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John Powers: Reflections On Cannes 2011

The film critic reports his impressions of this year's Cannes Film Festival. On Powers' list of notable films: Terrance Malick's Tree of Life, about a young boy growing up in 1950s Texas, and an Iranian film by a director who was explicitly told by the Iranian government not to make films.

20:48

Other segments from the episode on May 25, 2011

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, May 25, 2011: Interview with Bradley Cooper; Interview with John Powers.

Transcript

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Bradley Cooper: A Wild 'Hangover' Set In Bangkok

TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Our guest, actor Bradley Cooper, became widely known to film audiences
last year, with the release of "The Hangover." He starred with Ed Helms
and Zach Galifianakis as a crude, wisecracking guy whose trip to Vegas
with his buddies for a bachelor party goes very wrong.

Before that, he played the contemptible fiance of Rachel McAdams'
character in "Wedding Crashers," and earlier this year, he got his shot
at a leading role in "Limitless," where he played a struggling writer
who takes a drug that dramatically expands his brainpower.

Though Cooper's acquired an image as a Hollywood hunk, he's an honors
graduate in English from Georgetown who didn't get into acting until
after college, when he attended the Actors Studio in New York. He grew
up in a suburb of Philadelphia, and when he showed up at our studio, he
brought along his mom.

Cooper has reunited with most of the original cast of "The Hangover" for
"The Hangover Part II," where another crazy bachelors' weekend unfolds,
this time in Thailand. Bradley Cooper spoke with FRESH AIR contributor
Dave Davies.

DAVE DAVIES, host:

Bradley Cooper, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Mr. BRADLEY COOPER (Actor): Thank you for having me.

DAVIES: The heart of this, of course, is the relationship between you
and Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis. And I thought we'd listen to a scene
from "The Hangover," that's the first one.

Mr. COOPER: Great.

DAVIES: And this is a moment when you've just gotten into Vegas for what
will be a bachelor party couple of days, and you're there in the room
with Stu, Ed Helms' character, who has this domineering girlfriend that
your character, Phil, absolutely can't stand. And Stu announces to the
group that - he pulls out a ring and says he's going to propose.

And Doug, the groom, Justin Bartha, is there. And at the end, we'll hear
Zach Galifianakis' character Alan come in. Let's listen.

(Soundbite of film, "The Hangover")

Mr. COOPER: (As Phil) What the hell is that?

Mr. ED HELMS (Actor): (As Stu) What do you think it is?

Mr. COOPER: (As Phil) Well, if it's what I think it is, I think it's a
big (BEEP) mistake.

Mr. HELMS: (As Stu) I'm going to propose to Melissa at your wedding,
after the ceremony.

Mr. JUSTIN BARTHA (Actor): (As Doug) Stewie, congratulations.

Mr. HELMS: (As Stu) Thank you, Doug.

Mr. BARTHA: (As Doug) That's a beautiful ring.

Mr. HELMS: (As Stu) Yeah, it's my grandmother's. She made it all the way
through the Holocaust with that thing. It's legit.

Mr. COOPER: (As Phil) I don't get it. Wait, have you not listened to
anything I have ever said?

Mr. HELMS: (As Stu) Phil, we've been dating for three years. It's time.
This is how it works.

Mr. COOPER: (As Phil) A, that is bull(BEEP); and B, she is a complete
(BEEP).

Mr. BARTHA: (As Doug) Hey. That's his fiance.

Mr. COOPER: (As Phil) It's true. You know it's true. She beats him.

Mr. HELMS: (As Stu) That was twice, and I was out of line. She's strong-
willed, and I respect that.

Mr. COOPER: (As Phil) Wow, wow. He's in denial. Not to mention she
(BEEP) a sailor.

Mr. BARTHA: (As Doug) Hey, he wasn't a sailor. He was a bartender on a
cruise ship. You know that.

Mr. HELMS: (As Stu) Guys, just, I'm standing right here. So I can hear
everything that you're saying.

Mr. ZACH GALIFIANAKIS (Actor): (As Alan) Hey, guys, are you ready to let
the dogs out?

Mr. COOPER: (As Phil) What, do what?

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: (As Alan) Let the dogs out, you know, like who let the
dogs out. Who? Who?

Mr. COOPER: (As Phil) Who brought this guy along?

Mr. BARTHA: (As Doug) Yes, Alan, we are ready to let the dogs out. Hey,
congrats.

Mr. HELMS: (As Stu) Thank you.

(Soundbite of song, "Who Let the Dogs Out?")

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: And that's from "The Hangover" with our...

Mr. COOPER: That plays well as a radio play.

DAVIES: It does, doesn't it?

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Our guest, Bradley Cooper, along with Ed Helms and Justin Bartha
and Zach Galifianakis in "The Hangover."

Now, your character is a guy who's crude, self-confident, outgoing. He's
the sort of leader, he's the guy if he found a rattlesnake in his Corn
Flakes would say: Guys, we'll work with this.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: That's not like you, huh?

Mr. COOPER: No, I would be - I wouldn't be so bold to say that I'm as at
ease with myself in life as Phil is. Phil just has this sort of
hermeneutic that causes him no stress. He really just knows what is and
what isn't, and with that comes a tremendous amount of confidence and
ease.

And you could question his ethics. You know, he has an interesting moral
compass. But the things that I - I love Phil, and I think he's the
coolest guy. I'd say besides wanting to have fun and complain about his
life, he will do anything for his friends, and that's clear, you know,
especially in the second one. I mean, he just stays cool and has to try
to figure a way out through the whole movie.

And the wonderful thing about the first one is as crude as it was, if
you boil the story down, these three guys just don't want a girl to miss
her wedding day. That's it.

You know, so it's a very forgivable - there's sort of a very childlike,
boyish quality to what these guys are doing, but it's so surrounded and
peppered with these very sort of morose, lurid incidents. But at the
crux, they just don't want a girl to miss her wedding day.

DAVIES: Now, when Ed Helms was on the show, it was interesting to hear
that, you know, one of the things in the first, in "The Hangover" is
that Mike Tyson's tiger is in the bathroom, the hotel bathroom when you
wake up. And you actually do have to work with a live tiger.

Mr. COOPER: Right.

DAVIES: And it's Ed that goes in and delivers the meat to the tiger in
the bathroom to drug him.

Mr. COOPER: That's right.

DAVIES: You didn't have to deal with the tiger?

Mr. COOPER: No, we all had to deal with the tiger. In fact, I think I
had the riskiest move. One of the stills that never made it into the
edit of the movie was the tiger at the party the night before, hanging
out with everybody.

So we shot these stills, and there was one still where they wanted
somebody to feed the tiger. And I for some reason said I'd do it. And so
I had - it was a baby's, you know, a binkie with a bottle, and it was
chicken blood, and I was literally putting it - and the trainer said to
me: Now, in order to feed a tiger, you have to press your hand up
against its mouth because if you don't, it won't know where your hand
is, and it'll try to bite it.

So if you at all, you know, loosen up on the tension pressing against
its mouth, it's going to do that. So it's this weird sort of illogical
move that you do that you're actually pushing into the tiger's snout, I
guess, or whatever you would call it, nose and teeth while it's sucking
on this binkie.

I was terrified. But I was petting it. I got to pet it, actually, as I
did that, which was kind of cool to actually really feel - it was a
female. She was 15 years old.

Now, she was pretty tame. I mean, that said, let's qualify it, not tame
at all. She's a tiger. But there were two younger tigers whenever she
would get tired or something, and they were just completely out of
control. I could have never done that to those tigers.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Now, the animal in "The Hangover Part II" is a monkey.

Mr. COOPER: Yeah, oh, God love her, Crystal, who I worked with six years
prior in a movie called "Failure to Launch," if you can believe that.

DAVIES: Wow.

Mr. COOPER: Yeah.

DAVIES: Reunited with a monkey.

Mr. COOPER: Reunited with Crystal, who, God, she's gotten better.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: But no mishaps with the monkey, no scratches, bites...

Mr. COOPER: Oh, I got tons of scratches. I mean, as you could tell, Phil
and the drug-dealing monkey become quite close physically throughout the
movie. And we sort of liked this idea of, like, for some reason it just
gravitates towards Phil, and Alan loves the monkey and loves Phil. So
it's this weird thing.

DAVIES: Right, Phil your character.

Mr. COOPER: Phil, yeah, the character I play. And there was this one
scene, where we were in the streets of Bangkok, and there was an
elephant as an extra in the background. Now, a monkey and an elephant,
you know, hopefully the two will never meet because every time that
elephant came within 10 to 15 feet, Crystal would just claw into my
shoulder. I mean, I was like bleeding, and I mean, I had scars the
entire time I was doing the movie. And we kept saying: She has her
shots, right?

DAVIES: Wow.

Mr. COOPER: Yeah, it was pretty intense.

DAVIES: Our guest is Bradley Cooper. He stars in the new film "The
Hangover Part II."

So you grew up in a Philly suburb, and I think a lot of people who see
you in "The Hangover" and some of your other roles would assume that you
were the most popular guy at school, charming, self-assured. Was that
you?

Mr. COOPER: No, and my mother would beg to disagree, but not at all. In
fact, quite the opposite.

You know, look, I had great parents and a wonderful upbringing, but like
many adolescents, was stuck in my head for most of that period of time
worrying about who - you know, if I'm cool, what I'm supposed to be
like, how I'm supposed to sound, what is it to be a man, what's
happening in my body, you know, girls, mind-altering substances, all
that kind of stuff, how to escape, basically, in order to feel better,
you know, never really feeling like I fit into a group, a clique, very
empathetic as a kid, throughout my whole life, which has really been a
wonderful asset. But it's tough when you're so empathetic, sort of
living in a high school environment.

DAVIES: Yeah, that's not a high school male trait that's valued
particularly.

Mr. COOPER: No, not really, yeah.

DAVIES: Now, you went to - you did a year of college at Villanova, which
is in the Philly area, and then went to Georgetown.

Mr. COOPER: That's right.

DAVIES: Finished there, got a degree in English. And I read that you did
no drama there. You didn't want to be in front of an audience?

Mr. COOPER: Well, I always was scared, as you can tell by the way I
describe my mental state in high school. The idea of being in front of
people terrified me. That said, I always knew I wanted to be an actor.
So in there lies a huge dilemma.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Yeah.

Mr. COOPER: I remember I did senior skits. That was one thing I did in
high school, the only thing. And then when I got to college, you
couldn't even minor in theater at Georgetown. There was no theater
program.

There were two theater troupes, the Nomadic Theatre Company and then
another theater company called The Mask & Bauble. I also didn't feel at
all comfortable with the theater crowd as I saw it when I was in high
school. I never felt any connection to those students, and so too was it
true in Georgetown.

DAVIES: Why?

Mr. COOPER: I don't know. I felt like I just had nothing in common with
them. Maybe I was intimidated by them. To me, they seemed very
theatrical. In the years, I was a lover of film. Film is what was my
avenue into acting. So I didn't even know anything about theater, and
they were much more theater-oriented.

But then there was this group called the Nomadic Theatre Troupe that I
kind of felt like okay, I can jive with these guys. So I auditioned for
some plays. And I played Azolan the servant in "Dangerous Liaisons." It
was the first thing I had done. And then "Camino Real," the play by
Tennessee Williams, I played Casanova.

DAVIES: You applied to the Actors School at the New...

Mr. COOPER: Yeah, the Actors Studio MFA program, yeah, which is not at
Pace University, but was at the New School when I applied.

DAVIES: And this is the one that people know from the public TVs with
James...

Mr. COOPER: Lipton, right.

DAVIES: Yeah, right, right. And I read that to do the audition to get
in, you got a professor from Georgetown...

Mr. COOPER: A priest, yeah.

DAVIES: To drive up to New York to do a...

Mr. COOPER: A Carmelite priest named Andrew Skanikki(ph), who I had had
three courses with and became a great friend of mine. But, you know, a
prerequisite was that you'd have to pass this audition-like scene. So I
asked Andrew if he would - I said: What if we do the scene from "Mass
Appeal," where he plays a monsignor, a drunk monsignor who hits his
deacon, and it's a great scene.

And so he and I took a train from D.C. to New York and walked down to
the New School on 12th and Sixth Avenue, and then we auditioned. And
then we went to the Triple Crown bar, drank our butts off, and then got
on the train and came back. It was great.

DAVIES: And you got in.

Mr. COOPER: And I got in.

DAVIES: And after you had some success in your career, you went back and
did a guest appearance with James Lipton and the Actors Studio.

Mr. COOPER: That's right, yeah.

DAVIES: And I've watched that, and you're - it's a very emotional
reunion for you.

Mr. COOPER: Yeah, it really is.

DAVIES: And what was interesting that you said that your teacher there,
Elizabeth Kemp I believe, you could almost - you had trouble getting the
words out, but I believe you said that in her class was the first time
you ever felt comfortable.

Mr. COOPER: Yes, she taught me how to relax. Yeah, that's true. She's
incredible. And I was so happy to be able to - for people to even hear
that, people in the audience and for you to hear that because she's
really an incredible teacher.

She was my basic technique teacher. It was a three-year program. And
that year was all about using what has happened in your life as tools to
enter into do an imaginary circumstance and play an imaginary character.

And I thought: Oh, you mean, like, all these insecurities that I have,
all of these things that I thought or things I'd have to hide are
actually ammunition? They're actually, you know, nutrition for this
work. It was mind-blowing.

DAVIES: So you actually got your first movie role I think while you were
still in school, "Wet Hot American Summer," where you played a gay camp
counselor, and you had a sex scene with Michael Ian Black.

Mr. COOPER: Yeah.

DAVIES: And you got a lot of TV work, and you kind of developed your
craft. You had a recurring role on "Alias" opposite Jennifer Garner.

Mr. COOPER: I was actually a series regular on that, yeah. I shot the
pilot, and that was a huge break. That was basically where I was sort of
piecemealing checks together from jobs to - wow, you can actually maybe
put down a mortgage on a small house. And, you know, you're making a
paycheck every week, and you know you're going to make 22 episodes. And
it was like: Wow, I can actually make a living as an actor.

It was pretty incredible. I could pay off my student loans.

DAVIES: And then comes "Wedding Crashers," 2005, and your character is
the obnoxious fiance of Rachel McAdams, the guy that Owen Wilson, you
know, hopes to woo in the film.

Your guy's character's name is Sack Lodge. He is such a jerk. And we're
going to listen to a little piece of the film. This is a moment where
your character, Sack Lodge, has actually - he's sick in the bathroom
because the Owen Wilson character has slipped something into his drink,
and Rachel McAdams comes upon him bent over the toilet. Let's listen.

(Soundbite of film, "Wedding Crashers")

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. RACHEL McADAMS (Actor): (As Claire Cleary) Oh, no. Are you okay?

Mr. COOPER: (As Sack Lodge) Well, Claire, my head's buried in a toilet.
What do you think? Why don't you do the math, okay?

Ms. McADAMS: (As Claire) Honey, it's okay to be vulnerable sometimes.
It's just me.

Mr. COOPER: (As Sack) Yeah, you can just cut that psychobabble (BEEP)
that your mom tells you, okay?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. McADAMS: (As Claire) Right.

Mr. COOPER: (As Sack) Hey, you want to help me out? Do you? Do you, kid?
Why don’t you go get me a 7-Up, okay? All right? Because I think I might
get vulnerable again.

DAVIES: And that's our guest Bradley Cooper from "Wedding Crashers,"
being quite the jerk.

Mr. COOPER: What a jerk.

DAVIES: Yeah, what a jerk.

Mr. COOPER: Oh, my God, wow. It's so great. I mean, she's just trying to
help him, and it's so psychotic. There's nothing malicious at all.

DAVIES: And that demonic cackle that you have there, right. I'm going to
- I mean this as a compliment when I say that when I saw you in "The
Hangover," at some point, somebody said: Yeah, he was the guy in the
"Wedding Crashers." And I thought really? Because - and you look pretty
much the same. I mean, you don't have like a big beard or anything. But
they are such completely different human beings, I mean, this jerk in
"Wedding Crashers." Where did you get this character? Was he anybody you
knew?

Mr. COOPER: He was definitely a composite of about three or four guys
that I went to high school with, I think, without naming names. And the
thing about these types of guys, for me, I was completely infatuated
with them in the sense that how they go about living their life so
seemingly carefree. And they're so despicable yet people gravitate
towards them. And women like them, yet they're so demeaning towards
women. And I find myself fascinated by them.

I just always have a weird quandary about this type of man. And so I
studied them in high school. And by the way, and it was also my idea of
who they are. I mean, of course they are much more complicated. But
definitely having spent so much time observing these guys in high
school, wanting to be them in many ways, it was very easy to inhabit
that role and by the way very therapeutic.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Oh, really? In what way?

Mr. COOPER: Well, yeah, it's almost like, you know, wearing the skin
that sort of plagued you for so many years, you know.

DAVIES: Yeah, and knowing it ain't all that good, right.

Mr. COOPER: That's true. You know what? Yeah, that is true.

DAVIES: We're speaking with Bradley Cooper. He stars in the new film
"The Hangover Part II." More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: If you're just joining us, our guest is actor Bradley Cooper. He
stars in the new film "The Hangover Part II."

Well, after "The Hangover," which was just this phenomenal success, you
did "Limitless." Well, you did some other stuff, too, but "Limitless"
was a film where you really carried it. I mean, you are the lead.

The premise is there's this struggling writer in New York, that's you,
Eddie, and from a former drug dealer, he finds this drug that will allow
him to essentially use the full capacity of his brain, remember
everything he's ever heard, analyze situations with laser-like
intensity.

Let's listen to a scene. I mean, this is a scene kind of early in the
film, when you've just taken this drug. It mixes voiceover and dialogue
because the film is sort of told from your perspective. So we have you
describing what's happening, and then we hear you in a scene.

In this particular scene, you've just taken this drug. It's kicking in,
and you're discovering these amazing mental powers. And you have this
hallway encounter with your landlord's wife, and you happen to notice in
her bag that she's carrying a book from a law school course. Let's
listen.

(Soundbite of film, "Limitless")

Mr. COOPER: (As Eddie Morra) Something wrong in law school?

Ms. T.V. CARPIO (Actor): (As Valerie) How do you know I'm in law school?

Mr. COOPER: (As Eddie) People who aren't usually don't carry around dry,
academically constipated books about a dead Supreme Court justice.

Ms. CARPIO: (As Valerie) You're a (unintelligible).

Mr. COOPER: (As Eddie) No, I just noticed the book.

Ms. CARPIO: (As Valerie) You just saw the corner of it. How did you know
that?

Mr. COOPER: (As Eddie) I'd seen it before, 12 years ago in college. I

If you're writing a paper, that's not the book I'd use.

Ms. CARPIO: (As Valerie) Well, who asked you?

Mr. COOPER: (As Eddie) Hastings has his oral history. I'd start there.
Interesting point, grammatically, this guy was an idiot, which sort of
gives credence to the theory that one of the clerks he had fired
actually wrote most of this guy's major opinions. You can Google the
clerk's sons. They'd love to talk to you, exonerate their dad. That'd
give you something that no one else has...

Information from the odd museum show, a half-read article, some PBS
documentary was all bubbling up in my frontal lobes, mixing itself
together into a sparkling cocktail of useful information.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. COOPER: (As Eddie) She didn't have a chance.

Ms. CARPIO: (As Valerie) What are you suggestions?

DAVIES: And that's my guest, Bradley Cooper, with the actress T.V.
Carpio from the film "Limitless."

You know, making a movie is such a weird process, I'm sure, in that, you
know, you inhabit the character. You do your best. But so much of what
actually happens after that, and even during it, you have little control
over. You don't control the camera angles or the cinematography or how
it's edited or then how it gets promoted afterwards.

And when you did "Limitless," I mean, in some respects, this was like a
big opportunity for you to really carry a film.

Mr. COOPER: Yeah.

DAVIES: Did it feel like a risk? Did you worry about that?

Mr. COOPER: Not when I was filming it. It wasn't until Relativity
started to re-envision the movie as a potential really box-office
earner.

DAVIES: That's the production company.

Mr. COOPER: That's the studio that made the movie. And I thought -
because I always sort of saw it as this - I had never been to a film
festival, and I thought, oh, "Dark Fields" would be a movie I'd be able
to take to a film festival, which would be a great experience.

And then it was like no, no, no, this is going to be a 2,500-theater
release minimum, and we're going to try to - you know, this is - we're
going to put this out there and put some money behind it.

And then I thought: Oh, wow, this is actually shot, meaning, you know,
you get a couple shots up at - swings at bat after you're part of a big
hit like "The Hangover," and if it doesn't work, you know, because it's
a transition.

It's a transition as to be going from an ensemble work to a guy who's,
you know, you're carrying the burden of a narrative on your shoulders.
So I was trepidatious leading up to it. Promoting the movie, you know, I
still remember that Friday, getting on a plane headed to L.A., talking
to Tucker Tooley, who runs Relativity Media.

And he said: Look, it's going to be a four-horse race that weekend with
"The Lincoln Lawyer" and "Paul" and "Limitless" and then "Battle L.A."
in the second weekend. And we may come in fourth.

And I thought: Well, that's it. I really did. And I remember, and then
four hours into the plane ride, the Wi-Fi was working, and all of a
sudden it said: Do things change? And they said: You know what? It looks
like we're going to take the weekend, and we may make $18, $19 million
that weekend, which was just so absurd.

If we made $40 for the run, $40 million, that would be, you know, a hit.
That would be okay. But we made - you know, it's up to $77 million
domestic and $140-something worldwide. I mean, it's so far exceeded
anything we could have even dreamed. So that was just - you know, I was
just over the moon about that.

GROSS: Bradley Cooper will talk more with FRESH AIR contributor Dave
Davies in the second half of the show. Cooper starred in the film
"Limitless" and co-stars in the new movie "The Hangover Part II." I’m
Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with more of the
interview that actor Bradley Cooper recorded with FRESH AIR contributor
Dave Davies. Cooper is reunited with Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis in
the new sequel to their hit movie "The Hangover." When we left off,
Cooper was talking about his first starring role in "Limitless," which
opened over earlier this year and co-starred Robert De Niro. The film
did much better at the box office than Cooper ever dreamed.

DAVIES: So how has it affected your career? Do you even have to audition
anymore, for a role?

Mr. COOPER: Oh, God. It's so funny you say that, because...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. COOPER: ...this is why the businesses is just the greatest in an
awful way. So Monday comes around, and it won the weekend, and this is
the thing, it's like if you can headline a movie and it wins the
weekend, I mean, that's huge. And I'm talking to Dave Mize, and I said,
buddy, I said, what do we got? What do we got today? And he goes all
man, let's see. Well, nothing yet.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. COOPER: And then 4 PM rolls around, and I call Dave, hey, what do we
got, guy? What do we got? This is fun, this is nothing. And then,
literally, nothing changed.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. COOPER: And I thought, oh, it was just so funny and, you know, not
that much changed at all. And, you know, I just tried to get this other
movie and, you know, begged the director to let me audition and I just
put myself on movie in my kitchen last week with my buddy Wes, you know,
literally in the kitchen, doing two scenes and sending it to a director.
So, you know, it's funny.

DAVIES: You videotaped an audition scene in your kitchen with a friend?

Mr. COOPER: Yeah, with a flip camera, and then we emailed it to the
director.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: This is not how I pictured your...

Mr. COOPER: I know. I know. It's great.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. COOPER: But luckily, I love acting so much that I will do anything
if I feel a connection to a role. So hopefully that will never change.

DAVIES: Well, one thing that has that I know has to have changed in your
life is just your visibility.

Mr. COOPER: Yeah.

DAVIES: I don't read a lot of celebrity stuff, but my daughter assures
me that, if I did, I would see you plenty.

Mr. COOPER: Right.

DAVIES: That there's a lot of stuff about you and people that you date.
And you know, I'm picturing you working for 10 years as an actor -
trying to get better, doing stuff. And now you're still that guy, you're
still working as an actor, and suddenly people really care about every
detail about your life and the paparazzi want to get your picture.

Mr. COOPER: Right.

DAVIES: Do you have any kind of rules or guidelines you've set for
yourself on how to deal with all that?

Mr. COOPER: Definitely. Yeah, I mean, I definitely have one rule that
I've adhered to. And if you can get through 15 minutes of Howard Stern,
without doing it...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. COOPER: ...you know that you're solid. I just don't talk about my
personal life, in terms of relationships. I just won't ever talk about
it. Well, first of all, in a broad sense, ideally, you don't - I don't
want to know too much about the actors I love, because then I'm going to
have to somehow deflect all of that when I'm watching them perform.
Because I want to see what they're doing their, you know - I love that I
hear that Daniel Day Lewis, you know, worked as a shoemaker, but I don't
really know about Rebecca Miller and his two kids.

I mean, I do because I'm saying it. But, you know, but I don't really
know about him. I don't want to know about him too much because I want
to see Bill, the butcher, you know; I want to see Daniel Plainview.
That's - I want to sink my teeth into what he's doing. So ideally, you
know, I wouldn't want anybody to know anything about me.

But here's the dilemma, I'm sitting here talking to you because got to
promote a movie. So it's this weird thing that you do - that I do in
that way, because you - I do believe you - I want to promote a movie
that I'm doing. That said, you know, two things that I've had to deal
with. The paparazzi, the first month, I'd say, after "The Hangover," my
instinct was to go after them, physically, because it's a very intrusive
thing. And then you realize that's exactly what they want. Now it's
effortless, I just, it is a part. It won't be there forever, it'll go
away, and I feel pretty at ease with the paparazzi. But then the tabloid
stuff is tough. You know, because it's incredible that they actually
fabricate huge stories. And look, that said, they've aligned me with
some wonderful women, so, you know, they've done well by me in terms of
what they've fabricated.

DAVIES: Accurately and in accurately?

Mr. COOPER: Inaccurately. Yeah, inaccurately is what I'm saying, you
know. But, you know, I should be so lucky. But it's just it's incredible
that they just literally make up stuff. And unfortunately, you know,
people that are close to you that didn't ask for this get wound up -
like my mother for example, you know, has to do with it. And people that
are just my friends, have to do with it sometimes. But that all said,
look, I mean, I get a chance to work with Robert De Niro. I get a chance
to sit here with you today, you know, on a show that I've loved since I
was an adolescent. There's nothing compared to this.

DAVIES: I read that you said, once, how brutal the business can be and
that you've just tried to focus on getting better. What kind of feedback
did you get - in the early years - on your auditions?

Mr. COOPER: I've gotten everything that. You know, I've gotten that he's
not F-able. You can insert the word, you know.

DAVIES: Really?

Mr. COOPER: Yeah, yeah. There was a movie called "My Little Eye." And I
still remember it, which was so odd, because I wound up getting this
role - but a guy does come in and has sex with a woman. But I remember
auditioning for it and that that was the feedback. And I was at the
Sundance film Festival, with "Wet Hot American Summer," trying to get
into the movie and I couldn't even get into the movie I was in.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. COOPER: And I remember talking to my agent at the time. She said, do
you want to know the truth? I said, yeah. She goes. Here's what they
said, and then she said that. And I thought, man this business sucks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. COOPER: This is just the worst. But you know, I've always yeah, you
hear everything. And then certainly, if you don't hear it you can at any
time hop on the Internet and hear whatever your biggest fear is of all.

DAVIES: Well, Bradley Cooper, it's been fun. Thanks so much.

Mr. COOPER: Oh, thank you. It's a real honor to be on the show.

GROSS: Bradley Cooper spoke with FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies. He's
reunited with Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis in the new movie "The
Hangover: Part II."

Coming up, our critic-at-large John Powers tells us about the prize-
winning films at the Cannes Film Festival.

This is FRESH AIR.
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John Powers: Reflections On Cannes 2011

TERRY GROSS, host:

Some of the best films that just debuted at the Cannes Film Festival
will be headed to American theaters in the near future - I hope. Our
critic-at-large John Powers, who is also film critic for Vogue, attended
the festival as he does most years. So we asked him to tell us about the
films that won the top awards. Cannes is the world's most important
international film festival and many great films from around the world
are first screened there.

Why don't we start with the film that won the top prize at Cannes, "The
Tree of Life," which was directed by Terence Malick. Although, it won,
it sounds like it really divided the audiences. What's it about?

JOHN POWERS: It's a story at the center of which is the story about a
young boy - who grew up to be Sean Penn later - growing up in '50s
Texas. His parents are played by Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain. And
about 90 minutes of the movie is the story of this kid's life, growing
up during his young years in Texas. What makes the film strange is it's
surrounded by two other things.

On the one hand, there's a sort of 2001-ish version of the creation of
the world, which I think is designed to parallel the creation of the one
person's life. That comes complete with the creation of the planet and
with dinosaurs and all the rest - which is kind of odd for a film about
Texas in the 1950s. And then the film, actually then, builds to yet
another non-narrative thing – that's kind of a dreamy, searcher almost
New Agey sequence - where Sean Penn, dressed in a business suit, walks
across Death Valley, and maybe or maybe not – I'm not clear from the
film, exactly – whether he winds up in Heaven meeting all the people
he'd known before.

So what you have is a rather poetic and beautiful, normal story, of a
family in Texas surrounded by stuff that some people thought visionary
and other people thought kitsch.

GROSS: Where did you stand?

POWERS: Well, I actually like the creation of the world, complete with
the dinosaurs. But I didn't like the New Age stuff of walking across the
desert in a business suit, which I did think tended towards kitsch. What
I loved was the middle section about the family, which as almost as a
stand-alone film, would have been a great film.

Now I have to admit to a certain sentimentality about this, because I
grew up in the 50s in a town very much like this, with a family dynamic
that was very much like the family dynamic in the film. So on the one
hand, it clearly touched me because it was personal. On the other hand,
I'm struck by how accurate and poetically accurate that evocation of
that period and that place and that world, really is.

GROSS: It sounds like this kind of, almost New Agey or mystical message
from Terrence Malick's film has a counterpart, an opposite, in Lars Von
Trier's film "Melancholia," which is all about a kind of cosmic
depression from what I've read.

POWERS: Yes, it's very interesting. It is almost as if they were trying
to create the world's most diametrically opposed double bill.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: I think that's what they were doing.

POWERS: Yes. And with, you know, with really is with two visionary
filmmakers of enormous resources and talent making opposite films. And
Lars Von Trier's film is about two things. One a huge planet called
"Melancholia" that is racing toward the earth and is probably going to
destroy it. And that...

GROSS: Planet depression...

(Soundbite of laughter)

POWERS: Like a planet depression, which is equivalent the creation of
the world in the Malick film. And then side-by-side with it, you're
getting the story of a family, in particular, two sisters - one played
by Kirsten Dunst, who won best actress in the festival and it's just
great in "Melancholia" - as the depressive melancholic sister whose
smile is so radiant you love her and then her sadness is so terrible it
annihilates the world. And she has an optimistic sister, who looks after
her. She's played by Charlotte Ginsburg.

So, in fact, the film is both a cosmic and psychological portrait of
destruction and destructiveness and darkness, and it ends in darkness in
the same way that the Malick film deliberately ends in light.

GROSS: Now Lars Von Trier's, who directed "Melancholia," is the founder
of - or co-founder - of Dogme, which is an anti-Hollywood style of
filmmaking where the filmmaking has to adhere to rigid rules. And some
of his films seem to me more like an essay about filmmaking or a
deconstruction of a film than an actual film. So was this involving, in
a way that some of his films, as far as I'm concerned, are not?

POWERS: No, I think this in some ways, this may be the most involving
film he'd ever made. And you could that he actually - I think he thought
it was one of his good ones, partly because he acted so badly at the
press conference. I mean, he became world-famous by comparing himself to
Hitler and saying idiotic stuff about Nazis. And what happens with him
is that he loves being a bad boy so much that when he makes a film that
he generally likes and thinks is good and the audience might like, he
then can't stop himself from acting even worse than he normally acts,
which is pretty bad. So in this case, there's a film that he was really
proud of, and so naturally he said the most noxious things he'd ever
said at the same time he's promoting it.

GROSS: Well, the things that he said became far more famous than his
film. So can we just talk about that for a moment?

POWERS: Of course.

GROSS: So I'm sure there's like some backstory I'm missing here in
reading about it in the papers. Let me just do a couple of quotes here,
which I got from The New York Times. He was asked - or he was talking
about the use of Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" in the soundtrack of his
film. And he described the film as an important work in the German
romantic tradition.

A question followed from a journalist about what he had described, in a
Danish magazine, as his interest in the Nazi aesthetic and his German
roots. And the backstory to this is, his mother on her deathbed told him
that her husband was not his real father and her husband was Jewish. But
his real father, turns out, was German.

So Lars Von Trier says, I really wanted to be a Jew. And then I found
out that I was really a Nazi. And then, referring to Hitler, he said, I
think I understand the man. He's not what you would call a good guy, but
I understand much about him. I sympathize with him a little bit. Hitler
did some wrong things. Yes, absolutely. But I can see him sitting in his
bunker in the end. I'm not for the Second World War, and I'm not against
Jews. Not even Susanne Bier.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: And Susanne Bier is another filmmaker from Denmark who tried a
Dogme film once and then gave up on Dogme and her latest film is "In A
Better World."

So tell us what this was like when you were there at the press
conference.

POWERS: I actually didn't see the press conference live, because they're
so hard to get into, especially a Lars Von Trier press conference. I
mean I saw it in the Internet.

Well, I can tell you what it's like. Everyone goes because he always
says provocative things. I mean, one year he, you know, called Roman
Polanski a dwarf when Polanski's jury didn't give him the top prize.

GROSS: Nice.

POWERS: You know, every time he acts. In this case what happened was, he
got a thought that seemed, started off as a perfectly reasonable thought
and then got going - almost like a someone with Tourette's who can't
stop himself from going. ‘Cause, in fact, I don't think he was really
trying to say the most shocking stuff, but somehow as the audience gets
more shocked, he likes doing it more and more. So eventually he pushed
on. And I think what he was trying to say, in some way, is that he can
actually understand some of the impulses behind someone like Hitler,
rather than actually sympathizing with Hitler. But once he gets going he
can't stop himself.

The press corps, which I talked to afterwards - who got in - were
simultaneously aghast and, of course, delighted because, you know, when
someone says stuff like this at Cannes, you know you suddenly get a
front page story rather than an arts page story. So there's actually
more glamour and glory for the journalists.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is John Powers, our critic-
at-large, and we're talking about films he saw at the Cannes Film
Festival.

So the best screenplay went to an Israeli film about father and son
Talmudic scholars. And this is a comedy?

POWERS: It's a comedy. You know, it's a marvelous comedy. And what it's
about is the father in the story is an old-school scholar, of the
vintage old kind, who spent all of his time looking closely at the text
in the Talmud in different variations. His son grows up to be a Talmudic
scholar, but he's more worldly, more fun work, knows how to work in the
political world better. And the problem is, since they're both working
in the same field, they're both jealous of one another for different
reasons.

And gradually it's about how there's an award going to be given to one
of them. And they then have to figure out how to deal with one another's
success and what's the correct way to deal with the success of somebody
you were supposed to love, but who you also kind of resent. And it's an
extremely funny, beautifully observed movie that actually gives you a
portrait of the kind of thing you almost never get to see in movies,
which is really, really smart people to begin with.

Then the second thing you don't get to see is the world of intellectuals
in Israel, because most films about Israel that we get to see tend to
have to do with war and the Palestinian problem, and all the rest.
Whereas here, the real core of it is patriarchal battle, which is almost
a Talmudic battle about the Talmud. The question is: What you do if a
loved one is getting an award that you want?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: In this movie's called "Footnote."

POWERS: It's called "Footnote."

GROSS: So, a film I'm interested in that I've read a little about is
called "The Artist," and it's about a silent film star. And the actor
who stars as the silent film star just won the best actor award at
Cannes. His name is Jean Dujardin.

POWERS: Yes, Jean Dujardin.

GROSS: So I couldn't tell, from reading about it, whether it's a silent
film about a silent film, or whether it's a film about a silent film,
but the rest of the film - the body of the film is not silent. So can
you explain?

POWERS: Yes. It is both a silent film, shot in the style of an old
silent film in black and white, with the timing and rhythm of a silent
film with inter-titles, but it's about a silent film star, played by
Jean Dujardin. He sort of a Douglas Fairbanks type who's a great, heroic
figure, but the problem is, he's a great silent film star - kind of like
"Singing in the Rain" - just at the moment when you're going to sound.
And so he's having to deal with that issue. So it's about his life doing
it. But it's shot with the look, the production style, the acting style
in the comic timing of a classical silent film.

GROSS: Does it work?

POWERS: It works like wonders. A had very smart friend of mine went in,
saying: I tried hard to resist it, but it's irresistible. And I do think
that's sort of what almost everybody felt, is that everyone thought, oh,
this is going to be a gimmick idea or a pastiche idea, and yet it plays
like gangbusters. It got the biggest applause of any film at the
festival. You know, it got bought by Harvey Weinstein, who I know will
be pushing it for Oscars. And, in fact, it's an incredibly well directed
film by this guy named Michel Hazanavicius, who's made a couple of spoof
- James Bond-type spoofs that I've loved with this guy Jean Dujardin.

But it's extremely funny, very clever, totally worked, and it actually -
and, you know, maybe there's a five-minute dip in the film. But it's
actually one of the most enjoyable movies of the year.

GROSS: So the best director award at Cannes so went to a Danish
filmmaker named Nicolas Winding Refn?

POWERS: Refn. Yes.

GROSS: Am I saying that right?

POWERS: Yes.

GROSS: So this one's very violent, right?

POWERS: It's very violent. You know, this is like the big, trademark
shot of this is when the hero, played by of all people, Ryan Gosling, in
sort of the Steve McQueen/Clint Eastwood role, you know, smashes
peoples' skulls and they crack like an eggshell, which - just to make
your mouth water a little bit how violent it is. What's interesting
about the film is that it's a film that's almost - an action film that's
almost pure style.

If you imagine how you felt when you saw Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp
Fiction," and thought, oh, he's taking something that's old and then
refining out a lot of the stuff that was there before, and making it
sort of a pure, almost abstract version of some of that.

Nicolas Winding Refn is maybe Tarantino's Tarantino. He's seen the same
exploitation movies, the same Hong Kong movies and all the rest, and he
boils everything down to almost pure style. There's almost no real
emotion in it. The idea of emotion almost doesn't make any sense. It's
purely kinetic energy, stylized lightings, stylized motions, stylized
everything. And, you know, I personally didn't like it very well.

But I should say that the younger critics at Cannes really loved it. The
audience liked it, and I think it won the director's prize because it's
purely a pared-down piece of style that, as I say, younger critics
liked, perhaps because every generation gets to have somebody who's
their exemplar of pared-down, reinvented style.

But it wasn't for me, although I think I'm curious to see what happens
when it comes out in September, because it will be coming out in
September. All the people were predicting it'll make Ryan Gosling a big
star. And I'll be interested to see that, because I'm - really, he
seemed kind of - he didn't seem very tough to me.

GROSS: What's the weirdest film you saw at Cannes?

POWERS: The weirdest film I saw at Cannes - and one of the weirdest film
I've ever seen - is a film called "This Must Be the Place" by an Italian
director named Paolo Sorrentino. And it stars Sean Penn as a 50-year-
old, faded and retired Goth rocker living in Ireland with - he looks
like - if you ever saw the band The Cure, he looks like the guy Robert
Smith. He wears black leather, has black hair down to his shoulders. He
wears lipsticks and all the rest.

And anyway, when his father dies, he flies back to America and discovers
that his father has a small vendetta against a guy who was his guard at
Auschwitz. And so, dressed as a 50-year-old Goth rocker and talking in a
voice like this, Sean Penn, pulling his suitcase behind him in virtually
every scene, enters a cross-country road trip to track down a Holocaust
criminal.

So it's a Holocaust road movie, which, at the same time, his coming-of-
age story, because the film is how he comes of age at age 50. And in
addition to all of this, it's a comedy. In addition to all of this,
there are individual details in it that I won't - I can't describe to
you that makes this film even weirder than that makes it sound. You
know, Sean Penn with shoulder-length black hair, in black leather and
lipstick working with the Simon Wiesenthal kind of guy to track somebody
down in a comedy.

GROSS: Is it good?

POWERS: No.

(Soundbite of laughter)

POWERS: It's not good. It's not good at all. But what's remarkable is
that I didn't meet a single person who thought it was good, and yet
everyone stayed. Because when you're sitting there, your jaw is dropping
farther and farther, because, I mean, at every single moment, you think:
Oh, what could they do that's weirder? Oh, David Byrne is going to come
out...

(Soundbite of laughter)

POWERS: ...and he and his band are going to sing the entire song from
which "This Must Be the Place" comes. And you're, like, huh. That's odd.
You didn't need to show the whole song. You know - and or that you then
go out to the Wild West, and naturally, you instantly find a buffalo.
It's kind of a crazy European, self-conscious idea of America, where
David Byrne and buffalo are things you see all the time.

GROSS: My guest is John Powers, our critic-at-large, and we're talking
about movies that he saw at the Cannes Film Festival.

John, let's take a break here, then we'll talk about some more movies.
Okay?

POWERS: Okay. Sure.

GROSS: Okay. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is our critic-at-large, John
Powers, and we're talking about movies he saw at the Cannes Film
Festival.

You know, a lot of filmmakers want to think of their films as, like,
edgy and risky. One of the filmmakers whose movie was at Cannes risked
his life to make the movie that was shown there. And I'm thinking of the
Iranian filmmaker whose name I don't know how to pronounce. So I'll let
you handle that. But tell us about the risk he took to make this movie.

POWERS: Yes. His name is Jafar Panahi, and he is probably the person
who's been most famous Iranian director over the past 10 or 12 years. He
got himself in trouble with the government because, during the troubled
election of a couple years ago, he was identified as being not just an
opposition person, but a threat to national security.

Various judges declared that he should go to prison for six years, and
was banned from filmmaking for 20 years. While he appeals that decision,
he's living under house arrest, but not allowed to make films.

So what he's done is he has a set of friends come over, and basically,
they shoot a film inside his apartment where he's under house arrest.
And what he does is he talks to the camera about his situation. You hear
his conversations with his lawyers about how - what the government's
going to do to him. He actually, at one point, tapes out the set of his
- of a film he'd been making on the floor of his own room - all the
rooms of the place, of the film he was making, and begins acting out
scenes from the film he was making when he was interrupted and banned
from filmmaking.

And gradually, what happens is you start seeing about his life and how
he fits into the political situation of things, and essentially what the
big insistent point they keep making is that he's not actually making a
film. The film is called "This is not a Film," because if he is actually
making a film, he's violated the rules under which he's living, in which
case he could perhaps go to prison for life. So he's making a film - or
a part of making a film - called "This is not a Film," which is all
about why he can't make a film.

And it builds to this amazing sequence where there's a guy outside his
door who claims to be collecting trash, but neither he nor we can tell
whether he really is the janitor of this building or is actually the
secret policeman. And it's a really, really marvelous sequence that
really rivets the audience.

But what's brave about it is that, unlike most filmmakers who don't take
any real risks, except maybe of money, Panahi could, in fact, go to jail
for the rest of his life if they decide that "This is not a Film" is a
film.

GROSS: It's part of the reason why he can call it "This is not a Film,"
because it was shot on, you know, like an over-the-counter...

POWERS: Yes.

GROSS: ...kind of like little video camera, one of those, like, little
fits-in-one-hand video cameras and maybe a cell phone?

POWERS: Yes. No, I think so. I think it's partly that, in literal terms,
it is not a film. You know, it was shot on a DV camera and on a cell
phone, and was smuggled out of the country inside a flash drive put
inside a cake, I believe, and take to Cannes. So on the one hand, it
literally is not a film. And then the question is whether or not he
directed the film, because part of the law is he's not allowed to direct
a film. But he wasn't explicitly banned from being in a film or from
writing a film.

So therefore, he can be partly in it, but there are funny moments where
his directorial habit is so strong, he will tell the guy who's shooting
it to cut. And then the guy behind the camera will say, no, you can't
say cut, because if you say cut, you're directing a film...

(Soundbite of laughter)

POWERS: ...and then you're breaking the law.

GROSS: Well, John, should we end by saying a few words about Daniel(ph)
Krim, who was the head of Kino Films, who died during the festival at
the age of 65 of cancer?

POWERS: Yes. Well, Krim was a man who had done very generous and good
things. You know, there was a generation of people who loved cinema in a
way that I think younger people never will, because the culture doesn't
love it.

And he spent his entire life helping people who might otherwise not have
their films show anywhere show in the United States, and taking great
old films by, you know, by Chaplin and Keaton and making sure they were
preserved, making sure they were copied, put on DVD and made available
to everybody. So he's actually one of the great heroes of the film
business.

You know, there are a handful of those people around who don't make much
money, but who are doing it purely from love. And when you actually talk
to people inside the film world, they are revered figures, because
everybody knows they were honorable and decent and made the world
better.

GROSS: well, John, I want to thank you for talking with us about the
Cannes Film Festival. I always look forward to these conversations. And
now I have a lot of great films to look forward to seeing. Thank you so
much.

POWERS: Thank you for having me.

GROSS: John Powers is FRESH AIR's film critic – is FRESH AIR's critic-
at-large. He writes about films for Vogue and Vogue.com. The Cannes Film
Festival wrapped up last weekend.

You can download podcasts of our show on our website: freshair.npr.org.
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