Limitless - Bradley Cooper interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
BRADLEY Cooper talks about the appeal of Limitless and unlocking the potential to access 100% of your brain and working with his screen idol, Robert De Niro (as well as the history between them).
He also talks about forthcoming sequel The Hangover 2 and why he thinks Todd Phillips is on fire right now as a comedy director.
Q. Unlocked potential is an endlessly fascinating subject, so would take the pill that could allow you to access 100% of your brain and what appealed to you about the role?
Bradley Cooper: I would take it. As for the appeal, Leslie Dixon wrote an incredible script that was just sexy, cool and it moved like a house on fire. It was based on a novel that an Irishman named Alan Glynn wrote in 2001, previously called The Dark Fields. But Leslie just wrote this story that it was hard to pinpoint what genre it was. It had a great concept, which was what would happen if you took a pill that could unlock your complete potential? It’s just a great hook… if you could change the neural pathways in your brain so that you could recall everything you’ve ever heard, taste, smelled or touched, basically from the womb on, and use it at your disposal, that’s an interesting concept.
Q. How faithful is it to the book?
Bradley Cooper: It’s very faithful to the character. In fact, I found it to be an invaluable source material. It’s written in the first person, so it’s basically Eddie’s journal you’re reading. It’s a journal that he’s writing in a motel in Vermont, at the end of his life. But things don’t go as well for Eddie Spinola [as he is] in the book as they do for Eddie Morra [the film character’s name]. So, it’s a completely different trajectory. And Lindy, the character that Abbie Cornish plays, is actually Carl Van Loon’s daughter in the book, which changes everything. There’s also no ice skating rink scene in the book, which is my favourite scene, and no blood drinking, which I love. The hope is that it would invoke a reaction of: “Oh my God, is he really going to do it? I hope he does because I want him to survive, but I can’t believe…”
Q. Do you think the film serves as a comment on drug dependency?
Bradley Cooper: It uses this idea of taking a pill as a way to drive the narrative. It’s the hook by which we tell a story about power. But because that is the hook, that is the subject matter, it hopefully will, like any piece of art, provoke discussion. There Will Be Blood, for instance, is an entertaining movie about this guy’s greed, but it’s also about what happened agriculturally to California, it’s also about zoning rights and property and fatherhood. You know what I mean? So, this movie is a fun ride and it’s about power and the abuse of power, what you do with it. But it’s also about drug addiction, politics, the political structure, the investment world…
Q. What was it like working with Robert De Niro?
Bradley Cooper: Unbelievable! I have to pause every time I get asked that question because it’s just incredible. I can’t believe it, it’s crazy. And every time I see him, I see him as a man now, that myth is completely and utterly broken. He’s my friend, which is in and of itself a very surreal occurrence.
Q. You first encountered him when you were at school didn’t you?
Bradley Cooper: Yeah, because my history pre-dates the movie, which he had no awareness of. He came to my grad school and I asked him a question, and then [later] I put myself on tape to play his son in a movie [Everybody’s Fine] and he called me in and I met him for 15 minutes. And then I was a juror on the Tribeca Film Festival, so I saw him around the circuit and said: “Hey, do you remember we met a year ago?” Zero [from recollection from De Niro]. And then cut to a year later and I’m asking him if he’d play Carl Van Loon in Limitless!
Q. How soon before you can call him Bob before feeling ill?
Bradley Cooper: It was really soon [laughs]. I feel ill when I’m talking in press junkets and say ‘Bob’ because I sound like the guys that I watch in interviews [who say] ‘Bob’ and ‘Marty [Scorsese]’.
Q. What did you ask him at grad school?
Bradley Cooper: I was so embarrassed, because I had one question that I wanted to ask him when I found out he was even coming to the school. It was for Awakenings, and that movie floored me… but there’s a scene when he’s around the medical board and he’s asking whether he can go for a walk outside, unaided, but the L-Dopa that they were administering at that time was fading and the Parkinson-like tics were coming back, which would infer that he can’t go unaided, because he could hurt himself. And so he would start doing these tics and pretend he was rubbing his eyebrow so that they wouldn’t notice. So, I asked if that was something that he saw, because he spoke about interviewing Parkinson patients. But he said: “No, no, I didn’t see anybody do that…” Then he went like this [adjusts his trouser leg and looks away dismissively]: “It’s a good question.”
It was one of those awkward moments when you see Q&As and the person asking the question doesn’t sit down afterwards, they stay standing like a beat too long. I was like that… it was like a beam of light shot through my stomach when he said it. And I used that, I’m not even kidding – it’s so pathetic – as fuel for years after! When I would put myself on the line for something and not get it. I thought that was the stupidest question… in retrospect, it’s kind of a great question but I thought it was the stupidest question.
Q. Are you looking forward to The Hangover juggernaut starting again?
Bradley Cooper: Yeah, it’s like I’m part of some sort of odd Petri dish, this is kind of an interesting experiment, this whole movie, and we’re in the second phase of clinical trials. Do you know what I mean [laughs]… to look at it in a Limitless light. The good thing is I’m so proud of what we did in the second one. It’s going to come out in two months and we wrapped it on January 1, it’s so crazy.
Q. The trailer looks good…
Bradley Cooper: I know, man, I love it! Todd [Phillips] e-mailed me the teaser and said: “What do you think, man?” First of all the music… And Zach’s head is shaved, Stu’s got Mike Tyson’s tattoo on his face… you know what I mean, what the hell is happening? The reason why it’s so exciting is Todd Phillips, it’s like working with a director when they’re at the top of their game, it really is. It’s like Ernst Lubitsch at his best, Billy Wilder at his top, he’s that good. Todd Phillips is a great filmmaker [who’s] at his peak right now.
Q. Is there a different vibe with this one because you all know that you have something to live up to?
Bradley Cooper: Well, one of the reasons why Todd is so successful is that all of his comedy – especially lately – is completely grounded in playing things real. I don’t know if you guys saw Due Date, but talk about an ambitious comedy. Whether you like it or not, the tonal shifts in that movie are just insane. I mean, you go from Zach pretending to be Marlon Brando to all of a sudden pretending to do a scene about the loss of his father, and it being real… in this bathroom. And then he’s joking about it two seconds later, outside. That is the approach that Todd brings to his movies now. We’re in Bangkok and it’s outrageous, there’s a monkey, a drug-dealing monkey, it’s just so insane. But we played it real, and I think that’s why the first one was so palatable… yes, there’s a Chinese man’s testicles on Phil’s neck and there’s a tiger in the bathroom, but I believe it. And there’s Mike Tyson singing In The Air Tonight and I believe it. So, hopefully it’s the same thing in Bangkok.
Q. Has it been hard getting used to your raised profile since the success of The Hangover, and coping with fame and all that?
Bradley Cooper: You know, coping feels like way too strong a word… it’s like coping with a disease or something. It’s a life change but one thing is good, I like people. That’s a huge asset. I don’t mind doing press junkets, in fact if I love the movie I could talk about it forever. The only thing I hate are photo shoots. I just hate them. I don’t know why I cannot stand them. And then there’s the paparazzi… but with the paparazzi it didn’t take long for me to be able to… you have to kind of invite that into the process by which you’re going to live your life. That only changes when people come into your life.
Like my father just passed away, so now my mother lives with me and now my mother, in turn, has to deal with the paparazzi, which bothers me. She didn’t ask for it, do you know what I mean? For the most part, I have to say, I talk to them all the time at home and say [stuff like]: “I’ll be back in half an hour, just don’t follow me.” And they’ll do that. But at the airport the other day I said: “Guys, that’s enough.” We were waiting for a cab and we had all of our luggage. I never check bags, but she had, like, 18 bags. So, we were completely ambushed, and I just felt that thing in the back of my head go: “I want to hit this guy, because he’s not stopping!” But that’s the worst thing you can do because that’s all they want you to do, show any sign of aggression and they’re telling the boys they’ve got a live one. And then they’re going to be all over you. So, it’s such a process of restraint, of constant restraint.
Q. You have an executive producer credit on Limitless, is that a sign of doing more in the future for you?
Bradley Cooper: I hope to, I really do. It was a nice gesture for Relativity to give me that credit. I don’t really think like an actor, I really do think in the way of the whole film, so any part that I could play collaboratively, outside of just me in the role, I love.