LOS ANGELES - Bradley Cooper could make it third time lucky at the Oscars this month, after being nominated a rare three consecutive times for Hollywood's highest awards.
The 40-year-old is shortlisted for best actor for his role in controversial blockbuster "American Sniper" as former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, one of America's most famous warriors in the second Iraq war.
It follows his nods in the same category for "Silver Linings Playbook" in 2013 and "American Hustle" last year - a three-times feat last achieved more than a decade ago by Renee Zellweger (2001-2003).
For many critics, the best actor race this year is between Britain's Eddie Redmayne ("the Theory of Everything") and veteran Batman star Michael Keaton ("Birdman.") But Cooper is hoping to sneak up on the two frontrunners to pick off the prize at the February 22 Academy Awards.
"I think this is Bradley Cooper's best performance and it's his third consecutive nomination," Tim Gray, awards editor at industry journal Variety, told AFP.
"I still think Keaton and Redmayne are the frontrunners, but it's been a crazy year, so anything is possible." And he added: "With five nominees, you don't need a majority to win - you just need enough voters who are passionate about the work, and 'American Sniper' seems to be inspiring a lot of passion." Born in Philadephia and the son of a stockbroker, Cooper graduated from Washington's Georgetown University in English in 1997, before heading to New York to enroll at the Actors Studio Drama School at New School University.
Small screen start
He focused on stage work, with his final thesis performance in Bernard Pomerance's "The Elephant Man," while launching his television career opposite Sarah Jessica Parker on "Sex and the City." He missed his own graduation ceremony because of his first big-screen role, "Wet Hot American Summer" in 2001, followed by "Bending All the Rules" the following year.
After moving to Los Angeles to pursue his Tinseltown dreams, he starred mostly on the small screen, before hitting the big time with 2009's "Hangover," about four guys bachelor partying a little too much in Vegas.
Cooper, who was briefly married in 2006-2007 and has dated "Bridget Jones" actress Zellweger, repeated the trick with "Hangover Part II" in 2011, the same year he was named "Sexiest Man Alive" by People magazine.
"Silver Linings Playbook" was a clear attempt to add some acting heft to his celebrity status, with Cooper playing a character battling bipolar disorder in the romantic comedy.
In "American Hustle," in which he co-starred with Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale, he played a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent in a story based on a 1970s FBI sting operation known as ABSCAM.
Clint Eastwood's "American Sniper" has broken box office records since opening across the United States last month.
But the film reignited a bitter debate about the US invasion of Iraq, with conservatives hailing it as a long overdue tribute to veterans, while critics slammed the movie as an attempt to whitewash the US occupation.
Cooper was modest when asked about his Oscars chances at the traditional Oscar Nominees' Luncheon on February 2.
"I'm just so fortunate the Academy has noticed it three times, it's insane... You never think about whether you will wind up here but you hope people will watch it and it will somehow have an impact," he said.