Bradley is featured on Vanity Fair’s January 2015 cover to promote “American Sniper” and “The Elephant Man“. We have added the digital magazine scans in our gallery. The will hit newsstands nationwide on December 9 and is already available digitally so be sure to pick up your own copy!
Bradley Cooper tells Vanity Fair contributing editor Buzz Bissinger that his past struggles—including addiction, the wrenching loss of his father, and the restlessness of a career that went so long unfulfilled—have helped him prepare for his most challenging role yet, as Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle in Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper. “Losing someone close to me. Going through love and loss . . . knowing what’s important,” Cooper tells Bissinger. “Realizing that the bottom line is that all I got is me, so it’s about time to stop trying to be something that I think you would want me to be. Or that would give me what I think I need. As you get older, thank God, your body deteriorates, but your soul sort of flourishes.”
“I see life much more gray as I get older,” he continues. “I was so sort of black-and-white in my late 20s. There’s right and there’s wrong and that’s it. That’s a tough way to live. It’s rare that I judge somebody, really rare. I think people feel that, so it’s sort of easy to get close to somebody if you don’t feel judged by them.”
Cooper’s past challenges with addiction—he has been sober since August of 2004—also meant that he chose to physically transform himself for the role the old-fashioned way, without the use of any stimulants. “I did it naturally because I’ve been sober for 10 years and didn’t want to do anything,” he tells Bissinger. “I had a realistic conversation. Can I do this in three months naturally? Can I gain 30 pounds of fucking muscle? I didn’t know if I would be able to do it or not. Thank God—luckily—my fucking body reacted fast.”
Though he has earned star status, with two Academy Award nominations and a starring role in the Broadway revival of The Elephant Man, Cooper tells Bissinger he long fought to gain traction in his career. In 2006 he appeared in Three Days of Rain on Broadway with Julia Roberts and Paul Rudd, an experience he calls “an amazing opportunity” and considers a pivotal point in his career. “If this doesn’t work, then I’m not supposed to do this for a living,” he tells Bissinger he said to himself. Cooper even contemplated going back to school and getting a Ph.D. in English and teaching literature.
Despite the play’s middling success, Cooper found that the role sustained and energized him. “I always knew I wanted to be in the trenches with a director making the movie,” he says. “I always felt that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. I always knew deep down that if I’m not going to do that then I’m not too long for this business.”
James Lipton, who was the dean of the Actors Studio Drama School in New York when Cooper attended, tells Bissinger he also saw that early promise. Lipton recalled that Cooper’s mother pulled him aside at one point and asked if he thought Cooper would be all right. “‘He’s going to go all the way,’?” Lipton responded. “I never predicted that for any other student.”
Cooper also suggests that he will try his hand at directing, though his American Sniper co-star Sienna Miller tells Bissinger this gives her pause. “He’d be brilliant, but he’d be a nightmare [as a director],” says Miller, with the kind of laugh that doesn’t conceal truth. “He won’t let anyone get away with anything.”