His first film role was a gay camp counselor in Wet Hot American Summer, and his first TV gig was playing a piece of Carrie's man candy on Sex and the City, so it was only a matter of time before The Advocate interviewed Bradley Cooper. Having broken out as bad boys in Wedding Crashers and He's Just Not That Into You, the 34-year-old Alias alum takes on another lovable jerk in The Hangover (out June 5), a testosterone-soaked comedy about a boozy bachelor party weekend in Vegas gone hysterically wrong. Here Cooper pours us a potent brew of gay-sex-scene secrets, off-screen bromances, and his hypothesis on homophobia in film.
By Brandon Voss
The Advocate: Ready for your first gay-press interview?
Bradley Cooper: Man, I'm honored that The Advocate wanted to talk to me. No segment of the population really makes itself known to me except for my mom and dad, so I love to hear that people are enjoying what I do. Let's gay it up.
You made your big-screen debut in 2001's comedy Wet Hot American Summer, in which you had a gay sex scene. Did you have any reservations about taking a role like that so early in your career?
Maybe for 10 minutes I thought, Is this the first thing I should do? But I'm pretty fearless. The joy of acting is getting to do outlandish things or putting yourself in unusual situations. You have this serious, beautiful sex scene between two men in the middle of this crazy comedy, and I just thought that was great. As long as the story is exciting, I'll do anything.
What do you remember about shooting that scene with costar Michael Ian Black?
I remember every second of that scene. We shot it about three or four weeks into shooting, which made it better because I had gotten to know him. Those guys all knew each other through The State and other things, but I was still in school at the Actors Studio and didn't know anybody. I just sort of auditioned for that movie randomly and was so lucky to get it. So I'm playing Ping-Pong with him the first night I arrived, and I was like, "So, we're going to fuck in a few weeks." [Laughs] We came up with the idea to keep our socks on, and we put tons of that sweat stuff all over our bodies to make them shine.
Did you guys argue —
About who was going to take it? No, it was very clear that my character was going to be the recipient of that kind of love. There was not even a question.
And in the film your character had a happy ending and a wedding ceremony. What are your thoughts on gay marriage?
Sean Penn summed it up perfectly when he talked about how years from now we'll look back and think, How could you not have seen the idiocy of not allowing gay marriage? I actually auditioned to play James Franco's role in Milk — I really wanted that — but oh, my God, Franco just killed it.
Your character's kind of a prick in The Hangover. His outgoing voice-mail message says, "Don't text me; it's gay," and at one point he summons his pal with the phrase "paging Dr. Faggot." What do you make of the straight community's use of homophobic slurs as insults?
It has a lot to do with the way you're brought up. Luckily, I was brought up right. My grandfather in particular was against us ever using any sort of slur, so that's been ingrained in my head since I was a kid. But I see no problem in playing characters that say "faggot" and stuff like that. I'm just representing a character, and you have to understand him for all of his faults and assets. I don't think there's anything off-limits in terms of storytelling. We actually shot that "paging Dr. Faggot" scene at 8:30 in the morning on a beautiful street populated with a lot of gay couples, so I'm screaming "faggot" and thinking, Oh, my God, what am I doing?
What's the purpose of the homophobic humor prevalent in so many "dude" comedies?
It depends on what movie we're talking about, but what it's usually depicting is the lack of comfort so many males have even talking about homosexuality. But I think the stereotype has been changed to reveal that the guy who calls everybody "faggot" is probably gay or certainly has issues he's not dealing with. If there's something about someone that bothers you, usually it's something that you don't like about yourself.
Feeling exploited as cocky actor Aidan Stone playing a doctor in Hearts & Scalpels, Nip/Tuck's show-within-a-show, your character protested, "How come I'm the only one in my goddamn underwear?" Do you feel similar frustration in your own life? Because, not that I'm complaining, you lose your shirt in just about everything, including The Hangover.
Well, that's in my contract. [Laughs] In the Hangover script I was actually supposed to just be in my underwear the whole scene when we wake up in the morning, but I put my shirt on pretty fast. Certainly with Nip/Tuck we wanted to utilize how outrageous that character was. [Series creator-writer] Ryan Murphy and I talked about how Aidan's more than bisexual; he just wants to fuck everything. So I brought a lot of ideas to the table, like, "What if he's stretching and he's got on really tight, crazy underwear?" But I thought that served the character. Otherwise, honestly, we as humans have our shirts off sometimes, so you just happen to catch my characters at those moments.
I'm not buying that. I think you might be an exhibitionist.
You're wrong, because every time I look at myself on-screen I'm like, Damn, I got to get in shape.
I recently spoke to another handsome actor, Chris Evans, about how his publicist discourages him from posing for beefcake shots. Can you relate?
I'm a publicist's nightmare because I do whatever I want, but I've never done any beefcake shots.
What about that picture of you naked in a bathtub from People's 2005 Sexiest Men Alive issue?
Yeah, but you can't even see my body! That's like a humorous shot, and all you see are my knees and my shoulders. That's not beefcake, is it? Listen, if I was built like Chris Evans, I would probably have my shirt off all the time. That guy's ripped.
What's your sexiest Sex and the City memory?
That was my first job ever, and I had to kiss Sarah Jessica Parker. Right before we rehearsed the scene, somebody on her team came up to me and said, "No tongue." So all I could think about when I was kissing her was keeping my tongue so far in the back of my mouth, because I was worried it would somehow come out and they'd fire me on the spot.
What do you think of gay rumors about yourself?
I think it's awesome. Victor Garber is one of my best friends, and I'll never forget when we went to some event together and people thought we were dating. It was all over the Internet. It was the first time I read a rumor like that about me, and I just thought it was fantastic. But if you believe those rumors, every single male in Hollywood is gay.
You've played the buddies of some of Hollywood's hottest actors, but what's been your biggest off-screen bromance?
Although we only worked one day together on a movie called The Comebacks, I had a huge bromance with Dax Shepard. I'm the type of guy who falls in love fast.
You romanced your costars Kevin Connolly and Justin Long in the viral video spoof "10 Chick Flick Clichés That Are Not in He's Just Not That Into You." Though it was obviously geared to straight guys, did you also have the gay audience in mind?
That whole montage of me falling in love with Kevin was such a good time. But no, I wasn't conscious at all that it would appeal to a gay audience. That's so interesting, though. I've never really thought about my gay audience before, but I definitely will now.
As host of Saturday Night Live in February, you reconnected with your feminine side in your first sketch as flamboyant runway trainer Miss B. Was that a fierce challenge?
You know what? It felt really natural. [Laughs] It was actually very easy to play that.
The Advocate, June/July 2009 issue; extended online version.