Born in Abingdon, Virginia, Scott Cooper is an actor, a screenwriter, a director, and a producer. In 1988 he graduated from Abingdon High School. After this, he followed his dream to become an actor, at the Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. He got his undergraduate degree in 1992. In 2014 he got his Doctor of Humane Letters. He did both of these in the institute in Hampden-Sydney, Virginia. He got married to Jocelyn Cooper and they now live in Los Angeles with their two children. Cooper got recognition as director in his first venture, which was Crazy Love. When interviewed, he said that his first goal for many years had been to be an actor. That is what he had planned and was trained for. However he found himself on the sideline of many movies and TV shows. So he wondered what he was doing wrong.
On further thought, he decided to follow the steps of his role model,
Robert Duvall. Duvall, according to Cooper, was the complete filmmaker. He was a great actor, great writer, producer and director. Cooper also said that as a director he did not try to keep the actors under his control. He feels that there are a lot of directors who try to do so, to make sure they plan the outcome of the film. However he being from the same background knew what the actors went through. Hence, he gives the actors all the freedom they need, which results in their best work. He said that before coming across
Crazy Heart, he had wanted to make a movie of the life of
Merle Haggard. He had grown up in Blue Ridge Virginia, listening to Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Jhonny Cash, and other bluegrass musicians. He had also known Merle for a while.
However he could not obtain the rights to his life as he had too many ex-wives and that made it difficult. An acquaintance of his who knew what he wanted to do suggested an obscure book to him. This book became Crazy Heart. The first person to read his script was his mentor Duvall, who showed great interest and took up the project. Through him, he approached
Jeff Bridges and T. Bone Bridges. He claims that without Duvall’s name as producer on the script, the two stars would not have read his script. Thus, he owes everything to Robert Duvall. From this movie, he jumped to his thriller called, ‘Out Of the Furnace’. The story revolved around the protagonist, Russel Blaze, who goes in search of his brother who goes missing and there is no help from the police. This movie starred
Casey Affleck and many more renowned people.
For this film, he got inspiration from The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Badlands and Days of Heaven. He also got inspiration from Faulkner who taught his father English in the University of Virginia for a couple of years. He says that in the movie, they had to shoot in a furnace, which was incredibly hot. However Christian did not even think of using a double. Cooper says he did not use a double anywhere in that film. He had professional training, and there were medics in the vicinity. He also says the scenes in the furnace set a scene of the film and the kind of person the character is. He means to showcase this movie as an examination of the nature of violence in which men are taking care of their own problems. He believes it’s happening all around the world, and needs to be represented adequately. He says that it is unfortunate, but for these men, it is a way of life.
Scott Cooper also ventured into making a Chronicle series on the life of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger who was one of the most notorious gangsters in the USA. It is a story of James, who was the brother of the state Senator and the biggest gangster in South Boston, who became an FBI informant to defeat a Mafia family, who was on his turf. This project was called ‘
Black Mass’ the cast consists of many renowned actors like Jhonny Depp,
Kevin Bacon, Julianne Nicholson,
Adam Scott and so on. Cooper felt that most of his favourite films were from the gangster genre. However he also felt that one can’t really reach that level and that one shouldn’t just step into the genre. He also said that he did not want to do it the wrong way.
He did not want to tell a tale of a criminal who happened to be human but the story of a human who happened to be a criminal. He felt there was a big difference between the two. He did not in any way want to romanticize James Whitey Bulger. He took into consideration that there were victims and their families involved. The movie was simply his approach. He did not want to compare his film to any big gangster genre movies and feels that only a fool would do that. He only wanted to make a straightforward drama. The process of making this film was long and consisted of meticulous writers. Once, Whitey’s long term attorney came to watch filming for a couple of hours and Cooper saw him shaking his head.
He then stopped shooting immediately and asked him if he was doing something wrong. To this the attorney said that it was like seeing a ghost of Whitey himself, as Jhonny looked and walked and talked exactly like him. That was when Cooper knew they were on to something. Even though Black Mass was not as much of a success as expected, Warner Bros still wanted to be in touch with him. In fact, they have enlisted him to direct White Knight. Scott Cooper has received the Independent Spirit Award for First Feature Film and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality Program. He is known to be a very promising director and is to be seen in movies in the future.