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The Quiet Man


Once film and TV parts started to roll in, the family had enough income to buy a house. They settled in Kingston, Massachusetts, where they hoped to find better opportunities for Jesse in normal schools. Instead, they were met with hostility. Outraged, Leone became a prominent local education activist; she and Cooper successfully fought to place their son in regular classes, and he responded brilliantly, not only learning to communicate but also writing poetry and earning academic honors. He visited his father on sets in Italy, Paris, Spain, and New Mexico. Then, in 2005, the 17-year-old Jesse died in his sleep. Cooper coped as he always had. “He took three jobs in a row, wrapping the work around him like a magic cloak,” Leone writes in her memoir, Knowing Jesse, a candid, angry, and moving tribute to their son, published last fall. “I envied him.”

“It must have been very hard on her that I was able to step away from home for sometimes pretty long periods of time,” says Cooper, who read the memoir only “a chapter at a time, pulling Kleenex out of the box every five minutes. I had to take three or four days before I could go on. At readings, I’m just crying. Anytime I read his poetry or start talking about it, it’s just too much.”

Cooper and Leone still live in the home where Jesse grew up and which the actor helped remodel. Cooper rehearses in their master bedroom, which used to be his son’s rec room. The place is full of barking rescue dogs who don’t pay much attention to Cooper’s demands for quiet. He pushes them out the door to talk about his next role, in the upcoming, rebooted Muppets movie. It’s not exactly a break from typecasting (he plays a Texas oilman who wants to run the Muppets out of their movie theater), but it did offer an unlikely skill set. In one scene, he raps. A demonstration is requested, and Cooper spits some rhymes: “I got more Cheddar than some supersize nachos / Got cash flow like Robert has dineros … I make the baker bake my bread out of dough.” He breaks up, laughing loudly and fully. “It was pretty cute stuff. Just had a ball.”

The Company Men
Directed by John Wells
The Weinstein Company. R.


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