Bradley Cooper earned rave reviews for his lead performance in Guillermo Del Toro's Nightmare Alley, but the eight-time Oscar nominee was not necessarily the director's first choice for the job.
It was Leonardo DiCaprio, who Del Toro originally cast in the role of Stanton Carlisle, a drifter and con artist who rises from lowly carnival worker to a renowned mentalist.
Speaking to Mahershala Ali as part of Variety's Actors On Actors series, Cooper opened up about replacing DiCaprio and how not being first choice exposed his own insecurities.
"Nightmare Alley was an interesting example of how insecure I am," Cooper said.
"I was like, 'Oh, I guess I still am the guy that wants to be in the group,' because I had no intention of acting in anything other than what I've been writing. Leonardo DiCaprio fell out, and Guillermo Del Toro came to me.
"I still remember thinking, 'Oh wow, the guys that don't hire me, they want to hire me?' And then it was like, 'Of course, I have to do it just because I've never been allowed into that group.' It was insecurity and ego."
Cooper continued: "Thankfully, it wound up being an incredible experience. And that was very interesting to me to play a character, Stanton Carlisle, who has clearly been traumatised as a kid, has no parental foundation, has no foundation for love, intimacy, real connection, and he just is surviving off of a gratification and a desperate need to find out who he is."
"In this movie, a lot of things happened on the day," Cooper added.
"It felt like Stanton taught Guillermo and I about where this exploration into humanity could go. It was terrifying for both Guillermo and myself because of that; it was really going into the unknowing.
"The whole movie leads towards the end, where finally someone tells him who he is."
Cooper's decision to star in Nightmare Alley paid off in raves for the actor, with Variety's Peter Debruge writing in his review that the actor "delivers another terrific, tragic turn" in the film. – Reuters