We often see success as a linear process, a ladder that once you keep climbing, you’ll keep going upward. But success isn’t one-dimensional. When I study a successful person, personally or professionally, it’s the progress that really interests me. A story with only highlights and bright lights doesn’t stick. Where is the pain or the struggle? Where are the humble beginnings?
Let’s look at Bradley Cooper. He’s one of the most notable names in Hollywood. He’s clearly climbed the ladder — and reached the top after brilliant and moving performances in films such as “American Sniper.” Whether or not you’re a big fan of his, once you actually examine his career transformation, you’ll probably like him a little more (or dislike him a little less).
Before the first installment of “The Hangover” hit the big screen in 2009 and Cooper’s character “Phil” made America bust a gut, where did you see him? He was mostly unknown, or in other words, he was just the cringeworthy, unlikable boyfriend from “Wedding Crashers” who took backyard football too seriously.
Then when “The Hangover” series became a global phenomenon, people began to realize that Cooper’s potential was far beyond where he career actually stood. He had already come a long way, yes, but many figured his talent was going to take him even further.
To think, 10 years prior, Cooper was a MFA student at the Actors Studio. In fact, he once earnestly asked Sean Penn a question during his appearance on “Inside the Actors Studio” back in 1999. The then-24-year-old Cooper, with floppy hair, dressed in a loose-fitting, boxy blue shirt and polka dot tie, was engrossed in the conversation, eager to learn. He surely listened, as he started to break away from forming any comical pigeonhole and experimented with more dramatic roles. Cooper's portrayal of a struggling writer in the thriller “Limitless” in 2011, and a rookie police officer in the crime drama “The Place Beyond the Pines” in 2012 drew a lot of praise from critics.
Cooper just continued to rise.
It wasn’t until his role in David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook” that Cooper received widespread, booming attention and critical acclaim, mostly for displaying a kind, expansive versatility we never expected. He was comical, he was touching. He was convincing, he was inspiring. Sure enough, his performance alongside Jennifer Lawrence as “Pat” led to an Oscar nomination in 2013.
He doubled down on his award nominations the following year, with ridiculous curly hair and 70s outfits, as Cooper truly shined every single moment onscreen in “American Hustle,” a comedy-crime film inspired by the FBI ABSCAM operation of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In 2015, he put on his finest performance in the emotional “American Sniper” as Chris Kyle, who became the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history with 255 kills from four tours in the Iraq War, 160 of which were officially confirmed by the Department of Defense. He was nominated for Best Actor, and the film was nominated for Best Picture. Three years. Three Best Actor noms. Wow, he’s come a long way and he deserves every ounce of respect he’s gotten.
So, what’s next? Well, Cooper’s newest anticipated work is the upcoming “A Star is Born,” starring Lady Gaga. What’s different this time is beside co-starring? He’ll also be directing the film.
Cooper’s career has truly evolved miles and oceans from his younger days, proving his abilities and potential amongst other professionals in the field. We have every reason to look forward to him continuing to climb that ladder.
What is your favorite Cooper film? Do you believe he’s one of this generation’s most important cinematic figures?
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