Bradley Cooper brings Elephant Man back to Broadway

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Bradley Cooper with Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson in The Elephant ManImage source, AP
Image caption,
Cooper (left) appears with Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson in the Broadway production

Critics have praised Bradley Cooper for his Broadway portrayal of The Elephant Man, with one calling his performance "stunning" and "deeply felt".

The Hangover star plays the physically deformed John Merrick in the play, the true-life story of which inspired David Lynch's Bafta-winning 1980 film.

According to Variety, the actor "gives expressive voice to [a] sensitive human being imprisoned in his own body".

The Hollywood Reporter's critic agreed, calling Cooper "tremendously moving".

According to The Independent, the 39-year-old's work, together with his performance in upcoming Iraq war drama American Sniper, "confirms [his] acting ascendancy is merited".

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Cooper contorts his body on stage in order to evoke John Merrick's multiple physical deformities

"What he brings to this production is the weight of years of being stared at as an adult," wrote Ben Brantley in the New York Times.

The role of John Merrick is an important one for Cooper, who has often spoken of how John Hurt's performance in Lynch's film inspired him.

"When I saw the Elephant Man movie that David Lynch directed when I was a kid, it solidified my need to become an actor," he told the BBC last year.

Cooper, who was Oscar-nominated for his roles in Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, previously played Merrick at the 2012 Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts.

The Broadway staging of that production, wrote David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter, gives "ample evidence of Cooper's personal connection to the material, which goes far beyond technical craft to a place of wrenching empathy".

According to USA Today, Cooper "approaches [the role] with total commitment, not only to reflecting Merrick's physical challenges but also to capturing the character's great sensitivity and wit".

Yet while the actor's "bravura acting" drew praise in Time Out New York, its reviewer felt it did not stop Bernard Pomerance's play being a "clunky chestnut".

Billy Crudup and singer David Bowie are among others to have played Merrick in the piece, which was first staged at the Hampstead Theatre in London in 1977.

The current production, which also stars Patricia Clarkson and Alessandro Nivola, runs at New York's Booth Theatre until 15 February.

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