Bradley Cooper won’t get a makeover to star in “The Elephant Man” on Broadway. But the Booth Theatre will.
The outside of the historic W. 45th St. house is already tricked out with a marquee that reads, in a Victorian-era font, “Hideous! Deformed! Grotesque!”
It’s part of the sexiest man alive’s idea to engage people’s imaginations before they set foot inside the theater to watch the revival of Bernard Pomerance’s 1979 Tony winner about Joseph Merrick, the deformed 19th-century Brit evoked in the title.
“Bradley called me and said, ‘I have this idea of making the world of the theater the way it would have been in Merrick’s time,” says Drew Hodges, president of SpotCo, the advertising agency handling the show. “He wanted to make (the Booth) feel like one of the attractions of that time.”
So exterior walls and doors will be covered in artwork reminiscent of a 19th-century circus sideshow. Movable period lamp posts will stand outside in the coming weeks. Vintage light bulbs will dot marquees to add to the period vibe.
Cooper’s name will be above the title— but you won’t find any pictures of the 39-year-old “American Hustle” and “Silver Linings Playbook” star, his baby blues or his buff bod.
“He didn’t want photographs of himself,” says director Scott Ellis, who’s been working with Cooper to finalize the exterior decoration. “He’s not splattering himself outside the theater.”
Cooper, who is making his second appearance on Broadway, is sharing signage with co-stars Patricia Clarkson, who plays a kind actress who champions Merrick’s cause; and Alessandro Nivola, who plays a doctor caring for the unfortunate man. Like Cooper, they reprise their roles from a 2012 Williamstown Theatre Festival run.
“We talked about the sideshow and about creating a feeling (to get) people looking and thinking about the world before the play begins,” says Ellis.
On stage, unlike the 1980 movie adaptation, Merrick is played without prosthetics. The audience imagines terrible maladies as they are enumerated with clinical detail.
Bradley Cooper graced the glossy GQ in January but his good looks won't be plastered outside the Booth Theatre. Peggy Sirota/GQ Bradley Cooper graced the glossy GQ in January but his good looks won't be plastered outside the Booth Theatre.
No one’s talking about the price tag on this elaborate exterior work, but a theater insider ballparks the figure at around $100,000.
“Front of houses are things you do later when your show is a success,” says Hodges. “Bradley was so passionate about setting the stage, he got everyone excited.”