Bradley Cooper may be best known for his part in the gloriously dimwitted Hangover franchise, but the actor has a surprisingly substantial theater background, and he’s set to add to it this summer at the prestigious Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts. Cooper will be playing the title character in Bernard Pomerance’s 1977 play The Elephant Man, based on the story of Joseph Merrick, a man who suffered from extreme physical deformities due to a bone disorder in Victorian-era London. The role, which is written to be performed without prosthetics, may seem a stretch for People‘s 2011 Sexiest Man Alive.
But Cooper—if his performance in the 2006 Broadway revival of Three Days of Rain opposite Julia Roberts and Paul Rudd is anything to go on—certainly has the acting chops to convince the audience to look past his staggering handsomeness. He previously performed the role for his MFA thesis before graduating from the Actors Studio Drama School in 2000, and he will also have strong support from co-star Patricia Clarkson as Mrs. Kendal, an actress who overcomes her initial revulsion and eventually comes to befriend Joseph.
The Williamstown Theatre Festival is known for the big names it draws to the Berkshires, and this year’s line-up, announced in full yesterday, is no exception. Besides Cooper and Clarkson, Bob Balaban will be directing Blythe Danner in the world première of the play The Blue Deep, and David Hyde Pierce will be revamping Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. David Byrne and Fatboy Slim will finally present a full staging of their Imelda Marcos bio-musical Here Lies Love, first seen in 2006, and Broadway star Kelli O’Hara takes over from Julianne Moore in the new musical adaptation of Far From Heaven. It looks like Jenny Gersten, who took over as artistic director last year, may be finding her feet with this eclectic season.