In his 22 seasons hosting Inside the Actors Studio, the late James Lipton had one favorite who stood out among hundreds of interviews — and it wasn’t a legendary actor like Robert De Niro or Lauren Bacall.
It was Jenkintown’s own Bradley Cooper.
Lipton recalled as much in a 2017 interview with Larry King. A former dean of the Actors Studio Drama School, Lipton personally auditioned and accepted Cooper into the program. In 2011, the Philly-area native later became Lipton’s first student to appear as a guest on Inside the Actors Studio.
“The night that one of my students has achieved so much that he or she comes back and sits down in the chair next to me will be the night I’ve waited for since we started this thing 23 years ago,” Lipton said in 2017. “And it turned out to be Bradley Cooper. I auditioned him. If I had turned him down, he would have gone on to a different career.”
Cooper’s appearance on the program was an emotional one, particularly regarding his mentor and acting teacher Elizabeth Kemp. In tears, Cooper said that he was “never able to relax in my life before” working with her. Kemp died in 2017, prompting Cooper to dedicate his 2018 remake of A Star Is Born to her.
“He cried again when he came on the show, as everybody knows,” Lipton told King. “Wept bitterly when he walked on the stage.”
While Cooper’s 2011 interview on the show is fairly well-known, it was a much earlier appearance that many fans remember. He actually made a brief appearance on Inside the Actors Studio as a student in 1999, during which he asked a question to actor Sean Penn.
“Hey, Mr. Penn. My name’s Bradley Cooper, I’m a second-year actor,” Cooper said in that early appearance. “What was it like to revisit a character, Eddie, after a 10-year hiatus?”
Years later, Cooper recalled that moment in an appearance on the Howard Stern Show, saying that he was “terrified” of speaking to a major actor in front of a large audience.
“I wanted to ask him,” Cooper told Stern. “But everything inside me said, ‘Just shut up and don’t ask him anything.’ ”