“If there’s a race for male superstar of this generation, Bradley Cooper is the leading man,” Barbara Walters declared in her Most Fascinating People special on Thursday, honoring the 40-year-old actor on her 2015 short list.
But that wasn’t always the case. Cooper recalled his early Hollywood years with Walters, remembering when he had trouble getting cast as anything but fratty jerks.
“Their feedback was, you’re not really f***able,” he recounted of one failed audition.
“So, how do you go from being ‘unf***able’ to being the  Sexiest Man Alive?” Walters asked.
“You tell me,” Cooper answered with a smile. “I have no idea. Obviously there’s something afoot.”
The actor broke through with a part in 2009’s The Hangover, ironic as he quit drinking in his late 20s. Cooper told Walters that the decision to turn his life around was “beautiful” and “unbelievable.”
“I would never be sitting here with you, no way, no chance, [if I hadn’t quit],” he said “I wouldn’t have been able to have access to myself or other people, or even been able to take in other people, if I hadn’t changed my life.”
“I never would have been able to have the relationships that I do,” the Joy star continued. “I never would have been able to take care of my father the way I did when he was sick. So many things.”
Cooper also opened up more about his father, Charles Cooper, who introduced him to his “love of cinema,” when he showed him The Elephant Man when the actor was just 12 years old.
“It floored me,” he said of the 1980 David Lynch film, which stars John Hurt as a severely disfigured man. “First of all, I was devastated by it. I couldn't stop crying.”
Cooper’s father, who passed away in 2011, unfortunately never got to see his son play the title role in the stage adaptation of The Elephant Man. The actor starred in a Broadway and London revival last year, and said he’s grateful to have had the love and support of his family throughout his life and career.
“I think he wouldn’t believe it,” Cooper said of his dad, whose wedding ring he wears on his right hand. “Thank god he was alive for so many of the successes, but like, the Clint Eastwood thing, he would have really loved. That was one of his heroes.”