BEVERLY HILLS -- It's the kind of thing even his debauched character from The Hangover wouldn't do.
In the cautionary drama, The Words, Bradley Cooper plays an aspiring novelist who comes across an old unpublished manuscript that he passes off as his own, with unexpected consequences. And that change of pace was what drew him to the role -- even if he admits he was afraid he might not be able to do it justice, especially since one of the film's co-directors, Brian Klugman, is a childhood buddy from back in Philly.
"I was very scared that I was going to fail these two guys when they asked me to do it," admits Cooper, looking very much his easygoing, baby blue-eyed handsome (with great hair) self. "It was a week before shooting started and I didn't really get the character until I read the script one last time and finally got the hook."
Ignoring the plagiarizing aspect, you'd think Cooper, 37, could have identified with a character whose early work was constantly being rejected.
"Actually, when I first started auditioning I didn't realize that you could actually book a job," confesses Cooper. "If I got a couple of call-backs, that was a very successful week. So when I booked Sex and the City I was very frightened because I actually had to do the job. I came at it from another side where rejection was normal and getting the part was odd."
So he's never experienced that feverish, pulse-quickening drive to succeed at all costs?
"I remember when Meryl Streep came to our acting school and she said that the easiest thing is to do your first good movie but then to do your second -- that's the hardest," relates Cooper. "I don't really look at it that way. If your goal is to just grow as an actor, then everything's an opportunity."
So he doesn't ever feel any nagging pressure?
"I'm lucky that I get a lot of the thrill out of simple things," he says. "I was like a pig in s--- working a graveyard shift and doing those auditions and getting callbacks. It's all relative."
Then he won't be feeling any pressure having to top himself in the role of Phil when The Hangover III starts shooting Sept. 10 -- in Vegas, among other undisclosed locations?
"Todd Phillips, is, in my opinion, the best comedic director around. We've got an incredible cast and great actors coming aboard this third one, too. And I love Phil. So I can't wait."
OK, then how about his current status as People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive? Let us guess -- no pressure, right?
"It was ... very shocking," he replies, stammering slightly. "I think maybe somebody made a mistake. But I do try to start every conversation by saying, 'You do know ...' but I haven't really reaped the benefits yet."
One more thing: When you were a not-so-struggling actor working that graveyard shift, what was the gig?
"I worked at the Morgans Hotel in New York as a doorman," he volunteers, before shouting across the room. "YOU GUYS NEED A TAXI?"
"I still got it!"