The Inner Life of Bradley Cooper in 13 Haircuts

Until A Star Is Born, Bradley Cooper was most often thought of in the popular imagination as the slick, bouncy-haired What-Happens-in-Vegas asshole with the sleazy stubble from the The Hangover movies ($1 billion worth of people saw them worldwide)—which is a cousin of his other best-known role, the Ivy League asshole from Wedding Crashers, whom Cooper once himself described simply as “a f–king tyrant.” The Bradley Cooper that Lady Gaga meets in A Star Is Born is not one those guys—he’s a sensitive artist, a weathered soul, a dreamer pure of heart—and he has the raspy voice, damp long locks, and a graying beard to match. Over his journey from frat-bro icon to Oscar-contending filmmaker, Cooper has always had the right haircut for the job. But Cooper the person is more complicated than the jerks he is so adept at playing; he certainly wants to be taken more seriously than them. So because, these days, he is somewhat famously unknowable—even in magazine photo shoots he insists on wearing the same wardrobe as his character’s—let’s get to know Bradley Cooper through his haircuts, which are surprising and maybe even revealing in their variety.

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This is the “I’m here, Hollywood!” look of an arriviste fresh out of the Actors Studio with unsullied ambition. It’s the hair equivalent of Cooper’s longing, blue-eyed gaze at Sean Penn in that clip from Inside the Actors Studio.

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In the beginning of his promising-turned-deflating run on Alias—which ended with Cooper asking J.J. Abrams to kill his character off rather than keep cutting his screen time—he still had that optimistic shine, with the boy-band front-flip to match.

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By 2003, a dejected Cooper was fantasizing about quitting acting; a ringer tee and a lazy swipe of the left hand with some hair product—at a public function—suggests his state of mind at the time.

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And he’s back! This was when Cooper was gearing up for Wedding Crashers, which was when the world first took notice of him. The highlights fit the part of the Ivy League asshole Sack Lodge (an indelible character name).

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Introducing Serious Actor Bradley, who was in the midst of his first serious stage and Broadway run at the time—and this Serious Actor goatee.

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And here, post–The Hangover part one, we have the dawn of Bradley Cooper, movie star, Hollywood player, and owner of the bounciest locks in town.

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Probably to his eventual chagrin, this stubbled, slicked-back look was part of Cooper’s run up to his Sexiest Man Alive title in 2011.

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Whoa! Where did this come from and why don’t we talk about it more? (This was the Silver Linings Playbook year, when Cooper became unquestionably A-list, so he probably felt the freedom to try some things.)

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In that beginner’s beard is the seed of Director Bradley Cooper—under the influence of Clint Eastwood, of course, who had just directed him in American Sniper.

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Although he had not yet fully shaken his Damaged Bad Boy routine by then (this was the year of Sexy Chef Bradley in the iconic movie Burnt). Just look at that artfully mussed coif and stubble.

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Country Bradley fully in swing, with Cooper working on his greasy rocker hair and beard for A Star Is Born.

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By this Wimbledon outing in 2017, he and Lady Gaga had already begun shooting The Greatest Movie of Our Times.

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The transformation is complete: Meet triumphant, surefire Best Director Bradley Cooper. This is what Oscar campaigns should look like.