Bradley Cooper is making his return to Broadway in a revival of The Elephant Man. The play, which originally ran in 1979 and was a Tony award winner, is scheduled to begin previews on November 7 and will go for 14 weeks at the Booth Theater. This is the same theater that the original production was held in. Cooper will be playing the title role of the Elephant Man whose real name was Joseph Merrick although in some cases he is incorrectly labeled as John.
This is not Cooper’s first time acting on Broadway. In 2006, he performed in Three Days of Rain, which starred Julia Roberts. At the time he was a sitcom actor and had not yet become the A-list movie star that he is today. Now Cooper is firmly entrenched in the upper echelons of Hollywood elite. After experiencing much success in the Hangover trilogy as well as American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook, he is heading back to Broadway.
The play he will star in is about Joseph Merrick who was born in 1862. Merrick had several deformities and ticks which made him the star of a traveling freak show. A renowned doctor from the London Hospital, Dr. Treves, takes Merrick under his wing and discovers that behind the disfigurement is a man with an amazing amount of faith as well as a brilliant mind. As Merrick and the doctor continue to work together, more of Victorian society takes note of the man and become fascinated with him. One person in particular is a Mrs. Kendal, an actress that is described as beautiful. Although Merrick’s life has improved, the complexities that come with that and his own worsening condition mean that a normal life may still not be possible.
In this return to Broadway, Cooper has a chance to really showcase his acting skills. Not only is he starring in the play but he helped to bring the play back to life. He was the one who suggested reviving the play to director Scott Ellis. He even helped to woo Patricia Clarkson into playing the role of Mrs. Kendal.
When discussing The Elephant Man with people, Cooper points out the spirit of the work and the title character. He has even said that the movie version of the play is what inspired him to want to be an actor. In the movie, John Hurt plays Merrick and Cooper describes his portrayal of the character as being not only benevolent but that there is an innocence there as well as beauty. The adversity that Merrick dealt with is portrayed so diversely that it inspired a kindred feeling within Cooper.
Now as Cooper returns to Broadway to take on the role of The Elephant Man, he is getting a chance to portray a character that inspired him as a child. While there will be no prosthetics for Cooper to use to take on the role Merrick, he is using his acting chops to transform himself into the character. When the show opens for previews in November, audience members will get a chance to see the actor finally portray a character he has admired for years.
By Kimberley Spinney
Photo by Daniel Ramirez – Flickr License