Trained to thrill

Trained to thrill
Bradley Cooper in American Sniper

Could the third time be the charm for Bradley Cooper?

The 40-year-old US actor has been nominated for another Best Actor Oscar award for his latest movie American Sniper, earning himself a back-to-back hat-trick with the Academy.

The one-time Sexiest Man Alive, or sometimes better known as The Hangover guy, missed out on the Best Actor Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook in 2013 and Best Supporting Actor for American Hustle last year.

Opening here tomorrow, American Sniper has earned six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director for Clint Eastwood.

It has also broken US box-office records with its US$90.2 million (S$120 million) earnings when it was released last weekend, making it the largest January weekend opening ever, reported USA Today.

The previous record was held by James Cameron's Avatar, with US$68.5 million in 2010.

However, winning any glory on Oscar night come Feb 22 isn't the top priority for Cooper, who stars in the biopic and is also its producer.

Based on Navy SEAL Chris Kyle's 2002 bestselling memoir of the same name, the film tells the story of the most lethal sniper in US history, a man so feared by Al-Qaeda that it placed a bounty on his head. Mr Kyle saved countless lives on the battlefield during his four tours in Iraq with his pinpoint accuracy.

Kyle tragically died in February 2013, before filming began, after he was shot by another veteran said to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at a Texas gun range.

"If Chris' family loves this movie and the people who have gone through the experience can relate to it, and people are moved by the humanity, that's all I care about," Cooper told USA Today.

"His life merits this. I hope we have stepped up to the challenge."

Cooper, who spoke to the highly-decorated Mr Kyle, made a vow to the late military man and his family that he would not bastardise the story.

He kept his word and the first step was to undergo a physical transformation.

'TOO PRETTY'

Cooper, who shares the same shoe size, height and frame as Kyle, wasn't "thick, strong and big" despite being muscular at about 84kg.

According to Daily Mail, Kyle's father initially thought Cooper was "too pretty" to play his son, a fact that Kyle agreed on, adding that Cooper "needed to mess up his face" before playing him.

While Cooper didn't have to change his looks, he did undergo a heavily regulated regimen of weight training and a high-calorie diet for three months. He also had dialect lessons to nail down Kyle's Texan accent.

Said the Philadelphian actor to Navy Times: "It was 6,000 calories a day. Wake up at 5am, work out from 6 to 8.30. Dialect from 10 to 12. Two to 4.30 work out again. Then 6 to 8 dialect, and then sleep. I did that five days a week, with rifle training on weekends."

"It was pretty brutal training," Cooper told Entertainment Tonight. "I gained about 40 pounds (18kg). I'm about 20 down from that now...I was doing whatever I could to pay homage to (Kyle)."

Becoming Mr Kyle was certainly Cooper's biggest metamorphosis of his career.

He bulked up for The A-Team (2010) but it was more to achieve a lean, muscular look.

He told Variety: "That was cardiovascular and high reps for bodybuilding. (American Sniper) was weight-lifting. There was no cardio. There was no toning of muscles. It was just get f***ing strong."

Getting into character sure helped Cooper deliver one of his best performances to date, one that is particularly dear to him ever since he went on board the passion project three years ago.

USA Today called American Sniper "clearly Cooper's show", while Los Angeles Times raved: "Though those who've seen him in Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle can be forgiven for thinking of him as an unlikely choice, Bradley Cooper is completely on target."

Following Mr Kyle's death, Cooper worked closely with his widow Taya, who helped Cooper and crew capture her husband's spirit and heart.

Taya is played by US-British actress Sienna Miller in the movie.

"I feel like they all have this huge heart for Chris," the 40-year-old told People.

"I really feel like they truly love him and understand him."

Said Cooper to The Hollywood Reporter: "People in Texas said you have to have a lot of balls to play Chris. The surprise was that I always felt protected by him, like I was telling the story with him."


This article was first published on Jan 21, 2015.
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