Bradley Cooper is now an A-list star in the truest sense. Oscar nominations, critical acclaim and a good dollop of sex appeal have led the star of The Hangover and Silver Linings Playbook to become a Hollywood player of massive stature.

Cooper is currently one of the hottest tickets in town, though there was a time when it looked like that might not happen for the likeable 39-year-old, who for over a decade enjoyed only sporadic levels of success since his film debut in 2001’s Wet Hot American Summer.

But the cornerstone of Bradley’s success is surely the strong Celtic foundations he grew up around, as well as the attitude towards life that was instilled in him as a young child growing up in America. The acclaimed actor might have been born in Philadelphia, but it was those Catholic values of faith, spirituality and hard work drummed into him by his mother Gloria – an Italian American who worked for the local NBC affiliate – and his father, Charles Cooper, a stockbroker of Irish descent, that carved a path for him.

“I am definitely a product of my parents,” Cooper says. “The Italian is from my mother and my father was Irish. There are typical things you might expect because of that – I just love Italian food, I love eating and I love to cook. But there are important things as well, things that have shaped who I am, especially on my father’s side. I embrace all of that.”

Embracing his father’s outlook meant a firm, though not prohibitively strict, Catholic upbringing that he was happy to take on board. “I was brought up a Roman Catholic in the correct way. It was a rich part of our life and I wanted to be like my father. I was proud of his ancestry, as was he, and he was someone I really looked up to, in every aspect of who he was.”

The star of American Hustle says more of an emotional and spiritual connection was involved than mere idolisation of his father. Does that mean he believed in God? Does he still to this day? “I have had faith in God since I started going to Mass. The whole ritual of that means that you have to, and I wanted to. And I still feel that way today. I don’t know how you couldn’t in this day and age. I am still very spiritual.”

“A sad experience that changes you forever.”

It wasn’t just the religious aspect of his father’s influence that Cooper looked up to, but also the stockbroker’s enthusiasm for hard work. He says that Charles inspired in him a desire to work hard, and to savour the rewards. He admits life was about striving for the next level, and enjoying that thrill of doing something special that would benefit the family. “Because of that I’ve always been working, right since the age of 15,” he says. “It has just seemed the most natural thing to be working, and it’s an enjoyable feeling, it really is. It’s that sense of fulfilment.

It certainly explains Cooper’s current prolific output – he has starred in nine films that have either been released or are due to be released over a two year period – but the way he bought into his father’s example so much made it particularly painful when the man he looked up to passed away in 2011.

He said recently, “It was a very hard time for me. It was the kind of sad experience that changes you forever. I still have difficulty talking about him. When I was a kid we lived across the street from a movie theatre and my father turned me on to all the great auteur films from the 1970s and 1980s. I owe so much to him.”

But Cooper admits his father’s death has allowed him a sense of inner peace. For one, he’s not as hard on himself as he perhaps used to be. “I’m happy with who I am. Life is too short to play the game of who you are and how you’re perceived. I’m me – and I like that.”

Read Part Two here!