The Nominee: Bradley Cooper

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I was a big fan of the television show Alias.  Jennifer Garner kicked serious ass as a secret agent and I wasn’t surprised to see her segue into making more movies after the series ended.  What I didn’t expect was the actor who played Will Tippen, her sweet and somewhat nerdy best friend on the show to become an even bigger movie star than Garner, and an Academy Award nominated one at that.

Bradley Cooper’s career exploded after Alias.  He made the leap to feature films and showed how funny he could be in some blockbuster comedies.  Will Tippen was the nicest guy in the world, and in Wedding Crashers, Cooper plays Sack, a total asshole. Cooper remarked during his appearance on Inside the Actor’s Studio that when he tried to get work after Alias, he was viewed as more of a dramatic actor fit for “good guy” roles.  His role in Wedding Crashers changed all of that.  He showed that he could play more than just a good guy in dramas.  He showed that he could play a bad guy and be funny in comedies too.

A comedy is what catapulted Cooper to stardom. The Hangover was a huge hit and it made Bradley Cooper a star.  His great comedic turn was supported by the hilarious performances of his co-stars, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis, and together they were comedy gold.  The trio made two sequels to the smash hit original, neither of which was as successful as the first film, but the sequels could be appreciated for the chemistry of the “Wolfpack.”

After The Hangover, Cooper’s career took off with a bevy of roles in good films with fine actors.  He starred in Limitless with Robert De Niro, which was the first film post-The Hangover where I feel Cooper stretched himself more than he had before.  He added action star to his resume with a role in the big screen adaptation of the popular 80’s TV show, The A-Team.  Then he paired up with director David O. Russell and his career hit a high note.  In Silver Linings Playbook, he was cast as Pat Solatano, a nice guy suffering from bipolar disorder yearning to reconcile with his estranged wife who finds new love with the unlikeliest of characters.  Cooper gave a multifaceted performance and displayed the nuances of Pat – his highs and his lows – with wonderful depth and believability.  The role was a very different kind of role for Cooper and he pulled it off beautifully and earned his first Oscar nomination for best actor.

American Sniper

Cooper and Russell re-teamed the following year on the hit film, American Hustle. Cooper played Ritchie DiMaso, a hyperactive and petulant federal agent eager to break a big case.  His character was both likable and unlikable; sometimes you wanted to root for Ritchie and other times he was a turn-off.  This tendency to second-guess your feelings as a viewer speaks volumes about Cooper’s brilliant characterization of Ritchie.

If the last eight months is any indication, Cooper’s star will only continue to rise.  After a scene stealing role as Rocket, the talking racoon in Guardians of the Galaxy – 2014’s second-highest grossing film – he garnered another Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Chris Kyle in American Sniper, a film that has already amassed an astounding $331 million dollars at the box office in 2015 alone.

Along with Cooper’s memorable film roles, one particular talk show appearance stands out in my mind as really quite wonderful – when he cracked up with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show.  To me, that appearance showed how down-to-earth Cooper was; that when he was before an audience as himself, he truly was himself to the point where he couldn’t contain his laughter to the point of tears.  It was a great real moment from Cooper that I really enjoyed watching.  It brought me to tears a little because, you know, when others laugh uncontrollably for some reason you wind up laughing uncontrollably too.