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A 'Hangover' cure? Do it again in Bangkok

More fun with Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper (right, with Zach Galifianakis, Mason Lee, and Ed Helms in “Hangover II’’) says of Phil, his character in the “Hangover’’ movies: “I’m not as cool as he is.’’ Bradley Cooper (right, with Zach Galifianakis, Mason Lee, and Ed Helms in “Hangover II’’) says of Phil, his character in the “Hangover’’ movies: “I’m not as cool as he is.’’ (Warner Bros. Pictures)
By Judy Abel
Globe Correspondent / May 22, 2011

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PHILADELPHIA — Here’s a surprising fact about Bradley Cooper: He lives with his mom.

What’s more, the actor who stars in “The Hangover Part II,’’ which opens Thursday, doesn’t see anything unusual about his domestic situation.

After his father died, in January, Cooper, 36, didn’t think twice about making his mother his roommate, not only in suburban Philadelphia, where he was raised, but also in his other home, in Los Angeles.

“That’s how we do it where I come from,’’ Cooper says on a recent afternoon at a rooftop restaurant. “I can’t even imagine not doing that.’’

So, like the character played by Zach Galifianakis in “The Hangover’’ and “The Hangover Part II,’’ Cooper is a “stay-at-home son.’’ But, unlike that character, Cooper seems neither dependent nor dysfunctional. Instead, the blue-eyed Hollywood hunk is busily plotting his promising professional future and, wherever it takes him, he’ll be sure to bring along his mother, Gloria, for the ride.

“She’ll probably come with me next fall, when I’m filming on location, because I’ll be gone for so long,’’ he says, though he declines to name the film because details have not been finalized.

Perhaps creeping into bed in his childhood home, which abuts railroad tracks and a car dealership, gives Cooper needed comfort. His celebrity has been on the ascent since 2001, when he won a role on the TV series “Alias.’’ Following that, he landed other television and film parts, including “Wedding Crashers’’ (2005) and “Yes Man,’’ with Jim Carrey (2008). But after the unprecedented success of “The Hangover,’’ in 2009, Cooper became a bona fide, megawatt celebrity, which he readily admits has been a double-edged sword.

“One of the coolest things about the first [“Hangover’’] was that people would come up to me on the street and tell me how happy watching the movie made them,’’ he says. “I know for a fact my parents felt that way. My dad watched the movie time and time again and really enjoyed it.’’

Yet in becoming a household name, Cooper has also become fodder for gossip publications which frequently print stories about his love interests and dalliances, regardless of the facts, he says.

“My parents enjoyed my movies, but I don’t know if they enjoyed my [fame],’’ he says. “It’s an interesting situation — people make up stuff about you and that could be difficult for a family. Especially one as close as mine, because they’re around me all the time, so they’re going to get woven into the web they didn’t ask to be in.’’

Cooper has a sister, Holly, who is six years older. Although he says they didn’t connect much when they were younger, they have recently become close.

A number of rumors have linked him to Hollywood actresses but Cooper, who wears his father’s wedding ring on his right ring finger, says, at this point, he is not in a relationship with anyone.

“The paparazzi don’t irritate me anymore, but the tabloids — they annoy me,’’ he says. “I’m certainly experiencing how destructive they can be. It’s amazing to me how untruthful they are — it’s incredible.’’

In fact, the business of being a movie star seems to take a toll on Cooper, who appears distracted as he poses for photographs and then appears enervated as he sinks into a tiger-striped banquette at the restaurant.

He denies being tired or drained, but later cannot suppress a mid-sentence yawn, as he describes his character, Phil, whom he plays in both “Hangover’’ films.

“I’m not allowed to yawn?’’ he asks, with a grin, and then goes on to compare himself with Phil, who, despite his wild streak, shows compassion and leadership in the new film.

It loosely follows the trajectory of the first movie, which brought four friends — Phil, Alan (Galifianakis), Stu (Ed Helms), and Doug (Justin Bartha) — to Las Vegas for Doug’s bachelor bash. Following a drug- and alcohol-fueled night of wildness that none of them can recall, they wake up and realize Doug is missing. The other three set out to find him and, in the process, reconstruct their shocking and zany night.

In the new film, the gang travels to an elegant resort in Thailand for Stu’s wedding. After a formal dinner, they head to the beach for a sedate bonfire, limiting themselves to one beer apiece to avoid a repeat of the Las Vegas fiasco. The next day, they wake up in a seedy Bangkok hotel with no recollection of how they got there. They soon realize the young brother of the bride is missing and head out to piece together their dark night of debauchery and substance abuse.

Throughout their quest, Phil acts as the de facto leader, displaying qualities Cooper finds admirable. “He is so cool under fire, and I’m not as cool as he is,’’ Cooper says.

It was important to Cooper and director Todd Phillips to explore Phil’s gentler side, which was not emphasized in the first film. “Something we were very conscious about in the second film was seeing how vulnerable Phil allows himself to be,’’ Cooper says. “He really cares about Stu and Alan.’’

In that way, at least, Cooper relates to his character. He says he, Helms, and Galifianakis became quite close while making the first film and have remained great friends.

Perhaps that bond gave the first “Hangover’’ the genuine quality that audiences found so appealing. Todd McGowan, film theorist and professor of film studies at the University of Vermont, considers the first “Hangover’’ film to be “high art,’’ and therefore is hopeful that the new one will live up to the greatness of the original.

“I think ‘Hangover’ is in the tradition of the great physical comedy of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin,’’ says McGowan in a telephone interview. “It represents a good archetype of what a buddy movie should be. It doesn’t rely on stereotypes — the characters are types, but not completely stereotypical, as they often are in bromance movies.’’

Knowing how much the first movie meant to people, the “Hangover’’ team was determined to create a film that would not disappoint fans, following the success of the first film, which was the highest grossing R-rated comedy ever.

“We tried to honor the fans who made the first movie a cultural phenomenon,’’ says Bartha in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. “We were aware of the pressure to make a great movie — whereas the first one, the audiences had no expectations, so it was more laid back.’’

He adds that even though Cooper’s star status has been significantly ramped up since the first movie’s release, there was no sign that Cooper had become anything close to a diva.

“He’s extremely driven and focused,’’ Bartha says. “He’s low key and has no star demands because he’s been in the business for a while and has worked his way up.’’

Cooper says he was simply keeping pace with his colleagues. “We all put our souls into this movie. One thing the reviews won’t say is that we just walked through the movie. You’d have to be on drugs to think that.’’

For his next projects, Cooper will take a page out of his character’s book, and stay close to his buddies. He is set to star in “The Words,’’ which was co-written and will be co-directed by his childhood friend Brian Klugman. The cast includes Jeremy Irons, Amanda Seyfried, and Dennis Quaid.

In addition, he is doing a small part in “A Place Beyond the Pines,’’ a short film by his actor pal Dax Shepard.

Cooper, who recently starred in the well-received “Limitless,’’ says he doesn’t mind the frenetic pace of his work life. He loves traveling to different locations, although, he admits, things got dicey in Bangkok.

“Everything in Thailand was an adventure,’’ he says. “Getting to the set was frightening because of the sheer amount of traffic. And food was a risk — every time you ate street food you were definitely dancing with the devil.’’

So why eat it?

“I’m crazy, and some of the food is really great,’’ he says, smiling impishly.

Hopefully he enjoyed it, because now that his mother will be going on location with him, he and the devil have probably had their last tango.

Judy Abel can be reached at judyabel22@gmail.com.

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