If you haven’t heard it yet, Bradley Cooper’s recent appearance on the SmartLess podcast is a total doozy. Not only does he reveal he was once heavily addicted to cocaine – and that he ended the habit when one of the podcast’s hosts, Will Arnett, called him an “asshole” – but more importantly he outs himself as an all-time world class grudge-holder.
During the episode he recounts a time at an awards season party, while riding high on his multiple nominations for A Star Is Born, when he ran into a “dear friend” actress and a famous director: “[The director] was like, ‘What world are we living in where you have seven nominations and she’s only got three?’ I was like, ‘I fucking hate this business.’ I’m like, ‘Bro, why are you such an asshole? Like, go fuck yourself.’”
Now there are two ways of looking at this. One is to use Cooper’s story as a learning opportunity. After all, we are talking about a performer at the very top of his game here, yet he still finds himself riddled with as much anguish and self-doubt as the rest of us. The reasonable and empathetic response would be to realise that our words have weight and to try and act with kindness wherever possible.
But that’s boring, so let’s play Hunt the Asshole Director instead. That’s much more fun, right?
So, we know this incident took place during the 2019 awards season. That helps with the other unknown figure in the story, Cooper’s actress friend. This was the year Emma Stone gained her third nomination for The Favourite (following her La La Land win), and don’t forget that she co-starred with Cooper in Aloha in 2015. True, other actresses had three Oscar nominations in 2019. He could have been talking about Natalie Portman or Marisa Tomei or the vengeful ghost of Claudette Colbert, but Stone seems the most likely bet.
Now the asshole director. We have two key pieces of information: the fact that this incident took place at an awards season party and the fact that Bradley Cooper called him “bro”. Although Hollywood isn’t exactly short of obnoxious directors, let’s boil things down to the directors most likely to attend an awards season party: the ones with nominations. The best director winner that year was Alfonso Cuarón, but let’s rule him out as well. Like most actors, Bradley Cooper would sell his parents to appear in a Cuarón film, so by this measure he fails the bro test.
Who does that leave? Paweł Pawlikowski was nominated for Cold War but he probably doesn’t qualify as famous. The other nominees, on the other hand, are all vaguely feasible. There’s Yorgos Lanthimos, director of The Favourite, who just about passes the bro test on account of his age (he’s just one year older than Cooper). Plus, “What world are we living in where you have seven nominations and she’s only got three?” could have been a clumsy attempt to butter up Emma Stone, his actress.
That leaves Spike Lee and Adam McKay. Lee is no stranger to saying stupid things but I just can’t see him bending over backwards to single out Emma Stone for praise. And this leaves Adam McKay. Is Adam McKay a famous director? Yes. Would Bradley Cooper call Adam McKay “bro”? Yes. Does Adam McKay give off the impression he’d be rude to a stranger to feel better about himself? Yes. So was it Adam McKay? I’m still not sure. Like Cooper, he has forged a prestigious reputation after years of producing lightweight fare, so perhaps he would be able to empathise with Cooper’s insecurities.
Could it be anyone else? Of course. Green Book eventually won best picture that year, and God knows Peter Farrelly seems like an ideal candidate. He passes the bro test with flying colours, and he’s sort of famous, and his career is so spotty that Bradley Cooper might judge that he wouldn’t be jeopardising anything by slagging him off on a podcast.
So, was Peter Farrelly the director who turned Bradley Cooper from a lovable everyman into a rage-fuelled, revenge-fixated crank? We may never truly know. But, hey, a bit of wildly unfounded speculation never hurt anyone, right?