Oscar-nominated actor Bradley Cooper credits actor-comedian Will Arnett with helping him get his life back on track in the early 2000s when "The Hangover" star was struggling with drugs and alcohol.
The "A Star Is Born" actor-director shared "a little history" he had with Arnett, his former roommate and onetime neighbor, at a time when Cooper had "zero self-esteem."
Appearing on Monday's 100th episode of the "SmartLess" podcast, which Arnett co-hosts with actors Jason Bateman and Sean Hayes, Cooper opened up about his relationship with Arnett, the former "Arrested Development" star, and the lifelong effect it had on him.
To build up his confidence, Cooper said he tried to fit in by mimicking the popular "mean humor" of the early aughts that Arnett also subscribed to, but instead — Arnett told him — he was falling flat.
"[Arnett] was like, 'Hey man, do you remember we had dinner the other night? How'd you think that went?'" Cooper recalled. "And I remember being at the dinner thinking I was so funny, and I thought these two guys who were my heroes thought that I was so funny. ... I was like, 'I thought it was great. I thought I was killing.' Will Arnett was like, 'You were a real a—hole, man. You were a real a—hole.'"
And, apparently Cooper was so checked out at the time that he would also forget to take his dogs out to relieve themselves — another issue Arnett pointed out.
"That was like the first time I ever realized I had a problem with drugs and alcohol. And it was Will saying that to me. And I'll just never forget it. I was like, 'Oh, the guy that I think is doing mean humor is telling me like the truth about that,' and it changed my entire life," the 47-year-old shared on the podcast. "That moment was when I stopped pursuing this sort of mean humor thing."
"I just remember thinking that I love you and wanted you to be OK and knew that you weren't feeling OK about stuff," Arnett, 52, replied.
"I was so lost. I was so lost, and I was addicted to cocaine, and that was the other thing, [I injured] my Achilles tendon...," Cooper said of the low point in his life. "I did have the benefit of that happening when I was 29," which came before his career exploded with the first blockbuster installment of "The Hangover" movie franchise in 2009.
"I got to go through all of those things before fame even played into my existence on a daily level," the "Wedding Crashers" and "Alias" alum said.
Arnett described the change in Cooper as a "metamorphosis" and believes that Cooper's self-realizations in his early 30s allowed him to open up and change his personal and professional prospects.
"Will is the reason. Will took that risk of having that hard conversation with me in, like, July of 2004, and that put me on a path of deciding to change my life. It is truly Will Arnett. He is the reason. There's nobody else. It's him. And it helped that it was the guy that I thought I was emulating," Cooper said.
"It has been awesome seeing you in this place and seeing you comfortable. Nothing has made me happier," Arnett told Cooper. "Just seeing you be you ... It's made me happy to see you so happy with who you are."
Cooper said that he's stayed sober with therapy, but also had a change in perspective after becoming a dad. He shares 4-year-old daughter Lea with his ex-girlfriend Irina Shayk.
"Fatherhood is ... everything changed," he said. "Every single thing is absolutely shaded by or brought out in glorious colors by the fact that I get to be a father to a wonderful human being. It's just the absolute greatest thing."
"There's fast parts and slow parts," Bateman added. "I did find for me that one of the things [being a dad] does do is that it accelerates your work on yourself because you want to not infect them with the crap you don't have yet figured out."
"I don't want my kids to have to recover from their childhood, or from mine," added Arnett, who shares two sons with ex-wife Amy Poehler and one with girlfriend Alessandra Brawn.
The podcast episode was recorded weeks ago, before Cooper started filming "Maestro" in late May. He is playing conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein in the Netflix film, which he also wrote and will be directing. The actor recently made headlines for being unrecognizable as an aged version of the American theater icon.