Believe it or not, The Hangover is not the most extreme, envelope-pushing, and impolite project that Bradley Cooper has been involved with.

True, the bachelor party-gone-kablooey comedy - about four guys who hit Las Vegas and wake up after a night of drunken revelry to find a baby and a tiger inexplicably sharing their trashed Caesars Palace suite - is out there.

But Cooper, last seen in theaters in the relationship dramedy He's Just Not That Into You (his character was wed to Jennifer Connelly, and having a thing with Scarlett Johansson), somewhat apologetically cites even wilder, crazier stuff.

"I did this arc on Nip/Tuck, where I played this outrageous character," says Cooper, the Abington/Jenkintown-area native and Germantown Academy grad, back in Philly a week ago. "I played a megalomanic actor, who, last seen, [broke] my neck trying to . . ." - well, fans of the show know how he broke his neck. Let's leave it at that.

And Cooper's first job after leaving the Actors Studio in New York (he missed graduation because of it) was in David Wain's loopy 2001 teen sex comedy satire, Wet Hot American Summer.

"That was a crazy movie, with this very passionate male sex scene. That was my indoctrination into the filmmaking business," he says. "And in Wedding Crashers, I got to do some pretty crazy stuff.

"But that said . . . this is definitely up there, for sure. I mean, there's the tiger. I worked with a monkey in Failure to Launch, but a tiger's a whole different animal."

True that.

The Hangover, which opens Friday, was directed by Old School's Todd Phillips. Cooper's costars are Justin Bartha, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms. Just four dudes out to celebrate an impending marriage. Four dudes who can't remember a thing that transpired - including what happened to the car and why their buddy, the groom-to-be, has gone missing.

"Todd told me to stop saying this because we won't get as many viewers, but I've been saying that The Hangover is like The Bachelor Party meets Memento," Cooper notes, referring to the indie noir about a man with no memory trying to solve a mystery.

"But then Todd's been selling it as the comedic version of Saving Private Ryan - I don't know if that will fill more seats in the theater. But it did feel like we shot a war movie, I'll tell you that. We were pretty spent at the end of this movie."

Cooper, 34, grew up knowing that he wanted to act. It was his Rydal Elementary School's production of Around the World in 80 Days that did it.

"I remember sitting in the lunchroom, which was the makeshift dressing room, and I remember hearing the crowd outside and putting on my mustache, and I had my magnifying glass, and I remember thinking, 'Oh man, this feels really right, I can get used to this,' " he recalls, laughing.

"And I lived next door to a movie theater at the Baederwood Shopping Center - it was right across the street. My father was a huge cinephile, so I was seeing things like Network and Elephant Man when I was in my early teens. . . . Elephant Man was the seminal film in terms of me wanting to be an actor, no question about it.

"But then, Deer Hunter I would watch over and over, Apocalypse Now, The Dresser, funnily enough, Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. . . . Shampoo killed me, I remember that. The Last Detail. . . . It was like Hal Ashby, Coppola, Alan Pakula, all those guys."

Cooper did his freshman year at Villanova, and then switched to Georgetown University. He was the servant, Azolan, in a production of Dangerous Liaisons. He was Casanova in Tennessee Williams' Camino Real.

A couple of years ago, he was on Broadway in Three Days of Rain opposite Julia Roberts and Paul Rudd. His career has progressed.

Indeed, Cooper has the title role in All About Steve, a "quirky" romcom with Sandra Bullock set to open Labor Day weekend. "It's about a woman who does crosswords for a local newspaper, gets set up on a blind date with Steve, who's a cameraman for a local news crew. The first date goes awry, he makes up a story that he's got to leave. He says 'I really wish you could be there,' lying to her, but she takes him literally, quits her job, and it becomes this road movie, this stalker-movie thing."

Cooper will also be seen next year in Valentine's Day, playing opposite his Broadway costar Roberts.

And according to the Internet Movie Database, the actor, who now resides in Venice, Calif. - and who has been linked romantically to Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz, among others - is lined up for such top-tier projects as The A-Team and Green Lantern.

Cooper shakes his head. Not true.

"If I had the career that the Internet told me I had, I'd be very happy," he offers, smiling ruefully. "If I had the career - and the dating life."

Short subjects. Director Sam Raimi returns to his roots with this weekend's sublimely twisted horror comedy Drag Me to Hell. But the Evil Dead filmmaker is back on the big-studio, effects-driven superhero beat next, readying to direct the fourth - his fourth - Spider-Man. The script this time is coming from Rabbit Hole playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, and Raimi has been telling folks he's eager to get at it. . . . Variety reports that Tom Cruise has signed on to star opposite Cameron Diaz in Wichita, an action-comedy spy caper to be directed by James (Walk the Line) Mangold, aiming for a summer 2010 release. The Cruiser plays a secret agent who meets a woman who's on a bad-luck streak with men. That'd be Diaz. . . . According to the horror Web site Bloody Disgusting (www.bloody-disgusting.com), Twentieth Century Fox is planning to remake Ridley Scott's landmark space screamer, Alien. They've missed the 30th anniversary, though: Sigourney Weaver and the Mother from Outer Space first battled it out in 1979.

Obama sees 'Trek.' In a sitdown with Newsweek's Jon Meacham two weeks ago, the commander in chief joked about how he discovered there's "this nice theater on the ground floor of my house."

And so he went to the White House screening room to watch J.J. Abrams' Star Trek.

"Everybody was saying I was Spock," Barack Obama told Newsweek, "so I figured I should check it out," indicating that he approved of the new Trek enterprise.

The president spoke fondly, too, of the old TV series.

"I used to love Star Trek. You know, Star Trek was ahead of its time. . . . The special effects weren't real good, but the storylines were always evocative, you know, there was a little commentary and a little pop philosophy for a 10-year-old to absorb."

Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://go.philly.com/onmovies.