With those ice-blue eyes, mussed hair and lightning-quick wit, Bradley Cooper has cornered the market on playing cool and confident. But when he learned he was 2011’s Sexiest Man Alive, he says, “I thought I was being Punk’d.” Not in the least.
This Georgetown grad can whip up gourmet meals, quote Sophocles and chat breezily in French. And he is close with two special females : his mom, Gloria (his dad, Charles, a stockbroker, died in January), and retriever-chow mix Charlotte, both of whom he brought to our shoot. Wearing the khakis he sported in The Hangover Part II-along with a blue button-down shirt and a twinkle in his eye-he opened up to PEOPLE’s Alexis Chiu and Charlotte Triggs at a luxurious estate near his native Philadelphia, where he’s filming The Silver Linings Playbook. What of recent sightings of Cooper-who split from Renée Zellweger back in March-with our World’s Most Beautiful cover girl, Jennifer Lopez? “I’m a single 36-year-old male,” he says. “I don’t see myself as a ladies’ man. But I love women. Do you know what I’m saying?” Mais oui! Absolument!
GYM, TAN, WARDROBE!
Sometimes I can look great, and other times I look horrifying. I’m a shape shifter. My eyes are crooked, my jaw … My face is like a cubist painting.
I’m working out now, so I’m on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, organic-meal delivery. But I’m a huge salty-carb guy: sopressata, dried meats, mozzarella. And bread-Italian or French-fresh out of the oven. And cinnamon Cheerios. That’s my guilty pleasure at night-I’ll go home and kill some cereal.
I’m very sporty, but I don’t have a set regimen. I don’t run anymore because I severed my hamstring during The A-Team. I should do yoga.
I use Kerastase products. I would probably let it grow if I didn’t have to work, but it would depend on how stringy it would get. Nothing’s worse than hair that’s not thick enough. I use this homeopathic Rogaine-like thing to keep my hair.
I don’t exfoliate or wash my face at all. Since I’m working so much, I just have the people take my makeup off, and that’s enough for me.
I don’t wear contacts. Sometimes they’re not that blue. They kind of morph.
Maybe I look like I tan because I’m half Italian. Four years ago I went to a dermatologist and she read me the riot act.
I never shave every day unless I have to do it for a role.
None. I thought Bono looked so cool, when we were younger, with the two. But I would just look like a girl.
Nothing except my dad’s ring. When he was dying, I took his ring and I put it right on my finger and I’m just like, “I’m never taking it off.”
I have Old Spice deodorant for work. I don’t want [his Silver Linings costar] Jennifer Lawrence to faint. I wore cologne from when I was, like, 8. First it was Polo, like my father. Then Drakkar Noir. Then it was Banana Republic Classic. My first girlfriend loved the smell, so I wore it for her. Then I hosted this trek show, and we were gone for three weeks, and I started to smell myself. And I was like, “Whoa, that’s what I smell like? I kind of like it.”
THE EARLY YEARS
Cooper describes his formative years as “pretty awkward.” ” ‘Be yourself’-that’s the biggest gift I got from my parents. I was never forced in any direction. I was presented with all these opportunities, but never did I feel like, ‘Oh, God, I have to make my parents proud.’ All my pressure has been self-imposed my whole life. It’s all been self-generated judgment.”
Caitlin Sarkisian. It was Spin the Bottle at Beth Spiegel’s house. I was old, like seventh grade.
Linda Evans in Dynasty. I remember late at night, being in my parents’ bed, watching the show and thinking, “Who’s this woman with this low-cut dress?”
Sally Blank, in kindergarten.
FIRST TIME YOU REALIZED YOU WERE FAMOUS
It was a very gradual thing until The Hangover came out. After that, there were paparazzi outside my house, and I had to move.
FIRST MAJOR PURCHASE
After I booked Alias, I went and bought a leather sofa. It was around $1,500. I always wanted one.
What’s in His …
I never check a bag. I always have my A-Team backpack and this blanket I got on a British Airways flight. I wear it as a scarf.
Radiohead is my all-time favorite band. There’s this mash-up I’ve been listening to called Jaydiohead, which is Jay-Z and Radiohead. I love Odd Future, Metallica, Johnny Cash. And I cannot get enough Philip Glass.
My Sonicare toothbrush, Sensodyne toothpaste, Maalox.
Mad Men, Meet the Press, 60 Minutes, Morning Joe.
Coconut water, water, all the [meal delivery] food that came the day before, cereal, almond milk.
There’s nothing in my freezer, ever.
GETTING TO KNOW HIM
WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH?
Observing life. Life is very comical. People tripping and falling. I’m a very easy laugher.
WHAT MAKES YOU ANGRY?
When somebody thinks life owes them something.
WHAT MAKES YOU CRY?
Movies like The Elephant Man and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly always make me cry. I’m much more able to cry since my father passed away.
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU EVER GOT FROM YOUR MOTHER?
She’ll always tell me when she doesn’t trust somebody.
DO YOU HAVE ANY UNUSUAL SKILLS?
I used to be a doorman at a hotel, and I can open two doors at once-one with my arm, the other with my foot. I’m pretty good at it. I’m a little cocky about it.
ARE YOU A MR. FIX-IT AROUND THE HOUSE?
I would say relatively speaking I’m handy, but am I a carpenter? No. My first instinct is to try to fix something myself. Most recently, I tried to fix the toilet in my hotel and it worked!
KINDLE, IPAD OR BOOKS?
Old-fashioned books. I have a Kindle that’s collecting dust, but I read scripts on my iPad.
WHAT’S YOUR WORST HABIT?
I pick my teeth with anything I can find. I’ll use a steak knife. That, and burping.
WHAT DO YOU WEAR TO SLEEP?
Sometimes I go naked. It depends. I went through a stage in high school where I thought silk boxers were cool, but they ride up and it’s the worst.
DO YOU PLAN TO HAVE A FAMILY?
God, I hope so. I’ve always pictured a little guy, probably a Charles [his father’s name]. And I used to think I’d want to name my daughter Nebraska. She’d have red hair and freckles, like a Wyatt painting.
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN 10 YEARS?
Hopefully alive and healthy. That’s all I care about.
I wrote my senior thesis [at Georgetown University] on the film adaptations of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.
HE’S SECRETLY MUSICAL
I have a saxophone, a piano and a couple guitars at home. I like to fool around with instruments.
HE’S GOT A FLAIR WITH FOOD
I grew up in an Italian family, and my grandmother loved to cook. We made homemade spaghetti and ravioli all the time. I just built a new kitchen, and I can’t wait to use it.
HIS PASSPORT IS FULL
The most exotic trip was to the Andean mountains, for this festival called Qoyllur Rit’i. You stay up there four days and you pray for what you need. It’s really cool.
Cooking with Cooper!
Bradley’s Go-To Caesar Dressing
Get a can of whole anchovies and chop them into a paste. Crush some garlic so fine it’s like mush. Blend that together with mustard, one egg, some pecorino Romano cheese, salt, pepper and lemon, and add some olive oil. And it’s worth it to make your own croutons. Cut a loaf of bread into cubes, mix it with olive oil and rosemary, and put it in the oven for 10 minutes at 250 degrees. It’ll turn a simple salad into something kick-ass.
Four Rumors He’s Heard About Himself
 I was dating Jennifer Aniston and I took her to a candlelit dinner in my Brentwood home. I don’t live in Brentwood. That one was crazy. We’re friends-she’s wonderful.
 I took my dogs to a pet spa. That one made me angry, because my dog Samson had just died.
 Robert DeNiro bought my dog a pink collar and sent me 12 pizzas with anchovies because I hate anchovies. All crazy!
 Anything about my mother-when they write that stuff, it hurts me.
‘Rumors can have an awful effect if you are actually dating somebody else. “You were in Miami last weekend?” “Nope.” “I think you were.” “No, I’ve been right here; I haven’t been to Florida in years!”‘
DO YOU STAY FRIENDLY WITH YOUR EXES?
For the most part, thank God. It upsets me when that doesn’t happen. Just because a relationship changes, to have that person not be in your life anymore is unfortunate. Especially when you care about them and you’ve shared so many rich things.
DATING BRADLEY COOPER
HOW DO YOU TREAT A WOMAN ON A DATE?
I had an old-school upbringing, meaning you walk on the outside of the sidewalk from the woman, you open the door and never let them carry anything.
DO WOMEN EVER OBJECT?
They think it’s a novelty: “What a nice relic this man is!”
IF SHE ASKS, “DO I LOOK FAT IN THIS DRESS?”
what do you say? I’m truthful. If you’re not, it’ll come back to bite you.
HOW SOON DOES SHE MEET YOUR MOM?
Very soon after we start hanging out, they’re going to be with my family and friends. I have no boundaries with that.
WHAT DO YOU FIND SEXY IN A WOMAN?
The female figure is a very sexy thing; neck and feet and hands and back. But it all has to be fueled by a soul. Sophocles said as an old man that he’d finally been set free by the “furious master.” Women are a life force.
FLATS OR HEELS?
Depends how tall she is. Whatever makes her comfortable.
MADE UP OR ALL NATURAL?
Ideally for me, I like no makeup.
WHAT’S YOUR TYPE?
Give me a kind woman over anything else.
WHO DO YOU FIND SEXY?
Julie Christie is the ultimate. I remember her in Doctor Zhivago. The way she looked at a man-that was it.