In the critically acclaimed movie “A Star Is Born,” Bradley Cooper stars alongside Lady Gaga, playing tragic, alcoholic and drug addicted rock star Jackson Maine. Cooper gives a tour de force performance, depicting the aging legend’s mental health and substance abuse struggles so flawlessly, he earned himself a Best Actor nomination at the 91st Academy Awards. However, Cooper didn't have to rely on method acting to get into character — he drew on his own life experiences.
“The stories that exist in this story, it comes from a very deep personal place and that’s the only way that I know how to communicate with many people,” the 44-year-old recently confessed to The New York Times during an interview about the film, which he also directed.
Over the years Cooper has been very candid about his experiences with addiction, detailing what his life as an addict was like, what inspired him to get help and how his life transformed as a result of putting down the bottle for good — helping so many others struggling with similar addiction issues in the process.
Cooper first revealed that he was sober during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2012, confessing that he quit doing drugs and drinking alcohol at the age of 29 — five years before starring in “The Hangover.” "I don't drink or do drugs at all anymore," he admitted. "Being sober helps a great deal."
In addition to negatively impacting his work, he explained that his addiction problems landed him in the hospital. "I was at a party and deliberately bashed my head on the concrete floor — like, 'Hey, look how tough I am!' And I came up, and blood dripped down. And then I did it again. I spent the night at St. Vincent's Hospital with a sock of ice, waiting for them to stitch me up."
Cooper explained to the publication that his drinking may have been a result of his insecurities, which started in his youth and continued into the early stages of his career. "I was so concerned what you thought of me, how I was coming across, how I would survive the day,” he said. “I always felt like an outsider. I just lived in my head. I realized I wasn't going to live up to my potential, and that scared the hell out of me. I thought, 'Wow, I'm actually gonna ruin my life; I'm really gonna ruin it.'"
Friends warned that his drinking was going to ruin his life, but he refused to listen for a long time. "Part of me believed it, and part of me didn't,” he continued. “But the proof was in the pudding: I'd always gotten up at the crack of dawn, and that was out the window. I remember looking at my life, my apartment, my dogs, and I thought, ‘What's happening?’”
In 2013 he got into more specifics about his addiction, telling GQ that during a career slump, occurring in 2001 while he starred alongside Jennifer Garner on “Alias,” that he was seriously struggling with his mental health — and even thought about suicide. As his screen time on the show starting declining, so did his mental state. “I was like, 'I want to f—ing kill myself,'" he confessed.
Shortly after getting written off the show, he tore his Achilles playing basketball, and started taken Vicodin regularly. He spent the next few years seriously addicted to drugs and alcohol, which he believes could have been life-threatening. "If I continued it, I was really going to sabotage my whole life," he said.
He explained that once he gave up his bad habits, his mental health started to improve — and his career even took off. "I was doing these movies, and I got to meet Sandra Bullock and meet these people and work with them," he says. "And I'm sober, and I'm like, 'Oh, I'm actually myself. And I don't have to put on this air to be somebody else, and this person still wants to work with me? Oh, what the f— is that about?’ I was rediscovering myself in this workplace, and it was wonderful."
In fact, in 2015, he revealed to Barbara Walters that he was 11 years sober from drugs and alcohol, owing his entire life, career and all the good things that came along with it, to sobriety.
“I would never be sitting here with you, no way, no chance [if I hadn’t gotten sober,]” he said. “I wouldn’t have been able to have access to myself or other people, or even been able to take in other people, if I hadn’t changed my life. I never would have been able to have the relationships that I do. I never would have been able to take care of my father the way I did when he was sick. So many things.”
But Cooper has no regrets about his past, instead using them as inspiration for his acting and directing — specifically with his Academy Award nominated role as Jackson Maine. “
Anytime you’re trying to tell the truth you need to go to places and use things that have happened to you, or you’ve read about or experienced,” Cooper recently told Variety. “And that’s all part of the beauty of turning whatever things you’ve gone through into a story. I find that to be very cathartic. I remember learning that in grad school, our teacher said all the insecurities, all the dark stuff you get to use that and that’s really the truth.”
Whether Bradley Cooper goes home with a Best Actor Oscar will be decided by the Academy, but the star's honesty and transparency about his addiction and mental health struggles is award-worthy in and of itself!
Leah Groth is a writer and editor currently based in Philadelphia. She has covered topics such as entertainment, parenting, health & wellness for xoJane, Babble, Radar, Fit Pregnancy, Mommy Nearest, Living Healthy and PopDust.