Cooper stars in ‘Elephant Man’ on NY’s Broadway

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Cooper stars in ‘Elephant Man’ on NY’s Broadway

Bradley Cooper will contort his limbs into uncomfortable positions for eight shows a week when he begins his run in the Broadway revival of “The Elephant Man.’’ That means he’ll need to take extra care of his body to stay limber.

“I have an inversion table. That’s a new thing, it goes like that,’’ Cooper said while using hand motions to show the up and down tilting of his body on the table. He’ll use it twice a day and have a chiropractor nearby.

The play by Bernard Pomerance, which premiered at the Booth Theatre in 1979, shows some two dozen snapshots in the life of the grotesque Joseph Merrick, tracing his journey from an abused circus freak to a curiosity of London’s high society. Cooper won’t use prosthetics, opting instead to imply disfigurement through facial expression and twisted posture.

Cooper, an Academy Award nominee, already knows the physical demands of portraying the character onstage from a short run at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2012.

“I got to research the real guy and I just fell in love with who he was as a human being, as a man,’’ Cooper said. “It’s been a wonderful, eye-opening experience into that world of the late 1800s in London and Leicester and what he went through.’’

Cooper became fascinated by Merrick’s life after seeing the 1980 film version by David Lynch, which he cites as the catalyst for wanting to pursue a career in acting.

But he wasn’t acquainted with the stage production until much later, when he was studying at the Actors Studio Drama School in New York.

“It wasn’t until grad school where we had to choose a thesis and I came across Bernard Pomerance’s play,’’ Cooper said, adding that Merrick had loomed large for him growing up: “I probably thought about him maybe every day since I was 12, so I took a shot at it and it seemed to feel like a fit.’’

But the actor has had a busy schedule over the past few years, so it took a little more than a whim for him to thread the boards for the play’s 14-week Broadway run starting Nov. 7.

“We wanted to keep the cast, including the interns, who were interns in Williamstown, and it had to be at the Booth Theatre, which is where it originated. To me it’s the only place you could have this play exist and we got both, thank God,’’ Cooper said.

Cooper, a veteran of “The Hangover’’ franchise, will join a special list of actors to portray Merrick, including Philip Anglim, David Bowie, John Hurt and Billy Crudup. AP
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