for who he is off-screen as well. My takeway from the Esquire profile is that Cooper is working really hard to prove he’s not a “showbiz whore,” that he’s a man of substance. For me, the proof lies buried in that story, when it’s revealed that Cooper moved in with his parents here for the last five months of his father’s life. Now his mom is with him in Los Angeles. Seems like the kind of thing a good Philly guy would do.