|Actor, Director, Producer, Writer, Physical Effects|
|January 5, 1975|
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Born Jan. 5, 1975 in Philadelphia, PA, Cooper was inspired to pursue acting after watching John Hurt play the title role in David Lynch's "The Elephant Man" (1980), a role Cooper would later tackle for his thesis performance at the Actors Studio Drama School. After graduating from Georgetown University in 1997 with a degree in English, he relocated to New York City and enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program at the Actors Studio at New School University. While still a student, Cooper made his television debut in a 1999 episode of "Sex and the City" (HBO, 1998-2004) and snared a hosting gig on the Travel Channel series, "Treks in a Wild World" (2000). "Sex and the City" creator Darren Star remembered Cooper's work and cast him on the financial drama, "The $treet" (Fox, 2000-01) which lasted only 12 episodes. But the actor was not unemployed for long, taking part in the cult comedy "Wet Hot American Summer" (2001) and appearing with the film's creative team, comedy troupe STELLA, in a series of short films released on DVD as "Stella Shorts: 1998-2002."
Roles in several independent films followed, including the unsettling horror film "My Little Eye" (2002) and the unreleased "Carnival Knowledge," as well as likable turns in TV movies like "The Last Cowboy" (2003) opposite "$treet" co-star Jennie Garth and "I Want to Marry Ryan Banks" (ABC, 2004), a romantic comedy with Jason Priestly that spoofed reality television shows. Cooper's first high-profile gig was playing reporter Will Tippin on the first two seasons of "Alias" (ABC, 2001-06). He left the show in 2003 and stepped into recurring roles on "Touching Evil" (USA Network, 2004), "Jack and Bobby" (The WB, 2004-05), and a two-part "Law and Order" story that carried over from "Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ) to "Trial By Jury" (NBC, 2005).
In 2005, Cooper landed his biggest feature role to date in the raunchy summer smash "Wedding Crashers." Cast as Rachel McAdams' obsequious, cheating fiancé, Cooper showcased both his comedic and dramatic skills in a single role, sometimes even stealing scenes from his gifted co-stars, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. After this knockout role, his talent was not overlooked by the industry. Cooper was soon cast as the lead in Fox's "Kitchen Confidential" (2005), a sitcom based on Chef Anthony Bourdain's best-selling tell-all novel. Despite his charming presence and a fine supporting cast, the show floundered and was cancelled after 13 episodes. Cooper rebounded with another amusing turn as one of Matthew McConaughey's eccentric friends in the hit romantic comedy "Failure to Launch" (2006), where many critics singled out Cooper's performance in otherwise lukewarm reviews. Jumping from screen to stage in early 2006, Cooper appeared on Broadway alongside Paul Rudd and Julia Roberts, in the actress's much publicized and sold out Broadway debut "Three Days of Rain."
The steadily working actor ramped up his visibility in 2008, beginning with a recurring role on the FX series "Nip/Tuck" (2003-2010). His starring role in an adaptation of Clive Barker's thriller "The Midnight Meat Train" only made it to DVD, but "Yes Man" (2008), in which he co-starred as the best friend of an agreeable Jim Carrey, debuted at No. 1 at the box office. Cooper kicked off a lucrative 2009 with a role as a husband with a wandering eye in the ensemble comedy "He's Just Not That Into You" (2009). Rumors he was dating co-star Jennifer Aniston were quickly eclipsed by the monster summer hit "The Hangover" (2009). Cooper shared the lead with Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis in the buddy comedy about bachelor partygoers trying to piece together the events of a drunken blackout gone wild, and aside from a strong box-office take, it earned excellent critical reviews. Cooper stayed in the public eye with his follow-up "All About Steve" (2009), starring as a cameraman overzealously pursued by a woman (Sandra Bullock) after just one blind date. Critics were brutal, heaping zero stars on the movie and declaring it the worst of the year, but somehow Cooper came out of the film fiasco unscathed. He rounded out his breakout year with a role in the ensemble "New York, I Love You" (2009).
As much a draw in romantic roles as he was in comedic ones, Cooper returned to the successful ensemble cast format for the star-packed "Valentine's Day" (2010). As a newly single man chatting up airline seatmate Julia Roberts, Cooper charmed alongside the queen of charmers, showing his range with an plot twist that reveals his character reconciling with his lover, Eric Dane. The actor's comic touch - effective in frothy romances as well as harder-edged adventures - came in handy as the smooth-talking man-of-action, Lt. Templeton "Faceman" Peck in the feature version of the 1980s TV mainstay, "The A-Team" (2010), in which the actor clocked a good amount of camera time shirtless, showing off his newly chiseled body, courtesy of studio trainers. At the same time, Cooper's ongoing but quiet romance with A-list actress Renee Zellweger became more and more a paparazzi attraction, especially as his star ascended. The high-profile relationship came to the fore after Cooper's marriage to actress Jennifer Esposito had ended in divorce in 2007. His romance with Zellweger began sometime in 2009 and was reported on a year later, only to end after six months in early 2011.
Meanwhile, Cooper rejoined Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis for the not-quite-as-inspired sequel "The Hangover II" (2011), which managed to become a major box office hit like its predecessor while spawning a future third installment. Following up, he starred opposite Robert De Niro as a struggling writer who makes a Faustian bargain by taking a top-secret drug that allows him to use 100 percent of his brain in the rather underwhelming action thriller "Limitless" (2011). After appearing opposite Olivia Wilde and Zoe Saldana in the critically maligned drama "The Words" (2012), Cooper had a supporting turn alongside a motley cast that included Kristen Bell, Kristen Chenowith, Tom Arnold and Beau Bridges in star Dax Shepard's action comedy "Hit and Run" (2012). He next earned praise for his comic performance as a bipolar man who strikes up an odd friendship with an equally damaged young widow (Jennifer Lawrence) while dealing with his Philadelphia Eagle-obsessed father (Robert De Niro) in David O. Russell's off-beat romantic comedy "Silver Linings Playbook" (2012). The film garnered widespread critical acclaim and earned Cooper Indie Spirit, SAG, Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Actor.
By Susan Clarke