Bradley Cooper: My Father’s Death and 10 Years of Sobriety Helped Me Prepare for Chris Kyle Role

Bradley Cooper on the cover of Vanity Fair
Bradley Cooper opened up to Vanity Fair about marking 10 years of sobriety and grappling with his father's 2011 death. Sam Jones exclusively for Vanity Fair

It's been a long journey for Bradley Cooper. The Hollywood hunk spoke candidly to Vanity Fair in its January 2015 cover story about marking 10 years of sobriety, in addition to grappling with the aftermath of his father's 2011 death.

The Oscar nominated actor, 39, discussed how his struggles helped him prepare for his most challenging role to date in Clint Eastwood's upcoming biopic, American Sniper, in which Cooper plays real-life Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. The film is based on Kyle's memoir, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, which topped the New York Times best seller list for 13 weeks in 2013.

"Losing someone close to me [helped me prepare]," Cooper reflected to Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger about his dad Charles' death three years ago. "Going through love and loss…knowing what’s important. Realizing that the bottom line is that all I got is me, so it’s about time to stop trying to be something that I think you would want me to be. Or that would give me what I think I need. As you get older, thank God, your body deteriorates, but your soul sort of flourishes."

Cooper has come a long way since his 20s, when he once approached life from an all-or-nothing perspective. "I see life much more gray as I get older," he mused. "I was so sort of black-and-white in my late 20s. There’s right and there’s wrong and that’s it. That’s a tough way to live…. It’s rare that I judge somebody, really rare. I think people feel that, so it’s sort of easy to get close to somebody if you don't feel judged by them."

Cooper himself once struggled with drug and alcohol addiction — he's been sober since August 2004 — and he once again alluded to his past while discussing his role as Kyle. "I did it naturally," Cooper said of his physical (and buff!) transformation. "Because I’ve been sober for 10 years and didn’t want to do anything. I had a realistic conversation: Can I do this in three months naturally? Can I gain 30 pounds of f—ing muscle? I didn’t know if I would be able to do it or not. Thank God — luckily — my f—ing body reacted fast."

The January issue of Vanity Fair hits newsstands on Dec. 9.

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