Bradley Cooper’s 10 Best Performances, from ‘Maestro’ to ‘Wedding Crashers’

For Bradley Cooper, his star wasn’t just born. He’s been in Hollywood for decades, and yet the multi-hyphenate talent seems to still be discovering more of his talents.

After cornering the rom-com market with an iconic “Sex and the City” cameo (hello, that infamous “Single and Fabulous?” cover story) and a sultry “He’s Just Not That Into You” storyline (yet another “SATC” connection, per Berger’s advice to Miranda in the HBO series), Cooper expanded into darker dramas. Cooper’s “Place Beyond the Pines” performance in the two-hander alongside fellow 2024 Academy Award nominee Ryan Gosling, sporting the same “Barbie” bleach dye job, paved the way for Cooper’s “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle” turns for both David O. Russell films. It’s almost as though Cooper has too many best roles to count.

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Eventually, Cooper himself made his directorial debut with Oscar-winning “A Star Is Born.” Cooper helming “ASIB” not only landed him among the canon of classic film history with the retelling of the beloved show business romance, but also got his directing chops noticed by none other than Steven Spielberg, who handed Cooper the reins of his long-gestating Leonard Bernstein film “Maestro.”

Now, Cooper is once again Oscar-nominated, this time for his portrayal of Bernstein. The “Maestro” writer/director/producer recalled the advice Spielberg gave him in a Vanity Fair interview.

“His best advice has been given by example of how he works as an artist. And for a man who has changed cinema in America and globally to still have the curiosity of a child, it’s very inspiring,” Cooper said. “I think that’s the biggest lesson he’s given me — that it’s OK to maintain that childlike joy and curiosity with what we do. There’s nothing uncool about it. It actually is the nourishment one needs to keep going. And he lives his artistic life that way, and anybody that’s around him feels it immediately.”

Cooper spent six-hours applying prosthetics to transform into legendary composer and conductor Bernstein for “Maestro.” The director told IndieWire’s Anne Thompson that his background as an actor allowed for him to have a different approach to directing.

“We did everything we could to create an environment that people felt at ease, and that they don’t have to act, and you just explore,” Cooper said, “and the best way for me, also to save time, was just to be ready all day. And I really owe that to the crew that didn’t just laugh at me all day long.”

He continued, “An actor’s biggest fear going into something is that people will judge you or that you will somehow make a fool of yourself,” she said. “And if the person who’s directing the film is also taking the biggest swing, from the minute you get to set. … Every other actor that comes in feels like they can play around wherever you want. There’s no judgment and that’s just the biggest gift. I just loved it.”

That transformation paid off with a Best Actor nomination at the Oscars this year. In celebration, IndieWire is revisiting the actor’s varied career to determine what stands out as his best work. Keep scrolling to relive all of Cooper’s best roles ahead of the 2024 Academy Awards.

With editorial contributions from Wilson Chapman.

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