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Catching a Bullet

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Dominic Cooper in The Devil's Double.  

It’s set in decadent eighties Baghdad, where the corruption and violence was so over-the-top—there’s a scene, which really happened, where Uday disembowels his father’s food taster and best friend at a lavish party—that director Lee Tama­hori (Once Were Warriors, Die Another Day) actually toned down some of the grisly nihilism to make it seem believable. Tamahori used cameras programmed to shoot the same shot again and again; Cooper was acting opposite a stand-in, often improvising dialogue, memorizing what he’d done as one character and then switching to the other. It’s often upsetting to watch, and he’s a bit worried about how his mother will react to his beating himself bloody. (When she saw Law getting beaten in the boat in The Talented Mr. Ripley, she leaped up and screamed, “No! Not poor Jude! Not poor little Jude!”)

Both Cooper and Tamahori think of The Devil’s Double as more of a gangster flick than a reprise of the tales of brutality we all became familiar with in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. Distributor Lionsgate is marketing it as the second coming of Scarface, with a poster of a gilded Cooper holding gilded machine guns atop a throne.

Back amid the more mundane decadence of Soho House, our pretend date continues. He has the waitress take the octopus away, lying to her that he liked it but that I was “very fussy.” The crab remains on the table, and as soon as the waitress leaves, Cooper starts poking it with a fork. “I think this scares me even more” than the octopus, he says, warily trying a nibble. “Ugh, this is really strange. That’s not nice at all. Did you try it? I’ve got a feeling that’s going to make me ill. All we really wanted was a big thing of beetroot, and that never really came; it was just four slices of orange stuff”—golden beets—“and you didn’t like that. The snapper’s no good either, is it?”

We are having fun, but our fantasy date, or his fantasy of our date, isn’t going that well. So we figure we might as well talk about our exes. He was 30 and on a break from his live-in girlfriend of more than a decade, non-celeb Joanna Carolan—they met in drama school, and she went on to be Harold Pinter’s personal assistant for a time—when he and Seyfried, then 23, began their on-set romance. Carolan detailed the breakup to the gossip magazine Grazia, saying Cooper begged her to take him back, but she ended it because she was convinced he was double-timing her with Seyfried. Seyfried, too, weighed in to the press. So what’s his side of it? “It’s like a marriage ending … We were so young when we got together. From the age of 17.”

Seyfried and he ultimately dated for over two years, but their breakup was dogged by tabloid rumors that Cooper had cheated on her with both Lindsay Lohan and his Phèdre co-star Ruth Negga. Nonetheless, he and Seyfried were recently paparazzi’d shopping together in L.A. Are they a couple or not? “Yeah, I don’t talk about current status anymore,” he demurs, pretending to have found something sticky on the elbow of his jacket. “Because what’s the point? What, so people can write about it, and you can find out more on the Internet about my life that I don’t want people to know about, and make assumptions about it all?”

Still, he can’t resist some damage control. “I got accused of doing something which I didn’t do, and I wasn’t in a relationship anyway,” he says of Carolan’s version of events—then reconsiders revealing more. “I’m so kind of furious about it that the best thing to do is just not talk about it ever again, because I only ever come out looking like an absolute cockhead.”

He pauses, wondering if that’s what I think he comes off as in the gossip press. “Tell me. I’m really interested to know. What does your opinion lead to? ‘That guy’s a cock’?”

I tell him maybe a bit, but it also sounded like his relationship with Carolan had been petering out for a while. As for Seyfried, he finally answers, “She’s a good friend. Are we back together? No.”

We repeat the scene about the food not being good again with the waitress, with a busboy, and with the manager, who by now has heard we didn’t like our dishes. “We did like them! They were fine!” he says, before turning to me and saying, “I ordered badly. I fucked up.” He asks, referring to the possibly bad crab, “Have I got boils round my neck?”

By this point, his braggadocio is gone. Or at least he’s pretending it’s gone—it’s difficult to say. But it’s charming. “What did you think of the film, please?” he asks. “You think people will go and see it? You think it will do well?” He shrugs. “For once, I’m very proud. I can’t really see what else I could have done. It’s a nice feeling. Whether people respond to it or not, I’m not kicking myself about how I should have worked harder.” He sounds relaxed, excited, and sincere. “I’m so relieved that I have something now to say ‘I’m not really a Jet Skiing, top-off, covered-in-oil, Abba-singing sausage.’  ”


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