IN “THE HANGOVER,” BRADLEY COOPER plays Phil, the slickest of the trio, not J the swellest of guys, a teacher who swipes gambling money from his students. On a recent Thursday morning in New York, Cooper is found standing on a street corner, deep in head-to-head conversation with acclaimed actress Meg Ryan, and immediately we are impressed. “Yeah, you know, hanging out with Meg, shooting the shit with Meg,” he says a few minutes later, plumping himself genially. Cooper’s a good-looking, easygoing guy, with a rakish jaw line, mellow blue eyes, a nice whip of movie-star hair and a luxuriant amount of chin stubble. Biographically, he’s been around show business since 1999, getting his start with a small part in Sex and the City. He’s appeared in a whole bunch of movies, like Wet Hot American Summer, Yes Man and He’s Just Not That Into You. And he did such a convincing job playing a jerk in Wedding Crashers that, honestly, we think Cooper must be a jerk too.
We approach him gingerly, going for the basics. He grew up in Philadelphia, the son of a Merrill Lynch stockbroker, whom he went to kindergarten dressed like, in a suit, carrying a briefcase. In high school, he dated the best-looking girl in the class. In college, at Georgetown, he was an English major who wrote his thesis on Nabokov’s Lolita. He was once married for four months, to the actress Jennifer Esposito, about which he won’t say a damn thing. He has been linked to Cameron Diaz, about which he will only say, stonily, “I’m lucky to know her.” Also, he once promoted Coop as a nickname for himself, but it didn’t take. And, finally, he doesn’t drink.
“I haven’t had a drink in five years,” he says. “And I loved to drink. But then I had to give it up, goddamn it. I mean, unfortunately, those days are over.” He doesn’t say why, exactly, but a bit later he tells a story about how he got six scars on his head. “Now this one,” he says, pointing it out, “I was at a Christmas party, dancing to Marilyn Manson’s ‘The Beautiful People,’ and thought it’d be a cool idea to show how I’m able to bash my head against the concrete floor. I did it, came up, blood went down my face, I laughed, and did it again. Yeah, I had a couple of drinks in me, for sure.”
Given all that, if you went to Vegas with Cooper, you might think about ditching him at the slots first thing. He is, after all, a guy who blow-dries his ears — not because he wants to, but because he has to. “I had a tumor in my eardrum when I was born, so if any water gets in my ear, I get an infection,” he says, “which means, after I go to the gym, I have to blow-dry my ears.”
The only problem is, Cooper quit the stuff. But if he starts again, he’ll be our first Vegas choice. And we’ll call him Coop
Conversely, we are impressed by the fact that he loves going to shrinks (”I love it. I can’t get enough of it. Party!”). But what really makes us think he would make a fine Vegas companion? He was once a big chewing-tobacco advocate and still believes that no matter what they say, chicks dig it.
“Yup, in some sick way, I actually think girls like it, like deep down they’re going, ‘What a man,’” he says. “I remember talking to Scarlett Johansson once, and I had a spit cup, and there’d be saliva running down my lip to the cup, and she was like, Are you kidding me?’ and I was like, ‘What? What?’”