Working with ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ director was ‘life-changing’ for Bradley Cooper

Working with ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ director was ‘life-changing’ for Bradley Cooper
Director David O. Russell, left, and actor Bradley Cooper participate in a photo call and press conference for the film "Silver Linings Playbook" during TIFF on Sept. 9, 2012 in Toronto. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
by: Sheri Block

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In “Silver Linings Playbook,” Bradley Cooper couldn’t be further away from the cool, confident party animal he played in “The Hangover.”

But Cooper, who plays Pat, a former teacher who tries to re-build his life after spending eight months in a mental institution, says he considers him one of the most likeable characters he’s ever played.

Jennifer Lawrence also embarks on an extreme role reversal in the film. Far from her “Hunger Games” warrior Katniss, Lawrence plays Tiffany, an eccentric widow with her own mental issues. The Oscar-nominated actress says playing a character that audiences might not necessarily like was something that attracted her to the role.

Both actors, along with director David O. Russell, sat down with and other reporters during an informal press conference at the Toronto International Film Festival to discuss the film, which took home the People’s Choice Award at the festival.

On what attracted Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper to their roles:

Lawrence: I didn’t even read the script – I heard it was David O. Russell and I said, ‘Yes.’ He’s my favourite director and then (after reading the script), I was really happy I said yes. I just fell in love with the character. She’s hilarious and unapologetic.

Cooper: The whole reason I dreamt about becoming an actor as a kid was to do movies that this guy makes. The fact that he had the confidence in me to want to work together; I just took a leap of faith and trusted in him because it was life-changing for me.

On what the actors liked about their often un-likeable characters:

Lawrence: That’s what I’ve always loved about David’s characters. In every single one of his movies, David is probably the only filmmaker who actually gives audiences a choice to not like people. All of his characters have so many dimensions and each character has a story, there’s no manipulation. It’s, ‘Here they are, here’s truth, here are these people, these are their problems, this is how they are dealing with it’ … it’s just real people in any kind of situation . . . you can walk out of the theatre and not like Tiffany or Pat, or you can love them. You have a choice.

Cooper: Maybe I’ve drank the Kool-Aid with Pat, but I think he’s the most likable guy I’ve ever played. I felt so empathetic for him . . . there’s not a bad bone in that guy’s body, the way I saw it and he has no filter. His emotions are right there on the surface all the time and he’s a child who wants to love and be loved. To me it was never like, ‘How do I like this guy?’ It’s like, ‘I love this guy.’

Russell: Like the characters I worked with in “The Fighter,” these actors gave us so many choices, put so much of themselves and so much heart into what they did, there were so many choices in the editing room so if we wanted to we could’ve cut it so they were much less likeable.

On how Russell chose Cooper and Lawrence for the roles:

Russell: (Bradley) I knew from “Wedding Crashers,” he had an intensity and an anger that I found personally a little intimidating and I told him that when I first met him. And that was a really good thing. It was a scary quality that made me think he could play the role . . . he isn’t just the affable rounded guy from “The Hangover.”

(In terms of Jennifer), every great actress in Los Angeles wanted this role and we had very good choices. She came in at the eleventh hour, we hadn’t thought of her because we thought she was too young and frankly, none of us really thought she was right for it.  We didn’t really know who she was . . . (but her audition) knocked us out.  

On Cooper playing a character with a mental illness:

Cooper: It all goes back to what the original intention of (Russell’s) movies are, specifically “The Fighter” and this one, to create a real world with real people that you believe you are walking into . . . you have the utmost respect for those people because you’re making them real . . . in that breeds comedy, drama, as in life, the most traumatic moments in my life that I’ve witnessed, been a part of, have been utterly hilarious.

It’s not that you’re searching for the comedy . . . David has this way of making it ”gangster” – just make it real, cut all the bullsh*t . . . That’s when the rhythm happens, it gets funny, it gets tragic, it gets real, it becomes like life and that’s when people can relate to it.   

On how Russell decided what traits of mental illness the characters would portray:

Russell: It was a process because the book (the movie is based on) was much more extreme. Jennifer’s character was always sort of that volatile, direct, charismatic girl that is very potent and you don’t know what’s going to happen . . . (both characters) had been tagged as black sheep in the family and the ones who weren’t doing what everyone else was doing and (the two of them) shared that.

“Silver Linings Playbook” opens in select theatres Friday, Nov. 16, with a wide release set for Wednesday, Nov. 21.