Bradley Cooper revealed a particularly important conversation that he had years ago with his actor friend Will Arnett when he appeared on Monday's episode of Wondery's SmartLess podcast, which is hosted by Arnett and two of their friends and fellow actors, Jason Bateman and Sean Hayes.
Cooper explained that it took place in 2004, when he was living next to the former Arrested Development star, whose sarcastic sense of humor he always tried to emulate. The two had gone to dinner with another friend the previous night, and Arnett asked Cooper how he thought the night had gone. Cooper recalls that he had felt great about it, especially since he had been so funny during it — at least in his own mind — but Arnett's take was quite different. He told Cooper, "You were a real a******," and he admonished him for not having taken his dogs out for a walk. At that point, it was 4 p.m., and the dogs were standing by the door.
"And that was, like, the first time I ever realized I had a problem with drugs and alcohol," Cooper said. "And it was Will saying that to me, and I’ll just never forget it."
In addition to his realization about his addictions, Cooper said it forced him to see that this phony, aloof persona he tried to put on wasn't working. He understood that, really, what it all had been about was his lack of self-esteem and trying to fit in.
"I was so lost," he said. "I was so lost, and I was addicted to cocaine — that was the other thing."
To make matters worse, he had severed his Achilles tendon after he, in his words, "got fired-slash-quit Alias" in 2003.
Cooper had moved to Los Angeles for his role in the Jennifer Garner drama on ABC, and he found himself feeling like he was "back in high school. I could not get into any clubs, no girls wanted to really look at me. I was totally depressed."
So, yes, he was struggling. The upside is that, by the time he starred in 2009 hit The Hangover — he was 36 then — he had already been through the cliched experiences of people who are finally succeeding in the entertainment industry.
"But Will is the reason," Cooper said, "he took that risk of having that hard conversation with me, in like July of 2004, that put me on a path of deciding to change my life."
Bateman asked how fatherhood has changed Cooper, who shares 5-year-old daughter Lea with his former partner, model Irina Shayk.
"Every single thing is absolutely shaded by, or brought into glorious colors, by the fact that I get to be a father to a wonderful human being," said Cooper, whose latest project is directing and starring in Maestro, in which he plays the late composer Leonard Bernstein. "You have this wonderful thing or breakthrough with a script, or you have a wonderful moment on this set or in an editing room … you have like 40 of those moments every day with your kid, that are that level of joy. That's not spinning it, that's just the truth."