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Bradley Cooper felt insecure about replacing DiCaprio in Nightmare Alley

Bradley Cooper has been explaining how "insecurity and ego" led him to take the lead role in Nightmare Alley, once Leonardo DiCaprio dropped out

Bradley Cooper in Nightmare Alley

Bradley Cooper has been speaking honestly and frankly to Mahershala Ali as part of the Variety Actors-on-Actors series about replacing Leonardo DiCaprio on Guillermo del Toro‘s noir thriller movie Nightmare Alley. He says it was “an interesting example of how insecure I am.”

Now aged 47, Bradley Cooper has been moving more towards writing and directing in recent years, with his critically-acclaimed Oscar-nominated film A Star is Born starring Lady Gaga in 2018. And then there’s the upcoming Maestro, in which he will be writing, directing and starring as Leonard Bernstein opposite Carey Mulligan.

He told Ali that; “The directors I admired weren’t hiring me….(so) I had no intention of acting in anything other than what I’ve been writing,” but when DiCaprio dropped out of Nightmare Alley and they came to him, he thought; “Oh, I guess I still am the guy that wants to be in the group.” He was flattered to be considered on the same level as DiCaprio.

Cooper continued; “Leonardo DiCaprio fell out, and Guillermo del Toro came to me. I still remember thinking, ‘Oh wow, the guys that don’t hire me, they want to hire me?’ I’m the next guy after Leo? And that cast that was already assembled, around Cate (Blanchett).” He concluded; “And then it was like, ‘Of course, I have to do it just because I’ve never been allowed into that group.’ It was insecurity and ego.”

In Nightmare Alley, Cooper plays Stan – a man who experiences a meteoric rise-and-fall – through a carnival where he learns tricks so he can pose as a clairvoyant and psychic medium. He takes his new-found skills to a nightclub act and then to wealthy private clients.

Cooper told Ali about learning things from GDT that he can apply to his own directing; “his attention to detail, the world he creates, his use of the technocrane in an intimate scene – those are things that I had not been exposed to. So, in every facet I’ve learned from him.”

If you’re interested in awards season, you might like our guide to the best drama movies.