The first trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson’s coming-of-age film “Licorice Pizza” arrived today, and while there’s a lot to love about the first look at this new movie, the standout from this initial piece of marketing is Bradley Cooper. Bearded and wielding a Hulk-sized ego, Cooper steals the show as he chops up a pair of cars and asks the film’s young protagonist (played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s son Cooper Hoffman), “Do you know who I am? Do you know who my girlfriend is?” The young character replies, “Barbra Streisand,” but the trailer doesn’t go so far as to say the name of Cooper’s character.
And yet, we know Cooper is playing producer Jon Peters in the 1970s-set film, and there’s a lot to unpack there. Peters didn’t land his first producing credit until 1976 with “A Star Is Born,” and it’s unclear exactly when “Licorice Pizza” takes place beyond the general decade. But Peters first came to prominence as Barbra Streisand’s hairstylist, designing the wig she wore in the 1974 film “For Pete’s Sake.”
Peters and Streisand’s relationship was high-profile throughout the 1970s, as they became romantically involved and then Peters began helping steer Streisand’s career, even producing her 1974 album “Butterfly.” Streisand went so far as to credit Peters with helping urge her to make the move to directing on her 1983 debut “Yentl.” The two were together for 12 years, separating in 1985, by which time Peters had become a successful Hollywood producer in his own right with credits including “Caddyshack” and “Flashdance.”
Peters would go on to produce films like 1987’s “The Witches of Eastwick” and 1999’s “Wild Wild West,” but one of his biggest projects was 1989’s “Batman.” Indeed, his ties to DC Comics adaptations made him “internet famous” after Kevin Smith went public with a story about working with Peters on a scuttled “Superman” reboot in the 1990s, for which Peters insisted the third act include a giant spider. The punchline of the joke involves Smith sitting down to watch 1999’s “Wild Wild West” and getting to the ending, which involves a giant mechanical spider.
In 2011, Peters became the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former assistant, to which he was ordered to pay $3.3 million by a Los Angeles jury. Given Peters’ involvement in the Streisand version of “A Star Is Born,” he had a producing credit on Bradley Cooper’s acclaimed 2018 version of the film, and Cooper subsequently spoke about Peters being sued by five former employees for sexual harassment.
“If I had known all those things, I would have done it differently,” Cooper told NPR in 2018. “I wanted to make the movie, I knew I had to get consent from him, otherwise there’s no film. But I should have checked. I guess that’s the thing.”
So Cooper has some tangential ties to Peters himself, and while it’s unclear exactly how Peters factors into the plot of Paul Thomas Anderson’s new movie (which is set in Los Angeles and appears to at least somewhat involve the film industry), it’s clear that Cooper’s portrayal is at least somewhat comedic. He’s even wearing the same wardrobe Peters wore in photographs with Streisand from the 1970s.
“Licorice Pizza” will be released in theaters on November 26.