By Tim Stack
January 22, 2019 at 10:53 AM EST
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  • Movie

On Feb. 24, winners will be crowned at the 91st Academy Awards. But before the red carpet is rolled out and envelopes are opened, Entertainment Weekly has inside intel on the 2019 nominees. Keep checking back at EW.com this week for spotlights on contenders in all the major categories.

Bradley Cooper
Starring in: A Star Is Born
Age: 44
Oscar past: 4 noms, 0 wins
Role call: Jackson Maine, a rock superstar struggling with drinking and drugs, who finds the love of his life in rising sensation Ally (Lady Gaga)

Best Actor nominee Bradley Cooper initially turned down being in A Star Is Born. The actor was approached years ago about the project when mentor Clint Eastwood was potentially directing it. “I was too young. I always thought I didn’t have enough experience to play this guy,” says Cooper of the grizzled role. “I was 38 at the time — I’m 43 now — and I just thought, ‘I don’t know if I could buy me like that.’ And then life happens.”

Cooper starred in 2014’s Eastwood-directed American Sniper and then performed in The Elephant Man on Broadway for a year, two projects that he says aged him significantly. “I thought, ‘You know what? I think I’m ready.’”

Thanks to those extra years (and projects), Cooper — who also co-wrote and directed A Star Is Born — brings a vulnerable weariness to Jackson, a man broken by his past and trapped in a cycle of addiction.

“Everyone who worked on this film truly risked putting themselves out there — in the hope that in doing so people will connect and feel something deep and personal — the way films have made me feel since I was a kid,” Cooper said in a statement after Oscar nominations were announced. “When I got this opportunity I knew I had to risk it all because I may never get another chance — so to be here today in a place where people who have seen the film are talking about how it makes them feel, something deep — that simple human thing — that we need each other — and the Academy to recognize that this morning — I just am so grateful.”

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