Cooper enrolled in the MFA program at the Actors Studio in 2000 after beginning his career in 1999 with a guest role in the television series Sex and the City. He made his film debut in the comedy Wet Hot American Summer (2001). He first gained recognition as Will Tippin in the spy-action television show Alias (2001–2006), and achieved minor success with a supporting part in the comedy film Wedding Crashers (2005). His breakthrough role came in 2009 with The Hangover, a critically and commercially successful comedy, which spawned two sequels in 2011 and 2013. Cooper's portrayal of a struggling writer in the thriller Limitless (2011) and a rookie police officer in the crime drama The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) drew praise from critics.
Cooper was married to actress Jennifer Esposito from 2006 to 2007. He was also in a relationship with Russian model Irina Shayk from 2015 to 2019, with whom he has a daughter. He supports several organizations that help people fight cancer.
Cooper was born on January 5, 1975, in Philadelphia, and grew up in the nearby communities of Jenkintown and Rydal. His mother, Gloria (née Campano), worked for the local NBC affiliate. His father, Charles Cooper, worked as a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch. Cooper's father was of Irish descent, while his mother is of Italian ancestry (from Abruzzo and Naples). He has an older sister, Holly, and was raised as a Roman Catholic. He had cholesteatoma in his ear soon after his birth, and punctured his eardrum when he started diving at an early age.
Describing himself as a child, Cooper has said: "I never lived the life of 'Oh, you're so good-looking'. People thought I was a girl when I was little, because I looked like a girl—maybe because my mother would keep my hair really long". He excelled at basketball, and enjoyed cooking: "I used to have buddies come over after kindergarten and I'd cook them food. I prided myself in taking whatever was in the fridge and turning it into lasagna." He initially wanted to attend Valley Forge Military Academy and move to Japan to become a ninja. At an early age, his father introduced him to films like The Elephant Man, which inspired him to be an actor. Cooper says that his parents were initially apprehensive of his career choice, but they eventually changed their perceptions when they saw Cooper play the part of Joseph Merrick in an excerpt from the play The Elephant Man.
In the television series Alias (2001–06), Cooper achieved some success with the role of Will Tippin, a local reporter for a newspaper and the best friend of Jennifer Garner's character, Sydney Bristow. Garner was one of the first people he met in Los Angeles and was, in Cooper's words, "very maternal ... She wanted to take care of me, make sure I was okay all the time." He acted in the 2002 psychological thriller Changing Lanes. The scenes in which he appeared were edited out of the final cut of the film, but are featured on the film's DVD and Blu-ray releases. Also in 2002, he played a man involved in a love triangle in the romantic drama Bending All the Rules. He guest-starred in the short-lived TV series Miss Match and played the role of cowboy and race horse trainer Morgan Murphy in the television film The Last Cowboy, which aired on the Hallmark Channel in January 2003. He later appeared in the television film I Want to Marry Ryan Banks (2004) with Jason Priestley and as a regular guest star in the WB series Jack & Bobby (2004–05).
Cooper in 2007 at a promotional event for The Midnight Meat Train
Cooper's career prospects improved with a more prominent role in the David Dobkin-directed comedy Wedding Crashers (2005) alongside Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Rachel McAdams. In the film, he played Sack Lodge, the arrogant and aggressive boyfriend of Claire (McAdams) who is obsessed with winning—a role he describes as "kind of a sociopath". Cooper believed that the antagonistic character changed people's perception of him, as he had previously played the "nice guy". With a production budget of $40 million, the film grossed over $285 million worldwide. In September 2005, Fox debuted the sitcom Kitchen Confidential, based on a memoir by chef Anthony Bourdain, with Cooper in the leading role. Despite positive reviews for the series, the show was canceled after only four episodes due to low ratings.
In 2011, Cooper starred in the techno-thrillerLimitless, based on the 2001 novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn. In the Neil Burger-directed film, he played a struggling writer who is introduced to a nootropic drug that gives him the ability to fully utilize his brain and vastly improve his lifestyle. The box office website Box Office Mojo was apprehensive of the film's financial prospects, but it emerged as a commercial success with a worldwide gross of $161 million. A writer for Variety said of Cooper's performance that he "makes further strides toward major stardom, spelling excellent early spring returns and socko vid play." Greater commercial success followed with the comedy sequel The Hangover Part II (2011), which earned over $580 million worldwide. Reviews for the film were generally negative, though the critic for Time complimented him: "Cooper gives a knowing performance: he's both the peacock and the parody of one. He's blessed with good looks and fantastic timing, the kind that makes every line funnier, even the small asides." At the 38th People's Choice Awards, he was nominated for Favorite Comedic Movie Actor.
The year 2012 saw Cooper star in four films—The Words, Hit and Run, The Place Beyond the Pines, and Silver Linings Playbook. The mystery drama The Words failed commercially, as did the action comedy Hit and Run. In Derek Cianfrance's critically acclaimed crime drama The Place Beyond the Pines, Cooper played a rookie police officer, a role Cianfrance specifically wrote for him. The director drove five hours to Montreal to meet with Cooper to convince him to take on the role. Cianfrance described Cooper's character as someone "paraded as a hero ... But inside him corruption is going on, conflict is raging inside, guilt and shame are buried." A writer from The Independent credited Cooper for "excelling as an archetype, the principled man who is personally rather dislikeable", adding, "I never imagined this actor capable of such layered character work." Despite positive reviews, the film had moderate box office returns.
Cooper starred with Robert De Niro and Jennifer Lawrence in David O. Russell's romantic comedy-drama Silver Linings Playbook, an adaptation of Matthew Quick's serio-comic novel of the same name. He was cast as a divorced man with bipolar disorder, a former teacher who finds companionship in a young, depressed widow (Lawrence). Cooper was initially skeptical about playing the part which he thought was out of his depth, but he later accepted the role inspired by Russell's confidence in him. The director was impressed by his performance in Wedding Crashers, citing his "good bad-guy energy" and unpredictability as justification for casting; he also thought that Cooper would be able to demonstrate emotion and vulnerability on screen. To prepare, Cooper took dance training with the choreographer Mandy Moore, who describes Cooper as having "some real natural dancing ability." The film was a box-office success, earning $236.4 million on a production budget of $21 million. Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers said that Cooper "seizes the juiciest role of his career and meets every comic and dramatic challenge. There's an ache in his funny, touching and vital performance that resonates." For his performance, he earned an MTV Movie Award for Best Performance, and nominations for an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor.
Commercial fluctuations (2013–2017)
In 2013, Cooper reprised his role as Phil Wenneck in the third and final installment of The Hangover trilogy, The Hangover Part III, which was poorly reviewed by critics. A reviewer for The Independent argued that Cooper is "reduced to mugging for the camera, offering reaction shots to nothing." Nevertheless, like its preceding entries, the film was a commercial success, grossing $362 million worldwide, and remains one of Cooper's highest-grossing releases. Later that year, he took on the supporting role of an unhinged FBI agent in David O. Russell's crime comedy-drama American Hustle. Inspired by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Abscam sting operation, the film is set against the backdrop of political corruption in 1970s New Jersey. It also starred Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Jennifer Lawrence.American Hustle was a critical and commercial success with global revenues of $251.1 million.Kim Newman of Empire wrote: "Cooper is stuck with the least rewarding role, but keeps finding brilliant little bits of business to hold the attention", praising his "spot impersonations of his overly cautious (but smart) boss." Cooper was nominated for an Academy Award, BAFTA Award, Critics' Choice Movie Award, and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor, but did not win any.
Cooper reunited with Lawrence in the Susanne Bier-directed drama Serena—an adaptation of Ron Rash's period novel. The pair starred as a married couple who become involved in criminal activities after realizing that they cannot bear children. The picture was filmed in 2012, but was released in 2014 to negative reviews and poor box office returns.The Canberra Times' Jake Wilson said: "Cooper once again proves his value as a leading man who approaches his roles like a character actor." In 2014, Cooper provided the voice of Rocket Raccoon in the Marvel Studios film Guardians of the Galaxy. He returned to Broadway for the 2014 run of The Elephant Man as the severely deformed Joseph Merrick. Michael Coveney of Whatsonstage.com reviewed his performance: "Cooper avoids every trap of "disability" acting by suffusing this outer appearance with soul and passion. It's a wonderful, and very moving, display." He garnered a nomination for Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play.
Also in 2014, Cooper co-produced and starred as United States Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle in American Sniper—a biographical war drama directed by Clint Eastwood. The film tells the story of Kyle, who became the deadliest marksman in US military history, and is loosely based on the eponymous memoir. To appear to be as large as Kyle, Cooper underwent extensive training and followed a rigorous diet, gaining 40 pounds (18 kg) of muscle. Cooper's preparation also included lessons with a vocal coach, and studying footage of Kyle. To learn how to use a rifle, the actor trained with US Navy SEAL veteran Kevin Lacz, who served with Kyle. The film, and Cooper's performance, received generally positive reviews. The critic for Variety wrote, "an excellent performance from a bulked-up Bradley Cooper, this harrowing and intimate character study offers fairly blunt insights into the physical and psychological toll exacted on the front lines." Similar sentiments were expressed by USA Today's Claudia Puig who asserted: "It's clearly Cooper's show. Substantially bulked up and affecting a believable Texas drawl, Cooper embodies Kyle's confidence, intensity and vulnerability."American Sniper earned $547 million worldwide to become Cooper's highest-grossing live-action film and the third highest-grossing R-rated film of all time. Cooper won an MTV Movie Award for Best Male Performance, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor; the film was nominated for Best Picture. With these nominations, Cooper became the tenth actor in history to receive an Academy Award nomination for acting in three consecutive years.[a]
After reprising the role of Rocket Raccoon in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Cooper directed his first film, A Star Is Born, a remake of the 1937 musical film of same name. Cooper starred in the film as an established singer, Jackson Maine, whose romance with a woman named Ally (played by Lady Gaga) becomes strained after her career begins to overshadow his. Having long aspired to direct a film, Cooper was keen on making a love story. People had warned him against directing a third remake, and he feared that the film would end his directing career if it failed. The film premiered at the 75th Venice International Film Festival in August 2018, and was released worldwide in October to critical acclaim. On Cooper's directing, Owen Gleibermann of Variety wrote that "to say that [Cooper] does a good job would be to understate his accomplishment" and that he "gets right onto the high wire". Brian Tallerico, writing for critic Roger Ebert's website, found that Cooper "does some of the best work of his career" and gives "an excellent performance", praising his singing abilities and his chemistry with Gaga. The film earned over $425 million at the box office against a production budget of $36 million.
Cooper at the premiere of his film A Star Is Born (2018), which he directed, starred in, co-wrote, and co-produced, and contributed to its soundtrack
Cooper spent nearly four years working on the project, including learning to sing, play guitar, and play piano. He and Gaga co-wrote and produced most of the songs on the soundtrack for A Star Is Born, which she insisted they record live. Cooper undertook vocal training for 18 months to prepare, including with the help of vocal coach Roger Love. The album contains elements of blues rock, country and bubblegum pop.Billboard says its lyrics are about wanting change, its struggle, love, romance, and bonding, describing the music as "timeless, emotional, gritty and earnest. They sound like songs written by artists who, quite frankly, are supremely messed up but hit to the core of the listener." The album's release coincided with the film's, and it contains 34 tracks, including 19 original songs. It received generally positive reviews from critics; Mark Kennedy of The Washington Post called it a "five-star marvel" and Ben Beaumont-Thomas of The Guardian termed it an "instant classics full of Gaga's emotional might". Commercially, the soundtrack reached number one in the US, Ireland and the UK. The record's lead single, "Shallow", was released that September and reached number one in the US, Australia, Ireland, Switzerland and the UK.
Cooper, in 2009 during a United Service Organizations tour.
Cooper's early years in the entertainment industry were marred with difficulties. When his role in the second season of Alias was demoted to a minuscule part, he considered quitting show business. His substance addiction and doubts about his career triggered thoughts of suicide. Cooper has abstained from alcohol since 2004, remarking that it would have destroyed his life.
I was at a party and deliberately bashed my head on the concrete floor—like, 'Hey, look how tough I am!' And I came up, and blood dripped down. And then I did it again. I spent the night at ... [h]ospital with a sock of ice, waiting for them to stitch me up. I was so concerned what you thought of me, how I was coming across, how I would survive the day. I always felt like an outsider. I just lived in my head. I realized I wasn't going to live up to my potential, and that scared the hell out of me. I thought, 'Wow, I'm actually gonna ruin my life; I'm really gonna ruin it.'
— Cooper, The Hollywood Reporter, September 2012
In October 2006, Cooper became engaged to actress Jennifer Esposito. The couple married in December. In May 2007, Esposito filed for a divorce that was finalized in November. "It was just something that happened. The good thing is, we both realized it. Sometimes you just realize it", he has since explained. Before his marriage, he met Renée Zellweger while filming Case 39 in 2006. The media speculated about the nature of their relationship in 2009, when the film was released. In 2011, the media reported about the end of the relationship. In December 2011, he was involved in a romantic relationship with Zoe Saldana that ended in January 2013. In March 2013, he began dating English model Suki Waterhouse; the relationship ended in March 2015. Cooper began a relationship with Russian model Irina Shayk the following month. In March 2017, Shayk gave birth to their daughter, Lea de Seine. The couple reportedly split in June 2019.
Two years after the death of his father from lung cancer in 2011, he relocated to Los Angeles with his mother. He said that after his father's diagnosis, "I was in a very lucky position because I was able to put everything on hold in all aspects of my life and completely focus on taking care of him." He has described the process of his father's treatment as "just simply overwhelming, incredibly stressful, complex and all consuming."
As part of a career analysis, IndieWire's Oliver Lyttelton notes that early in his career, Cooper was typecast as "weaselly boyfriends or best friends in mainstream comedies", but he later became one of Hollywood's most accomplished actors after starring in several successful films. Cooper is known for appearing in a range of films; writing for The Hollywood Reporter, Bill Phelps credits him for "opt[ing] for the challenging and provocative, the small and interesting, risking the laid-back image that propelled him to fame."The Daily Beast's Oliver Lyttelton agrees, remarking: "Cooper ... regularly ventures outside his grinning-stud comfort zone by taking on roles that, on the surface, might not necessarily seem like perfect matches."Time magazine writes of Cooper's craft: "It's hard to make people, especially your friends, forget who you are onscreen. But Bradley's that good." Cooper believes that his personality relates to acting: "I enjoy people, that makes this profession a lot easier, and I can sleep anywhere. That's a skill." He cites actor Daniel Day-Lewis as an influence.
Cooper at the premiere of The Hangover in 2009
Cooper's sex appeal has been noted by several media outlets including People magazine, which named him Sexiest Man Alive in 2011. He was initially uncomfortable with the accolade, but later found it funny. Also in 2011, he was dubbed International Man of the Year by GQ and appeared in AskMen's 49 most influential men. He ranked tenth on Empire's list of the 100 Sexiest Movie Stars in 2013. He was one of the highest-paid actors in the world from 2013 to 2015, earning $28 million, $46 million, and $41.5 million, respectively, and in 2019, with $57 million.Forbes ranked him first on their Celebrity 100: Ones To Watch list in 2013. In 2014, 2015 and 2019, he featured on Celebrity 100, a list based on the income and popularity of celebrities, as selected annually by Forbes.Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2015. Cooper's films have earned a total of $11.2 billion worldwide.
Cooper supports organizations that help fight cancer. In June 2014, he joined the board of directors for the charity Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a non-profit organization that serves people coping with cancer. In April 2016, he participated in the launch of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy that works for cancer patients. He served as an executive producer for Stand Up to Cancer's Fifth Biennial Telecast, a primetime fundraising special that aired in September.
^"Will the Real Irina Shayk Please Stand Up". Harper's Bazaar. Archived from the original on July 12, 2019. Retrieved July 12, 2019. Lea de Seine, who she reveals is named after Shayk’s paternal grandmother, Galina. “The second part is the Seine, like the river in Paris,” she explains, offering one of the few morsels she’s willing to extend about her daughter.