A chat with Bradley Cooper
Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper star in Joy - a true story brought to film by David O Russell. It's out to buy on DVD and Blu-ray on 25th April and here's a quick Q&A with Bradley Cooper to get you in the mood...
Q: What makes him give Joy a chance?
A: “He has followed a similar path to Joy, so he can relate to her. He is a very practical man and he knows that her invention, her self-wringing mop, is ingenious. He actually watches her demonstrate it and he is impressed. He is a businessman and he sees potential with the mop. He sees a huge upside and so he is pretty logical actually. He doesn’t follow whatever the normal ideas of business are. It takes people like that in your life to say ‘I think I can give you a shot.’ Barry Diller thought outside the box when he left Twentieth Century Fox (for the teleshopping network QVC). At the time, people thought, ‘oh, what's he doing?’ but he wound up being way ahead of the curve.”
Q: Which people have helped and inspired you in your career?
A: “Oh there have been so many people: J.J. Abrams. David O. Russell, Harvey Weinstein, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood…."
Q: You have worked with great directors. What do you think differentiates David O. Russell and why do you enjoy collaborating with him?
A: “I think every director is different. Yes, I've been so lucky to work with great directors. Clint Eastwood is amazing and Todd Phillips is great. David is a unique person and he has a style that's also unique, I think any great auteur has that. He creates a world in which he's the conductor and we are there to help him realize his story. He's great, he is somebody who always wants to improve as a director and I think that he pushes himself constantly. It’s amazing that Fox has made a movie like this and allowed David to do it on this level. It means that large numbers of people can see the movie, which is really incredible, and that's due to David’s fortitude. He didn’t just make THE FIGHTER and then say ‘okay’, or go on to make SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and say ‘okay’ and then make AMERICAN HUSTLE and say ‘okay’. Now he has made JOY. That is four really incredible movies in a row! He also made THREE KINGS which is incredible and FLIRTING WITH DISASTER and I HEART HUCKABEES and SPANKING THE MONKEY, his first film. He has a drive that I think is undeniable and it is lucky for us that he has it, because he keeps creating great films.”
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Q: David often likes working with the same team. Have you and David and Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro developed a close camaraderie?
A: “For sure we have. Bob and I already worked together on a movie called LIMITLESS, so we had become friends. I met Jen on SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. Yes, it feels very much like a family in a lot of ways, when you make movies with the same people over a span of years. The in-between moments are when you also grow together, so that informs the work you're doing. I wasn't working with Bob on this movie and I really wasn’t working with Jen on AMERICAN HUSTLE, but we were all in the same movies.”
Q: What do you think it is about Jennifer that sets her apart?
A: “Before David and Jen worked together, she was nominated for an Oscar for WINTER'S BONE. She's just an incredible actor who is very gifted and dexterous and perfect for just about any role. That is a rarity. And she's just so young!”
Q: What is JOY (the film) all about?
A: “I think JOY is about a woman who despite many, many obstacles, embraces what her grandmother taught her. She told Joy that she's special, that what she has to say needs to be heard and that what she needs to do has to be done. It is a great female empowerment story about rising above all the obstacles and the waves of potential failure and coming out on top. It is about Joy achieving the status as a titan in her field, a field dominated by men. It is about people and relationships and primarily it is about a woman, Joy. It is her story about the realities of what a woman has to go through in the real world of commerce in our day and age. That is the movie David wanted to make. David makes it a very compelling, entertaining story for two hours. That's what's special about David O. Russell, he decides to make movies about people and that's rare within the studio system. This is a big studio movie.”
Q: In what way is this kind of story about people unusual?
A: “Well of course people are in movies, but if you really think about it and if you look at other movies, there's always a sort of hook, or it's about something bigger. But this movie is really all about this woman and her journey and her family. That's it. And it is a normal family, not an extraordinary, dynamic sort of crazy, baroque, larger than life family. No, this really is a normal family. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK was also about a normal family.”
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Q: From your perspective, are there enough great roles for women in film, like JOY?
A: “Well I'm a storyteller. I love to be involved in stories about men and women that are fascinating. At the dawn of movies, Marlene Dietrich was commanding the narrative of the movies she was in. And I have been lucky that I've been in movies where the female characters have been very complicated and strong, women who are forces to be reckoned with. In my career, that started with television, the first job I had was on a show called ALIAS (2001 – 2006) from J.J. Abrams that had a female star (Jennifer Garner), so I grew up working within a structure where the female was the main person.”
Q: Joy is a great role model because she is not depending on a man.
A: “That’s right. She says, ‘I don't need a prince’ at the beginning of the film. It’s a great message and a prevailing one. The film FROZEN is all about that message too.”
Q: Do you think children are being raised in a different way now, with equal opportunities?
A: “Look, there is still misogyny; it is a fact that we have grown up in a patriarchal society and we can't escape it. But that said, when I was growing up, in our family everybody was fending for themselves around the dinner table. We were a family who argued at the table about whatever topic was going on and I loved it. That helped form the way I think and speak and articulate, and that was all because I had a strong father and I have a strong mother and sister. So there was never that disparity between male and female and who gets the podium.”
Q: Did you always want to act?
A: “I have wanted to be an actor since I was 12. I didn't do anything about it, but I always knew I wanted to act after I saw the movie: THE ELEPHANT MAN (the1980 film with John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins) and that was it for me.”
Q: What other movies and actors really inspired you as a kid?
A: “Oh there were so many, for example, Martin Scorsese's collaboration with Robert De Niro in all those great movies. I loved (Francis Ford) Coppola’s movies and then in British film I loved Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay’s films. They were amazing, films like SHOOT THE MOON (1982), UNDER THE VOLCANO (1984) and THE DRESSER (1983).”
Q: Did you have any intuition or sense that an acting career was going to work out?
A: “Well, there is definitely something deep, deep inside that has given me the wherewithal, or the traction, to be able to push forward and pursue this line of work. There has to be a deep, deep belief in oneself, but with that comes a lot of doubt. Joy (Mangano) also had doubts and her dream stayed dormant for 17 years. Joy found that success means you have to keep going. It's not as if she just created the Miracle Mop, she then went on and invented her velvet hangers (Huggable Hangers). That's probably her biggest success in fact. She was not somebody who was a one hit wonder.”
Q: What kind of support did you have growing up in terms of acting?
A: “I didn't grow up with a family that knew any actors, nobody in my family knew anybody at all in the entertainment industry. It was a world that was miles and miles away from mine. I was a hotel doorman taking Leonardo Di Caprio to his room when I was in graduate school, so [acting] was just a completely alien universe, but I always thought about it. There was something very compelling about it for me. Quite honestly, when I was 12 it just clicked for me and I thought ‘this is what have to do,’ but I knew it wasn't time.”
Q: When did acting become a reality?
A: “I went to college and studied literature and then went to grad school to study theater and I started acting. But I didn't really think about it too much other than the fact that I just knew I wanted to go after it. It helped that I had parents who didn't stand in my way. Acting is a very scary thing for parents! I took out a $75,000 student loan out for grad school. That's very scary, especially for a father who came out of the ghetto and made a living for his family. Then his child is saying that potentially he could be going back into squalor if he's not successful.”
Q: What were your father’s hopes for you?
A: “He would have been happy if I had become a stockbroker, but eventually in grad school he saw me in THE ELEPHANT MAN. I did it for my thesis and something clicked for him and he was excited; I think he thought then that there was an opportunity for me to do well.”
Q: I believe you are planning to go behind the camera? I imagine you’ve learned a lot about directing from David?
A: “Yes hopefully I am going to direct, we'll see. I have learned so much from David about storytelling, how to deal with actors, crews, editing, making a movie. I really feel like I have had a great tutorial for making films with him.”
Q: It seems like you have been working non-stop, in films and in theatre. How important is it to take time off?
A: “Work is not everything. I love to cook! I definitely took a vacation recently. I love work, but next year I will be 41 and I realized that I had never understood the idea of taking a vacation. A vacation from what? I had done AMERICAN HUSTLE, then I went right into ALOHA, then I went right into AMERICAN SNIPER and then right into BURNT and then the play ELEPHANT MAN in New York and then in London, and I realized I hadn't taken a break in years. Not at all, nothing! Also I had produced all those movies, so I was editing all of them and it didn't end, in terms of SILVER LININGS and HUSTLE and SNIPER. I thought: ‘I’ve got to take a break,’ so I do take time off.”
Q: JOY comes out at Christmas, are there any holiday films that you watch traditionally?
A: “On Christmas Day it has always been a tradition in our family, after we cook and after we have the meal, to go to the movies. I remember so many movies that I saw on Christmas Day. You know, my father passed in 2011 but oddly enough, the last one I went to with him on Christmas Day was (the director) Guy Ritchie’s SHERLOCK HOLMES. It was always exciting to go to the movies on Christmas Day.”
Q: The title of this film is interesting. What does joy mean to you?
A: “I love to work, I really love what I do and I feel a lot of joy working with David specifically, in every aspect of the process. To me joy means many things, that is the beautiful thing about the word, I think it's amorphous. Sometimes breathing is joyful. Joy is deep contentment, it's gratitude, it's also pleasure, but there is also something sort of innocent about the word joy.”
Q: You’ve had three acting Oscar nominations in recent years. How rewarding is it to receive all the accolades and awards?
A: “While it's amazing to be in the company of these great filmmakers and doing these performances in the last three years, and to be a part of a movie like this, my drive has nothing to do with any of that. As long as I'm healthy and I’m here, I just want to keep learning. I'm a very curious person and I've always had a huge engine inside of me.”
Q: Do you think success is about talent and hard work or is luck involved too?
A: “It's a mixture of hard work and luck I think. I'd be a fool to say I haven't been very lucky and at the same time I do work very hard, it's very hard to work hard when you hate what you do. It is very easy to work hard when you love what you do.”
Q: You seem very down to earth. Is that because you don’t take it all for granted?
A: “I think probably my biggest gift is that I don't take anything at all for granted, because I know that it's going to be gone tomorrow and that it's fleeting. Being here and being able to talk to you about this movie is great, it really is. I appreciate everything!”
JOY IS AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL HD, BLU-RAY™ AND DVD ON 25TH APRIL FROM TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX HOME ENTERTAINMENT