There are a few adjectives that come up with extreme, almost comedic frequency when discussing Dominic Cooper and the spate of often mischievous, sometimes devilish, almost always cheeky roles he has been enlisted to play.
Charming, for one. Sexy. Fun.
“There is something quite pathetic about him that is charming,” says Gemma Arterton of Ben, the rock star Cooper channels in the film “Tamara Drewe,” out this month, in which she co-stars.
“I cast a sexy lout to play a sexy lout,” says the film’s director, Stephen Frears.
“He likes to not take things too seriously and have fun, even though he takes his career seriously,” adds Arterton of Cooper himself.
“He was just good fun, brightened things up when he turned up,” says Frears.
One could do far worse in the epithet department.
On a bright fall afternoon, the subject of this complimentary litany seems to be having little trouble living up to these descriptors. He settles into a table at Barbuto restaurant wearing a black Prada blazer, a Joseph V-neck T-shirt and Prps jeans (“That does sound like I’m a bit fashion conscious. I’m not…I consider it. I’m shallow enough for it to affect how I feel.”). And Cooper even manages to make the art of choosing a white wine seem, well, charming — if not a bit neurotic — when his first glass of Vernaccia proves dissatisfactory.
Cooper: “How come I really dislike that wine now? I find it quite tight. I should be enjoying it much more.”
Waitress: “The other ones are going to be tart.”
Cooper, looking at the pinot grigio: “I don’t like the color of that one. That one makes me feel like I just wee-wee’d.”
Waitress, giving him a tasting: “That one’s a sauvignon blanc and this one’s the Lugano.”
Cooper, of the Lugano: “Oh, I like that one!”
Waitress, exasperated but utterly amused: “That one is very tart.”
Cooper clearly has experience with such repartee. For starters, his path to landing the role of Ben, a black-eyeliner-wearing, yellow-Porsche-driving drummer who crashes a quiet village in Dorset, England, when he snags the resident hottie Tamara (Arterton), was paved with obstacles. The 32-year-old originally met with Frears for the lead in “Chéri” (which went to Rupert Friend).
“I walked through the door so excited to meet Stephen Frears, because I’ve always loved his work, and he took one look at me and went, ‘Nope, nope, get out! Completely wrong! This character’s got long, beautifully flowing hair. You look like a brute,’ ” recalls Cooper, who at the time had close-cropped locks. “So we had this argument, but it was done with a certain level of humor…and it kind of ended and [he said], ‘Well bugger off.’”
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