For the third year in a row, Bradley Cooper came up empty-handed at the Academy Awards.
But despite all the recognition that comes with, Bradley Cooper doesn’t need a golden statue to validate his remarkable career ascension.
While Eddie Redmayne and Michael Keaton were hotter talking points, Cooper relatively flew under the radar on Sunday night. And to me, it’s shocking that his achievements over the last three years haven’t garnered more discussion.
For three consecutive years, Bradley Cooper has been nominated for either Best Supporting or Best Lead Actor. During that time period, there isn’t anyone who’s even done it twice.
In 2013, Cooper was nominated for his lead role in Silver Linings Playbook, last year it was for a supporting role in American Hustle and this year he was back in the lead category for American Sniper.
Even more telling is that all three of those films were nominated for Best Picture. Add his voice-over role in Guardians of the Galaxy, and Cooper has played a major part in four Oscar-nominated films in three years. At this point, I think it’s fair to say the cinematic value he provides is currently unmatched in Hollywood.
It’s something you could call the “Bradley Cooper Effect.” He showed us flashes of it earlier in his career, but now he’s finally reached his prime.
Ten years ago, the majority of the world was introduced to Cooper as Sack Lodge in Wedding Crashers. While Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn’s tag-team antics primarily carried the comedy classic, Cooper nailing the “douchebag” role was the balance the movie needed and thrived on.
Four years later, he was back in a big-time film as Phil in The Hangover. While the subsequent sequels predictably deteriorated in quality, the original undeniably had a decent skeleton to build its unmatched crude humor around.
And just like the three ass-clowns needed Phil to keep their shit together, Bradley Cooper provided most of that skeleton.
Then in 2011, he was the lead in Limitless – which if you simply read the premise (a dude’s life turns around at the discovery of a miracle drug but eventually faces the consequences) would sound like a guaranteed flop. But once again, there was Cooper providing legitimate entertainment value to a movie with bleak prospects at best.
A year later, Silver Linings Playbook was released, and the three-year Oscar nomination run began. Co-star Jennifer Lawrence was able to secure an Academy Award, but Cooper’s (then) finest achievement was just as impressive and more importantly- just as valuable to the movie’s massive success.
Back to a supporting role in American Hustle, Cooper showed off his versatility as crazy FBI agent Richie DiMaso – and had the perm haircut to match it. Alongside Oscar nominees Lawrence, Christian Bale and Amy Adams; Cooper’s value in a complimentary part undoubtedly pushed Hustle to its major critical acclaim.
And finally, in 2014, came both Guardians of the Galaxy and American Sniper. The two roles couldn’t have been more different, but that only confirms how far Cooper has come.
In the former, he was as impactful as anyone could be in a voice-over capacity. Supporting Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana, Cooper barely sounded like himself as Rocket Raccoon, which is a testament to his skill. After all, his regular and quite recognizable voice simply wouldn’t have worked for the fans who read the comic books. So he adapted, and added yet another character to his diverse list of work.
Then it all peaked in American Sniper. While I certainly enjoyed the movie and thought it deserved a Best Picture nomination, Cooper was what truly grabbed you. He added weight, adopted another accent, and remarkably captured Chris Kyle’s essence despite only talking with him once before his tragic death.
From the start, American Sniper was at its best thanks to the Bradley Cooper effect.
He wasn’t able to turn that into an overdue Oscar, but once again – a golden statue is far from the only judge of an actor’s brilliance. For Bradley Cooper, much more can be found in his steady rise to Hollywood’s most valuable asset.
And with a David O. Russell reunion (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) on the horizon, as well as a promising Cameron Crowe project due to release in May, it looks like Bradley Cooper’s reign is just getting started.