There's a montage in "The Hangover Part III" -- a retrospective, if you will -- of the Wolfpack "through the years." While watching images from all three "Hangover" movies flash across the screen, it's hard not to think about Bradley Cooper's own journey since the first film debuted in 2009. In four short years, Cooper has transformed himself from wiseacre Phil Wenneck to an Academy Award-nominated actor -- a transformation so thorough, it's actually a little odd watching him play Wenneck again.
Cooper called after a long day of press events (that were held in Las Vegas, so your guess is as good as mine as to the amount of sleep he was running on). He discussed the end of the "Hangover" series, his relationship with David O. Russell, and the reasons behind his abrupt departure from the troubled Western "Jane Got a Gun." Cooper also talked about a recent meeting with Sean Penn (yes, the now viral 1999 "Bradley Cooper Asks Sean Penn a question" video was a topic), and explained why, now that he's worked with Christian Bale in the upcoming "American Hustle," he'd like another shot of that impression he did of Bale on "Saturday Night Live."
I think what I will miss the most about the "Hangover" movies is the smaller moments. Like when Phil responds to Alan [Zach Galifianakis] killing a giraffe, "So he killed a giraffe, who gives a fuck?"
The one thing I loved about the third one, the thing that we did that was most like the first one was indulge in the in-between moments. The second one didn't have as much of that. And we were very conscious of making sure that happened in the third one. Sort of, you know, the side of the road in the car. A moment when they're rappelling down the building, when Alan's like, "Try to take a picture." And Phil is like, "Did you get it?" You know, those are the moments when the audience hopefully just connects in such a hugely visceral way with these characters.
There's a montage in this movie that shows scenes from all three "Hangover" movies. It was interesting watching that because audiences really got to know you in that first movie and so much has happened in your career since then. I almost expected to see clips from "The Place Beyond the Pines" and "Silver Linings Playbook" thrown in.
Does that make you feel nostalgic that these are ending?
I mean, there's definitely a lament for the four of us [Galifianakis, Ed Helms and director Todd Phillips] that has really nothing to do with "Pines" or "Playbook." Yeah, definitely it was bittersweet. Gratitude is the word that we'd been batting around for the past three days of this junket in Vegas. That's because, you know, this was never realized as a trilogy on the outset. This is all gravy.
Do you have mixed feelings about it ending? Obviously it meant a lot for your career, but you get to close a chapter. You mentioned "bittersweet."
I'd say it's just sweet, in the sense that you want to go out on a high note, hopefully. We'll see what happens. You know, like life, there's a beginning, middle and end -- and the end is sad but it's also, I don't know, there's just a lot of gratitude, I'd say. So, because of that, because it was never thought of as a trilogy, all of this is just bonus. Do you know what I mean? And when you know it's all bonus, it's harder to sort of feel upset about it.
There was some backlash toward the second movie because the plot had a similar structure to the first movie. This one doesn't follow that same pattern. Was that a concern?
[We were] very conscious of [that]. Just as conscious as we were the second time of adhering to the structure. I think that maybe, in retrospect, people say that, but if you had deviated from this formula the second movie, it wouldn't have been as successful. I think that we had part two with the structure, and with the third one, we could rely upon the audience's engagement with the characters to drive the narrative. It is the time bomb of Alan that drives this third movie.
I feel like this has been the Year of Bradley Cooper. Do you have time to actually think about that?
I feel very fortunate. This is a wonderful time in my life. No question about it. And I just wake up every day and make sure I enjoy the hell out of it.
When you're around your friends do you drop "Oscar nominee" into your conversations? Like, "Hey, that's 'Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper' to you now"?
[Laughs] It never comes up.
I'd be dropping that any chance I had.
Yeah ... no, no. I haven't yet. Maybe I should start doing it.
You're working with Christian Bale in David O. Russell's next movie, "American Hustle." Has he mentioned the impression that you did of him on "Saturday Night Live?"
Oh, God. I hosted "Saturday Night Live" before the "The Hangover" came out. That was around "He's Just Not That Into You," and we did a skit. But the reason why I even agreed to do it was it really wasn't making fun of him, actually. It's about a DVD of everybody's rants. But, no, he never brought it up.
I bring it up because it was a good impression.
Oh, you know, now that I know him, I don't think it was a very good impression. I would like another crack at it, actually! And it's interesting, it's hard to do an impersonation because it depends on what movie he's just done -- you know, in terms of where his accent's at.
That's true. When you hear him give a speech at an awards show or something, it's always startling to hear his real voice.
Right. And it changes!
You starred in David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook." Now you're working with him again in "American Hustle." I don't want to get ahead of myself, but could this be like a Scorsese and De Niro type of relationship?
I feel very fortunate that we have a shorthand -- a way of working together -- that is ridiculously complementary. And even more so on this film, because we're both tired as hell, and we're both getting through this movie and it works! You know, we'll see. I hope "American Hustle" will be as wonderful as I hope it can be, given this incredible cast. But I would be honored if I could make seven or eight movies with this man, are you kidding?
What clicks with you two? He's a director that not everyone responds to, what about your personalities makes this work?
For me though, he has a tremendous heart. First of all, he's ridiculously talented. His instincts are insane. And he's a very, very funny writer. And then just the way we work and what we think is funny -- we get each other. I feel like he gets me in a way that maybe a lot of people don't and I think a little bit vice versa. I enjoy his company and I find him to be endlessly inspiring, artistically.
I'm curious, have you run into Sean Penn since that video of you asking him a question from a 1999 taping of "Inside the Actors Studio" went viral?
Yeah, I have! Yeah. And he brought it up, actually. His daughter had showed it to him.
Did he remember that?
Oh, he doesn't remember, but he was laughing about it.
You were in recent headlines for backing out of "Jane Got a Gun." I've heard though the grapevine that there were script rewrites and that someone may have announced your involvement before it was finalized. What exactly happened there?
That was simply a scheduling thing. And I think it was important to make a statement because I just wanted to make sure that there wasn't any bad -- they've already changed directors, you know, you don't want it to seem like it's a cursed project.
Like you're piling on?
Yeah, exactly. So, here's the reason, because I would be honored to work with [director] Gavin O'Connor. If there were any mistake made, it was of sort of jumping the gun and saying, "Yeah, sure," but then realizing the logistics were impossible. Because it would have been going from literally my last day in Rio to Albuquerque to start shooting the next day. And that's with no prep, you know what I mean? You know, it would have been a nightmare. Everything worked out for the best because they got Ewan McGregor. If they could have gotten him at the outset, I would have never gotten offered the role [laughs], I'll tell you that.
You're an Oscar nominee now, you don't have to be that humble.
Well, it's the truth. I'm not trying to be humble, it's just how I see things.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.