Bradley Cooper says it wasn't a stretch to call Robert De Niro "Dad" in Silver Linings Playbook. The Hangover actor plays Pat Solitano, the bipolar son of De Niro's extremely OCD Pat Solitano, Sr. in the film; and at the New York premiere party, Cooper told us that his prior working-relationship with De Niro on Limitless blossomed into a friendship, making it easy to channel that familial bond with the Taxi Driver actor.
At a press conference for the movie earlier that day, Cooper, who lost his actual father in 2011, told the gathered media that he had trepidations about playing the role of a Philadelphia area man struggling with bipolar disorder. "He really did champion me" to get the part, Cooper said of De Niro, adding that he decided to take the role, in part, because, "I knew that I could say 'Dad' and look at him and it would come from a real place."
Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro are 'Great Friends'
During the party at the Royalton hotel in midtown Manhattan, I asked Cooper to elaborate upon that comment, and he replied that because of his work with De Niro on their last movie, "We sort of became great friends," adding: "I love him." That relationship, he explained, became "a real bonus" when it came to the onscreen dynamic of the two actors in Silver Linings Playbook. With any movie role, Cooper explained, "You need certain anchors, and when I would say say the word 'Dad' to him, it just felt very deep and grounded."
In the David O. Russell-directed movie, De Niro gives his most authentic performance as a father since he directed himself in the 1993 picture, A Bronx Tale. He even weeps in the movie — an unscripted moment that was caught on the last take of a highly charged scene shot in the attic of the Solitano family home. Russell, who, during the press conference, repeatedly referred to the veteran actor as "Mr. De Niro," said the emotional moment caught him completely off-guard. "I was behind him in the attic going, 'What's happening?'" the director recalled.
Russell's son, Matthew, who plays a nosy teen-aged neighbor with a video camera, struggled with a different emotion while shooting a confrontational scene with De Niro: nervous laughter. The director recalled at the press conference that his son said to him that acting opposite De Niro " was like waking up in Raging Bull." Russell said that he chided his son for the inappropriate outburst, telling him, "You've got to stop laughing." But De Niro, he added, figured out a way to work with Matthew's anxious laughter to ratchet up tension in the scene.
Silver Linings Playbook opens in limited release on Friday.
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