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Why Bradley Cooper almost quit Hollywood for good

Whether you laughed at his antics in The Hangover films, loved his MCU voicework as Rocket in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and Avengers: Infinity Warshed a tear while watching his emotional performance in The Silver Linings Playbook, or first noticed him as an up and coming star on the early 2000s TV show Alias, Bradley Cooper seemed to catch everyone's attention over the past 15 years and became one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. In 2018, he made headlines all over again for directing and starring opposite Lady Gaga in their remake of the classic film A Star is Born.

From numerous awards and nominations to winning People's Sexiest Man Alive in 2011 and finding success on Broadway, Cooper has proven that he can do it all. But his path to success was not an easy road, and although he never gave up on acting, he considered turning his back on the industry several times. Here's why Bradley Cooper almost quit working in Hollywood for good.

He asked to be written off Alias

When Cooper landed a part on the television show Alias in 2001, he started earning some positive attention from critics. Alias followed Sydney Bristol (Jennifer Garner), a CIA double agent who had to hide behind multiple aliases in order to conceal her unorthodox career path from her loved ones.

The show was quite popular, but unfortunately, its popularity didn't translate to instant success for Cooper, who appeared as the character Will Tippin, a local journalist and friend of Bristol. Over time, he got less and less screen time, and he was only needed on set a couple days per week. He realized his days on Alias were numbered, and the show wouldn't be his ticket to stardom — it was merely a dead end. Eventually, he simply asked to be written off the show rather than get fired outright. Cooper had no idea what would come next, but he knew that he had to look beyond Alias.

He struggled with depression

No matter how much you dread showing up to work on Monday, it's generally considered a bad idea to leave a job without having another opportunity lined up. But when Cooper decided to jump ship and essentially write himself off Alias, he was entering totally unknown territory: he didn't have any other prospects. After leaving Alias, Cooper had no work lined up, and he basically had to start his career over from scratch. Sure, he had a little more name recognition, but he was going to need more than that to find steady work.

Cooper has said that during this time, he fell into a period of depression. Everyone he spoke to told him to hold on to his part in Alias, but he went against their advice and quit anyway. He struggled with his emotional health, and he wondered whether or not he would be able to find his real "big break."

He tore his Achilles

As if making the decision to leave Alias wasn't hard enough, Cooper faced another hardship shortly after quitting. A mere two weeks after his time on the show ended, he tore his Achilles, and he had a long road to recovery ahead of him. Cooper has said he spent most of the following year simply laying on his couch and relying on Vicodin to manage the pain. This was definitely a low point in his career: he was barely even working, and he wondered if this injury was a sign that he wasn't meant to be an actor after all. "At some point, you have to come to terms with 'the business just doesn't want you,' you know what I mean?" he told GQ.

But this wasn't the end for Cooper — better days were right around the corner. In 2004, he landed the role of Sack Lodge in Wedding Crashers, and finally, things were on the upswing again.

He took on a challenge with Three Days of Rain

By 2006, Cooper was having an easier time finding steady work — but he knew that it was time to push the boundaries a bit and go out of his comfort zone, so he auditioned for (and landed) the role of Pip/Theo in the Broadway production Three Days of Rain. The play focuses on the protagonist Walker Janeaway, who returns to New York City after the death of his father and delves into his family's tragic and romantic past. Cooper was working with Julia Roberts and Paul Rudd, and he referred to his decision to work on the play as a "do or die moment." In fact, he decided that if he couldn't handle his part in Three Days of Rain, he wasn't truly cut out to be an actor, and he would have to find a new career path.

Although he didn't exactly receive rave reviews during his run in Rain (in fact, one New York Times reviewer compared him to "a sitcom actor doing testy and aggrieved"), Cooper continued to pursue new acting opportunities when the play was over. Those efforts would soon begin to pay handsome dividends.

He had to beat his addictions

Cooper has chosen to remain vague on some of the finer details, but he's discussed his problems with addiction with the press. It's understandable that he would want to maintain some privacy about these very personal struggles — however, he's been open about the impact that his addictions had on his career. At some point, he was forced to make a choice: would he continue to give into his vices, or would he turn his life around, get sober, and focus on his career?

After one fateful night, Cooper knew that it was past time to give up drugs and alcohol. During a particularly wild party, he hit his head against a concrete floor on purpose twice, and he ended up spending the night in the hospital. Since then, he's been totally sober. "I realized I wasn't going to live up to my potential, and that scared the hell out of me," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "I thought, 'Wow, I'm actually gonna ruin my life; I'm really gonna ruin it.'"

He had to work through burnout

After finding himself back in the spotlight with his part in Wedding Crashers, Cooper found it was much easier for him to land steady work. He wasn't exactly scrounging for bit parts anymore, but he wasn't starring in critically acclaimed films, either. He starred on the short-lived series Kitchen Confidential, which was based on Anthony Bourdain's memoir of the same name. Unfortunately, the series was canceled in the middle of its first season due to low ratings. He also appeared in the horror film The Midnight Meat Train, which was a box office bomb despite receiving decent reviews. One of his biggest career mishaps was starring opposite Sandra Bullock in the comedy All About Steve, which was universally panned and resulted in the two actors receiving a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screen Couple.

Although Cooper was grateful for these opportunities, he found himself feeling burned out and unfulfilled, and he was faced with another "do or die" moment — it was time to make a breakthrough and start pursuing more serious roles, or take a break from acting

He took time off when his father was sick

Growing up, Bradley Cooper idolized his dad. Although he ended up following a very different career path from his father, who was a stockbroker, he always looked up to him. After his father was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2006, his condition steadily grew worse as the years went on. In 2010, Cooper put his own career on hold temporarily to return home to Philadelphia and care for his dad. During this time, he was able to put everything else on the back burner — working on new projects and spending time on the press circuit wasn't on the table. He wasn't intending to permanently leave Hollywood, but he had to tune out the rest of the world and simply focus on spending time with his father.

Cooper's father passed away in January 2011, and after taking time to mourn the loss, he eventually returned to Hollywood and began working again. Now, Cooper wears his father's wedding band on a chain around his neck so he can carry a piece of his memory with him.

He has already reached many of his career goals

At this point in his career, Cooper has played a huge variety of roles, but he doesn't seem to think that he has it in him to continue taking on such wildly different characters. This certainly isn't a knock on his talent — he's already proven that he's one of the most skilled and versatile actors on the big screen these days. Cooper himself says that he thinks he only has a few more major characters that he wants to play. "I always thought I had six characters in me, and I've already played a few of them," he told W Magazine. "I've been a soldier, a musician, a chef, and a disfigured person. I still want to play a conductor. And then who knows?"

Sure, Cooper might not be hinting that he'll totally drop acting once he's played all of these roles — but it seems like he could be open to a big career change at some point in the future.

He lost out on a role he really wanted

Cooper made a splash in 2011 when he starred as writer Eddie Morra in the film Limitless. Morra gets access to a mind-altering drug that allows him to use 100% of his brain at once, which supercharges his intellect and lands him in a world of trouble. Although the plot of film was centered around the myth that we only use 10% of our brains at any given time, the movie was a box office hit, and it was obvious that Cooper had the star power to carry a film on his own.

But even after the success of Limitless, Cooper faced some career roadblocks. When he lost out on a "coveted part," he considered quitting acting once again. A few days later, he'd shaken himself out of the funk, and he was ready to get back in the game. He hasn't revealed the role that he missed out on, but better things were on the horizon.

He took a risk with A Star is Born

There's no doubt about it — Cooper's remake of A Star is Born has been a runaway success. But when he decided to take on this massive project, he had some serious doubts about whether or not the risk was worth it. This classic tale has been told several times –in 1937, 1954, and 1976 — and Cooper had high expectations to live up to. The story follows Jackson Maine (Cooper), a musician who's privately struggling with addiction when he meets Ally (Lady Gaga), a waitress and singer whose career takes off as his life falls into a downward spiral.

While working on A Star is Born, Cooper definitely felt serious pressure to succeed in a way he hadn't before. "There are times where you think, 'It's O.K. if this doesn't work,'" he told TIME. "And then there are a couple of moments in your life where you think, 'Actually, I'm going to fall down a ladder about 20 rungs if this doesn't work.'" In the end, that willingness to take risks paid off: A Star is Born has been a massive critical and commercial success.

He chose to put family first

In March 2017, Cooper and his longtime girlfriend Irina Shayk welcomed their first child, a daughter named Lea. After Lea was born, both Cooper and Shayk decided to prioritize their privacy over fame. Cooper chose to take a step back from the spotlight for the first year of Lea's life — he basically avoided the press to the best extent that he could, he rarely gave interviews, and Cooper and Shayk didn't share photos of their daughter with the press or on social media. At a time when oversharing seems to be the norm, they chose to go against the grain. Cooper rarely even brings Shayk on the red carpet, choosing to bring his mom instead so that they aren't subjected to comments from the paparazzi.

Cooper always looked forward to being a father, and he takes his role very seriously. He keeps his personal life and public life separate, and although he loves acting, it's obvious that family comes first.

He didn't want to be typecast

Although Cooper has held his own in vastly different roles, he hasn't forgotten what it was like to prove to studios that he didn't deserve to be typecast. He went through a phase when he felt as though everyone was trying to push him to take on the same kind of characters, over and over — but in the meantime, he wanted to experiment and get out of his comfort zone. He also felt that people underestimated his ability to break out of acting and move into directing, and this attitude frustrated him. "Like, shame on anybody that's going to tell you who you are. That angers me," he told The New York Times. "It's like, someone's going to tell you who you are, what you're capable of. Like, what?"

With Cooper's impressive accolades and the success of his first directing effort with A Star is Born, it's safe to say that he's probably thankful that he never gave up on acting — and if his career until now is any guide, he'll undoubtedly continue to make his mark on the entertainment industry for years to come.