Skip to main content

Nowadays, Bradley Cooper is an Oscar-nominated actor, director, and producer. But in the early 2000s, he was still looking to make a name for himself. And though he’s turned to more serious fare like Joker and A Star Is Born, Cooper’s entry into Hollywood came through comedy. However, given the movie that served as his feature film debut, many fans of his more recent work might have missed out on seeing his first movie.

Bradley Cooper wears a dark suit and waves during a talk show appearance
Bradley Cooper | Michael Desmond/Disney General Entertainment Content

Bradley Cooper didn’t become a leading man until the early 2010s

Throughout the 2000s, Cooper balanced both a fairly steady flow of film and television roles. However, he was far better known for the latter. The actor appeared on a number of shows in those early years, most notably the ABC drama Alias. But he also popped up in memorable supporting turns in Wedding Crashers, Failure to Launch, Yes Man, and He’s Just Not That Into You. Just a few months later after that last film, The Hangover hit theaters.

One of summer 2009’s biggest hits, the R-rated comedy earned $469 million worldwide against a reported $35 million production budget, according to Box Office Mojo. But it was still an ensemble cast. It wouldn’t be until 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook when Cooper would develop a reputation in Hollywood as a bankable leading man. He earned his first Academy Award nomination for that movie too, and the rest is history.

However, the actor made his film debut in this 2001 cult comedy

More than a decade before he and Jennifer Lawrence would deliver star-making performances opposite each other, Cooper made his film debut in 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer. Director David Wain — who wrote the film with Michael Showalter — assembled a who’s who of comedy stars for a satire about one day at a fictional summer camp in the 1980s. Cooper plays a Ben, a drama instructor at the camp who attempts to stage a talent show.

With his storyline, Cooper shares most of his screen time with Amy Poehler’s Susie. But Wet Hot American Summer also stars Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Molly Shannon, Paul Rudd, Christopher Meloni, and Elizabeth Banks. Two Netflix series, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp and Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later, followed in the mid-2010s. Cooper returned as Ben for the former series, again opposite Poehler.


‘Nightmare Alley’: Did Bradley Cooper Nearly Reunite with a Co-Star?

Bradley Cooper could finally become an Oscar winner very soon

During its initial release, Wet Hot American Summer didn’t make much of a splash. But the film has achieved a cult following among fans over the years. Many of the actors there went on to become huge stars, and Cooper is no exception. In fact, the actor has seemingly been on a collision course with Oscar for years.

Even though Cooper claims he doesn’t want an Academy Award, he stars in two movies currently in the 2022 awards conversation: Licorice Pizza and Nightmare Alley. That could put Cooper in the position of getting two acting nominations this year. And his next project, Maestro, a biopic of composer Leonard Bernstein, will like gain similar awards buzz. Cooper will not only star as Bernstein but also write and direct Maestro.