There are some actors who refuse to do nudity under any circumstances. Most are open to it, so long as it’s necessary for the storyline. But agreeing to full-frontal male nudity is still a big deal in Hollywood.
Even so, Academy Award nominee Bradley Cooper said he went along with the idea for his latest film, “Nightmare Alley.” But being totally nude in front of the camera crew for six hours was mentally grueling even for a professional actor with years of experience.
On a recent episode of the KCRW radio show “The Business,” Cooper discussed his first experience with being so exposed.
“I remember reading in the script and thinking, he’s a pickled punk in that bathtub and it’s to story,” the actor explained on finding out about the scene. “You have to do it.”
Cooper said he ultimately agreed to the scene because “there was nothing gratuitous about it” but that didn’t mean he felt totally comfortable doing it. The scene is built around his character Stan Carlisle’s sexual encounter with Toni Collette’s character Zeena Krumb.
“I can still remember that day just to be naked in front of the crew for six hours, and it was Toni Collette’s first day,” the “Silver Linings Playbook” alum recalled. “It was just like, ‘Whoa.’ It was pretty heavy.”
The film is by Mexican director Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”). “Nightmare Alley” is a neo-noir psychological thriller about an ambitious carnival worker (Cooper). It’s all from a story based on the 1946 novel by the same name. The project was delayed due to COVID-19 and just got released in theaters in December 2021.
Later in the interview, the actor said, “It really is akin to putting on a miner’s kit, hat and flashlight, and looking at each other and then going down in the tunnel, knowing that you may be excavating a route that won’t ever get you to the end that day but you come back up and go down again the next day.”
Cooper said getting nude wasn’t the only way he felt exposed. “Because the content of what the movie is, what we were exploring, in order to do it in a real way, it demanded that we’d be naked emotionally and soulfully.”
“Nightmare Alley” has mostly positive reviews. The Observer noted, “It’s too long, too uneven in some places, too slow in others, and too flawed to be a masterpiece, but even with its drawbacks I could not take my eyes off the screen.”
Metro UK called it “an intoxicating noir epic that has cigarette smoke on its breath, blood beneath its fingernails and terrifying blackness in its heart.”
The movie currently has an 81% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 67% audience score. The biggest criticism against the film is an abnormally long run time, but those who enjoyed the movie claim the effort to watch the whole thing is worth it. FilmInReview.com called it a “brilliant performance by Cooper.”
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