Bradley Cooper says he nearly quit acting before being offered a role in filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza. Despite a career filled with acclaim and multiple Oscar nominations, Cooper had never worked with Anderson before, and with a film resume that includes hits such as Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and There Will Be Blood, it’s easy to understand why he’d jump at the chance to work with the 51-year-old auteur.
After arriving on the scene in 1996 with the Gwyneth Paltrow, John C. Reilly, and Phillip Baker Hall-led Hard Eight, Anderson managed to gain significant attention, but not much mainstream recognition. It wasn’t until his second film Boogie Nights was released the following year that the name Paul Thomas Anderson became a true source of discussion. The ambitious star-studded feature about the early days of the pornographic film industry in Los Angeles and the unexpected familial connections it built earned rave reviews and helped provide Mark Wahlberg with a considerable boost to his still rather nascent acting career. From that point onward, it seemed that Anderson had a keen knack for attracting some of the biggest names in acting to his films, despite still never having won an Oscar.
While the list of actors who have worked with Anderson over the years is indeed a lengthy one, there are still plenty of stars who haven’t worked with the respected filmmaker. Until recently, Cooper was one of those people. While speaking with Mahershala Ali during Variety’s Actors on Actors series, however, Cooper made it clear that he basically jumped at the chance to play Jon Peters in Anderson’s Licorice Pizza. The experience sounds like it was a highly memorable and beneficial one for Cooper, who even went as far as admitting that Anderson’s offer saved him from quitting acting:
The reason that I didn’t give up acting is Paul Thomas Anderson. When he called me to maybe be in his movie, Mahershala, I mean really, I think I’d open up a door in his movie. I’d do anything. We broke from “Nightmare Alley,” I was able to grow a beard and Searchlight was praying that I didn’t get COVID, because we had to go back and continue “Nightmare Alley,” but I was like, “There’s no way I’m not doing it.” That was the first movie back from COVID. And Jon Peters was the beginning of the movie, so I started with everybody else, which was wonderful, rather than coming in when everybody’s already downriver. I spent three and a half weeks with Paul. I watched all the camera tests. He was teaching me all about lenses, things I never knew. He’s incredible.
For an actor as accomplished as Cooper has become over the years to speak of quitting is likely to shock more than a few of his fans. Though his initial roles moved more in the direction of comedy, later work pointed to a skilled dramatic actor who eventually made the successful transition into directing. Coincidentally enough, both he and Anderson have the same number of Oscar nominations, and also like Anderson, he’s yet to win one. But exactly why he even considered quitting acting is unknown, as Cooper does not elaborate on the statement. Thankfully, Cooper’s Licorice Pizza casting has reinvigorated his desire to act.
It’s very likely that thoughts of quitting acting stem from a greater desire to pursue directing. From the sounds of it, Cooper’s time with Anderson was a bit of a mind-blowing experience, the likes of which would provide an invaluable education for any filmmaker. With two acclaimed films to his 2022 resume, it could very well be that this is the year Bradley Cooper gets his first Oscar. If that ends up being the case, it’ll be quite the triumph for someone who once considered leaving acting behind.
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- Licorice Pizza (2021)Release date: Dec 25, 2021
- Nightmare Alley (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
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