The late James Lipton was asked in 2017 who among the many legendary stars and thespians he’s interviewed over the years was his absolute favorite interview, and it wasn’t some Old Hollywood icon but Bradley Cooper.
Cooper, it turns out, was a student in the Actors Studio and auditioned with Lipton when the “Inside the Actors Studio” host was Dean of the school for 10 years. Lipton had personally accepted Cooper into the program. Both he and Cooper got emotional at seeing how far Cooper had come in his career since his days in the acting school.
“The night that one of my students has achieved so much that he or she comes back and sits down in that chair next to me will be the night I’ve waited for since we started this thing 23 years, and it turned out to be Bradley Cooper,” Lipton told Larry King in 2017. “I auditioned him. If I had turned him down, he would’ve gone on to a different career.”
Lipton said Cooper had a special quality that he felt all of his students had, and he even noted that Cooper’s recent performance of “The Elephant Man” on Broadway was his Master’s thesis performance in the Actors Studio.
“It is a unique accessibility to the self. It’s very difficult to describe, but if it’s not there, it’s not there, and if it is, you spot it. Would you recognize your sister in a crowd? That’s what happens to me when I see that,” Lipton said. “And I went down to the stage and I said to him, ‘If we accept you, you’re ready for three years with us?’ And he started to cry and said yes, and he cried again when he came on the show, as everybody knows. Wept bitterly.”
A very young looking Cooper famously asked a question on an episode of “Inside the Actors Studio” to Sean Penn when Cooper was just a second year student. His question was about starring in the 1998 film “Hurlyburly” and revisiting a character he had played many years prior. Cooper was even asked about that interaction during an interview with Howard Stern in 2015 and admitted he was very nervous.
“I was terrified, first of all, it’s a television show. I actually took a long time to be comfortable in front of big audiences. When I was a kid I was terrified to do anything like that,” Cooper said. “So I really did want to know, because I thought it was interesting. He had just made this movie, and I was just working on this scene that he had done the play of years ago. But everything inside me said just shut up and don’t ask him anything.”
In fact, one of Cooper’s co-stars, Louis CK, once joked that no one who ever asks a question to someone on “Inside the Actors Studio,” specifically Sean Penn, ever then goes on to be a big star. But Cooper obviously proved him wrong, as the two starred together in “American Hustle.”
You can check out Lipton’s comments about Cooper above, and you can watch Cooper’s full interview on “Inside the Actors Studio” here.