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Bradley Cooper: What made him return to Broadway

Cooper is currently starring in a Broadway production of the play 'The Elephant Man.' The actor says he was profoundly affected by the 1980 film of the same title, starring John Hurt.

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    'The Elephant Man' stars Bradley Cooper (l.), Alessandro Nivola (center), and Patricia Clarkson (r.).
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As his performance in the upcoming film “American Sniper” is garnering Oscar buzz, “American Hustle” actor Bradley Cooper has returned to Broadway for a production of “The Elephant Man.”

Cooper has starred in comedies such as the 2001 film “Wet Hot American Summer,” 2005’s “Wedding Crashers,” and the 2009 box office hit “The Hangover” and earned his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor for the 2012 film “Silver Linings Playbook.” He earned his second Oscar nod last year for the 2013 film “American Hustle,” that time in the category of Best Supporting Actor. 

The actor has appeared in Broadway before in a 2006 production of the play “Three Days of Rain,” which also starred Julia Roberts and Paul Rudd. Cooper told Deadline that his new show, “The Elephant Man,” was particularly a passion project for him.

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“I can’t believe it,” he said of the show. “At the Booth Theater where it originated, playing a guy that is the reason I became an actor… it was that movie, when I was a kid. ‘The Elephant Man.’ John Hurt. That was the crystallized moment, where I thought, ‘Oh, I really need to do this for a living.’” Hurt earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination for the 1980 film.

“Elephant” opened on Dec. 7 and co-stars Patricia Clarkson of “The Maze Runner" and "Selma" actor Alessandro Nivola.

So far, Cooper has received mainly positive reviews, with Guardian critic Alexis Soloski writing that the actor’s “portrayal at first seems tiresomely showy, the kind of acting that demands the audience acknowledge and applaud each drop of sweat trickling from the thespian brow. But after a scene or two, he settles into the part and he settles in very nicely… If Cooper doesn’t eclipse John Hurt in David Lynch’s film version, he gives a bravura performance and occasionally quite a moving one. He might as well clear trophy space on his mantel now.”

Hollywood Reporter critic David Rooney agreed, calling Cooper’s performance “tremendously moving.”

“His performance is staggering in its physical discipline, its piercing emotional transparency and, most surprisingly, its restraint,” Rooney wrote. 

Variety critic Marilyn Stasio found that “Bradley Cooper… may well be the most beautiful feature [of the play] of all… It’s a stunning performance, deeply felt and very moving.”

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