Bradley Cooper thought his addiction was going to kill him. Then his most minor role helped save him.

In the early 2000s, before Bradley Cooper was the Bradley Cooper, he was a small-time actor who had hopes of making it big in Hollywood.

His time would come, but much later than he had expected. 

The actor has a British Academy Film Awards, two Grammy Awards, nine Academy Award nominations and six Golden Globe Awards. He's also made the Forbes Celebrity 100 three times and overall his films have grossed at least $11 billion worldwide. 

These days, he's one of the world's highest-paid actors. But in his 20s, he had a realisation that his life needed to change, and it was thanks to landing a computer advert after years of small parts in film and TV.

"I felt like I had a breakthrough when I was in a Dell computer commercial," he shared during a conversation with survival expert Bear Grylls on a July 2023 episode of Running Wild with Bear Grylls.

The Hangover in 2009 was what made the biggest difference, though.

Bradley Cooper in The Hangover. Image: Warner Bros. Pictures.


"The Hangover was pretty career-changing," he said. "I was 36 when that happened, so I was already in the game ten years when that happened. So I didn't get lost in fame."

Cooper revealed he knew he had a "problem with drugs and alcohol" after a serious conversation with a friend. 

That friend was fellow actor Will Arnett.

Bradley turned to alcohol and cocaine after severing his Achilles tendon and leaving American action series Alias, from which he "got fired slash quit", in 2003.

The actor explained he had a habit of copying Arnett's sense of humour in social situations. He thought he got away with it, but he was wrong. 

Speaking to Will and fellow actors Jason Bateman and Sean Hayes on their Smartless podcast, he recalled: "Will was like, 'Hey man, do you remember we had dinner the other night? How do you think that went?'

"I remember being at the dinner thinking I was so funny, and I thought these two guys who were my heroes thought that I was so funny," he said. "I was like 'I thought it was great. I thought I was killing.' Will Arnett was like, 'You were a real ar*ehole, man. You were a real ar*ehole.'"


Bradley Cooper and Will Arnett, 2016. Image: Getty.

The realisation hit him like a ton of bricks. 

"That was the first time I ever realised I had a problem with drugs and alcohol," he continued. "The guy that I think is doing mean humour is telling me the truth, and it changed my entire life."

The "hard conversation" saved what had become of his life. 

"I was so lost, and I was addicted to cocaine," he shared. "Will took that risk of having that hard conversation with me in, like, July of 2004 and that put me on a path of deciding to change my life. It truly was Will Arnett. He is the reason."


Following this revelation, Cooper went on to have therapy and said he "made major breakthroughs" in his self-esteem "where at least I was able to stand in front of somebody and breathe and listen and talk".

And after The Hangover, the work kept coming.

By May 2011, he had appeared in The Hangover II, and played the lead in hit film Limitless.

But his father Charles did not get to see it as he died of lung cancer in January 2011, in Cooper's arms.

In Running Wild With Bear Grylls, Bradley admits his dad’s death almost threw him back off the rails.

He says: "I definitely had a nihilistic attitude towards life after, just like I thought 'I'm going to die'. I don't know, it wasn't great for a little bit until I thought I have to embrace who I actually am and try to find a peace with that, and then it sort of evened out."

The actor is now the father of daughter Lea, who he shares with his ex-partner Irina Shayk.

Bradley Cooper and Irina Shayk, 2019. Image: Getty.


"Everything changed," he said of his little girl. "Every single thing is absolutely shaded by or brought out in glorious colours by the fact that I get to be a father to a wonderful human being.

"It's just the absolute greatest thing."

Currently, Bradley is in a relationship with Huma Abedin, an American political staffer who was vice chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

While he admittedly isn't the perfect father, he has high hopes for the future.

"You learn from your predecessors' mistakes and I'll hopefully make tons that Lea will learn from, and then being rigorous with myself to grow to help unburden her from any of my bulls**t," he shared.

Next up for Cooper is Maestro, an autobiographical film about Leonard Bernstein, which he wrote, produced and directed.

"I've been very lucky with the roles I've had to play," he said. "It's been a real blessing. I hope I get to keep doing it."

Feature Image: Getty/Mamamia/Disney+.

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