Bradley Cooper is going to need some more shelf space if he keeps adding adaptations to his library of projects. Now that Cooper has confirmed that he’ll replace Mark Wahlberg in David O Russell’s big-screen version of Matthew Quick’s The Silver Linings Playbook, there’s little doubt that Cooper has switched up his own playbook and instituted a new winning move: Make movies based on good books.
Though he’s perhaps best known as the pretty-boy slacker in “The Hangover” movies, Cooper (who graduated with a degree in English from Georgetown) has recently taken a sharp turn toward more literary material, racking up roles in a series of book-based projects. Earlier this year he signed on to play Lucifer in Alex Proyas’ adaptation of John Milton‘s epic poem, Paradise Lost. As a producer, he’s also been developing a big-screen version of Dan Simmons‘ popular fantasy saga, Hyperion, with an eye to direct the first film.
Cooper’s strategy seems to be working. His role in Silver Linings has awards potential written all over it: He’s playing a former high school teacher living with his mother and trying to reassemble his life after being institutionalized for depression. It also doesn’t hurt that he’ll be sandwiched in between two of last year’s most talented Oscar contenders: “The Fighter” director David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone,” “The Hunger Games“), who will play the nutty neighbor who distracts Cooper’s character from his campaign to win back his ex-wife.
That’s not Cooper’s only smart move. It’s hard to find a downside to playing Lucifer in a high-profile highbrow fantasy epic. No matter how the film turns out — and odds are good that the results will be entertaining if not masterful, given Proyas’ track record with challenging material — Cooper will emerge impervious to typecasting. Really, how many actors go from playing the chump in a cheesy rom-com like “Valentine’s Day” to embodying a motion capture version of Satan himself, as envisioned by 17th century blank verse classic poet John Milton.
Paradise Lost isn’t even the only epic poem on Cooper’s creative agenda. He’s preparing to produce (and ideally direct) an adaptation of The Hyperion Cantos, the alternate name for Dan Simmons’ quartet, often described as a “space opera,” about seven travelers who make an epic pilgrimage to the mythical land of Hyperion in the midst of an intergalactic war to enlist the god-like Shrike in their effort to prevent the coming apocalypse. The first book in the series is said to be inspired by such heady material as Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Giovanni Boccaccio‘s Decameron.
Cooper is currently hammering out plans to commission two scripts: one based on Simmons’ first two books (Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion); the other derived from Endymion, the third installment in the series. Though he’d love to direct the films, Cooper acknowledges that the scope of the project may be beyond his skill set at this point in his career. “It’s like saying you want your first movie to be ‘Avatar,’” Cooper recently told a UK website. “I’d have to give NZT to the studio head in order for them to let me direct that movie.”
NZT is a reference to the central plot-point of his recent film “Limitless”: a fictional drug that gives its users access to 100 percent of their brain capacity. Judging by his recent career moves, Cooper seems to be making good use of the usual twenty percent by focusing on book-based projects. It’s not a bad strategy, when you consider the thriving careers of Hollywood’s other most bookish stars: Brad Pitt, Andrew Garfield, Michael Fassbender, James Franco, Ralph Fiennes. And the list goes on.
Who are the actors you think have benefited most from this literary approach, throughout Hollywood history?