(Author’s Note: The following interview took place soon after a screening of The Hangover Part III in a hotel room, where journalists are given 15 minute blocks to interview Cooper, who was casually dressed in a baseball cap, sneakers, jeans, and a T-shirt. Given my slot — late in the day, after scores of other interviews — Cooper looks surprisingly refreshed and relaxed. He is spread out in a large chair, legs crossed as the interview begins.)
Pajiba: Good afternoon. Thanks for taking the time to meet with me.
Cooper: It’s my pleasure.
Pajiba: I’m sure it’s been a very long day for you.
Cooper: It’s all part of the job. There are worse things than sitting in a hotel, drinking coffee, and answering questions about myself all day.
Pajiba: I’m sure! Speaking of which, and I hope this doesn’t come off the wrong way, but I heard your interview on “Fresh Air” a few months ago, about the passing of your father, and I just wanted to say that the entire interview completely changed my perception of you. I was really just impressed with the way you spoke about the experience, how you processed your feelings, and how you dealt with it while you were filming Silver Linings Playbook.
Cooper: Thanks, man. I appreciate that. It means a lot.
Pajiba: You went to Georgetown, right?
Cooper: I did. Class of ‘97.
(We spend a few seconds talking about a mutual acquaintance who also went to Georgetown).
Pajiba: Anyway, back on topic: I loved you in “Alias,” and Wedding Crashers, and I even thought you were great in that short-lived series on Fox based on Anthony Bourdain?
Cooper: So you were the guy that watched!
Pajiba: (laughs) I guess so … but The Hangover franchise launched your career into the stratosphere, and led to a number of excellent dramatic projects like Silver Linings Playbook and The Place Beyond the Pines . Do you prefer these dramatic roles, or movies like The Hangover, where there’s not as much heavy lifting as an actor?
Cooper: I’m not sure if I’d characterize it that way because comedy is probably even more difficult than drama, but I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a “comedic” actor, either. The “heavy lifting” (he signifies with air quotes) in a comedy like The Hangover is left more to the likes of Zach [Galifianakis] and Ed [Helms].
Pajiba: Oh, I totally get that. Mostly, I was just asking because I find it strange that, with as much success as you’ve had in these Oscar caliber movies, you returned to The Hangover. Do you feel a sense of obligation?
Cooper: What do you mean by that?
Pajiba: Well, I mean, given your place in Hollywood now, you don’t really have to be doing comedy sequels.
Cooper: I don’t know if anyone has a “place” in Hollywood. It’s all very tenuous, and I feel very blessed that I’ve been able to string together a successful series of jobs. This could all disappear at any moment.
Pajiba: Right, right. I see what you mean. It’s just that you’re got a Depression era movie coming up with Jennifer Lawrence, and you’re starring in another David O. Russel film, and I saw that you’re attached to a Cameron Crowe and a Spielberg film.
Cooper: I’m very excited about those projects.
Pajiba: Right, it just seem like at this point in your career, you’re less interested in, well, the kind of film that The Hangover represents.
Cooper: I’m sorry. What was your name?
Cooper: I’m sorry, Dustin. I’m not sure what you’re getting at.
Pajiba: My apologies. I’m being oblique. Let me use an analogy. Yesterday, the site that I run posted two reviews from Cannes, reviews of fairly high profile independent projects. They’re very good reviews, and I’m quite proud of them, but I also needed to run what was essentially an Anna Kendrick picture post to make up the loss of page views.
Cooper: She’s great!
Pajiba: She is! It was fun, but it was also necessary to, you know, pay the bills.
Cooper: So you’re suggesting that I did The Hangover III to “pay the bills”?
Pajiba: Well, yeah. Kind of.
Cooper: Have you seen the movie?
Pajiba: I have.
Cooper: What did you think?
Pajiba: I wasn’t a fan. I mean, no offense. I just didn’t think it was very funny.
Cooper: None taken. It’s not for everyone.
Cooper: Well, I mean, we’re not trying to please the critical community, if that’s what you mean?
Pajiba: But the first Hangover movie was a big hit with critics and audiences. And your recent output has gone over very well with critics.
Cooper: Well, that’s not why I chose those projects. I’m just trying to stay true to myself.
Pajiba: By playing a douchebag in a series of road trip comedies? No offense.
Cooper: None taken. I mean it’s part of who I am, and I owe a lot to this franchise.
Pajiba: So, you are doing this out of obligation.
Cooper: No. I’m not saying that. Please don’t put those words in my mouth. I mean, these movies have meant a lot to my career, and I’m very proud of them.
Pajiba: You’re proud of The Hangover Part III?
Pajiba: Not to be an ass, but what in particular are you proud of about this movie?
Cooper: I’m very proud of the work I put into it. It’s a huge undertaking, these big comedy films.
Pajiba: But are you proud of the result?
Cooper: Yes, of course I am. This is a very strange interview, Duncan.
Pajiba: Look. I consider myself a fairly bright person, and I absolutely loved the original The Hangover.
Cooper: It was a great movie.
Pajiba: Right. But, well, you say that The Hangover III (scanning back through my notes) “isn’t for everyone.” Isn’t that the point of these kind of movies? To be for as many people as possible? If it’s not for fairly bright people who loved the original movie, then who is it for?
Cooper: I don’t know how to answer that question.
Pajiba: I’m not sure how you could answer question, either. I apologize. I’ve put you in an awkward position of having to defend a movie that’s not necessarily in line with your better more recent output.
Cooper: Those are your words. Look, I’m not trying to defend anything. We wanted to stay true to the spirit of the original film, and I think in that respect, III was a success.
Pajiba: If by “spirit,” you mean, repeating the same beats and the same structure for a third time, only with less enthusiasm, I agree with you 100 percent. Well, 80 percent, because there wasn’t an actual hangover in the sequel, which is not exactly in line with the title of the movie. But I feel like you were not very successful in staying true to the comedic spirit of the original hangover. This felt more like a bland action film than a comedy. There weren’t even many attempts at comedy. I mean, it was good to see John Goodman and all, but this was the rare instance where not even he could save a film. He couldn’t even save his own scenes.
Cooper: I’m sorry, Duncan, but is this a review or an interview?
Cooper: This is your review? This is an odd way to review a film
Pajiba: Well, it’s hard to get people to read reviews these days unless there’s a gimmick, but what else can I say? It’s the same film as the other two, only with half the laughs of the second film, which only had two. You took a scene stealer from the first film (Ken Jeong) and you turned him into a major character. I mean, you went to Georgetown; how does an Asian caricature speaking in broken English for nearly two hours sit with you?
Cooper: Look, I didn’t write the film.
Pajiba: So that’s not a choice you would’ve made?
Cooper: No, I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that I’m not responsible for Ken’s character.
Pajiba: No. I suppose not. But I remember there was a controversy during the second film, where several of the cast members rejected a cameo by Mel Gibson because of his anti-Semitism.
Cooper: Well, this is hardly the same thing. Ken’s is a COMEDIC character that, yes, plays on certain stereotypes, but he’s not espousing hatred toward an entire race of people.
Pajiba: No, I guess not. He’s just making fun of an entire race of people.
Cooper: Look, Darrin. I think our time is up here. (Calls to the publicists). Who’s next?
Pajiba: Well, thank you Brad. It was a pleasure, and I’m sorry if I said anything to offend.
Cooper: (irritated) No worries.
Pajiba: Could I just get a real quick picture?
Cooper: Please go.