It’s that time of year again: Very soon People magazine will crown their Sexiest Man Alive 2012. The mag recently caught up with 2011 honoree Bradley Cooper, who’s looking at mere days left on his throne before his successor is announced. The actor joked that “I’m in therapy three times a week, but I think I’ll get through it.” He’s telling the truth, because last year’s cover cemented his status as Hollywood sex symbol and ensured several more years, if not decades, of playing the earnest and/or asshole hot guy of your dreams.
As we know, Bradley winning last year’s title was quite the upset, since most people figured that Ryan Gosling deserved it more. (Bradley himself admitted as much!) But my reasoning for being stunned that Bradley got the honor had nothing to do with Ryan. Rather, I couldn’t believe that dorky Will Tippin from Alias was now the subject of so many women’s fantasies.
That’s right, I first heard of Bradley Cooper back in 2001, when an equally-unknown Jennifer Garner wore a hot pink wig and kicked ass on J.J. Abrams‘ spy drama. Will Tippin was Sydney Bristow’s buddy, a newspaper reporter who kept delving into her fiancé’s mysterious death even after she begged him to stop. (Because she knew that SD-6, the evil agency for which she worked, had offed Danny in order to ensure her loyalty.)
Will was often the comic relief and a bumbling idiot compared to super-spy Sydney. He also had glasses and bleached-blonde hair. He was a dork who kept almost stumbling onto the truth, until he got himself kidnapped and came face-to-face with Sydney when she was on a mission. Sadly, I can’t find the actual clip of his hilarious scream when he recognizes her, but this blooper will do:
Once Will knows the truth about Sydney and SD-6, he gets recruited by the CIA. Still, my family and I (we were big fans of the show) always regarded him as Sydney’s less-experienced foil out in the field. Case in point, when he almost got killed by Evil Francie and Sydney had to save him, as per usual.
Will got shuttled into the Witness Protection Program around season 3 and therefore stopped being a regular, because Bradley had landed the leading role on Kitchen Confidential. Of course, when that show fell through, Will came back, hooked up with Sydney (!), and they even did a few missions together. This clip not only shows them being silly while undercover, but it’s also one of the last times we saw Will on the show:
We can only assume that he gets to marry his girlfriend, though I don’t remember if Sydney makes it to the wedding. Suffice to say, we all kind of forgot about Bradley Cooper for a few years, though I noticed him on Nip/Tuck playing a conceited actor on the fictional medical drama Hearts and Scalpels. I recognized him from Alias, but he still wasn’t famous enough that enough people got the joke.
Then The Hangover happened in 2009. Suddenly he was the hot asshole leader type, prone to facial stubble and shirtlessness. I remember my sister and I both went into that movie and came out saying, “Huh, guess Bradley Cooper is sexy now.” It seemed to have happened overnight.
And yes, there are plenty of arguments in Bradley’s defense: He struggled with substance abuse. He’s funny and self-deprecating. (Last year he told People, “I think it’s really cool that a guy who doesn’t look like a model can have this [title].”) He sounds hot as hell when speaking French. But part of what makes him sexy is that he didn’t automatically get those roles; he had to work his way up as the dorky best friend.
So let’s raise a toast to Will Tippin, without whom we wouldn’t have Bradley Cooper, Sexiest Man Alive.