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‘The Elephant Man’ Opens on Broadway with Bradley Cooper and a Lot of History

Bradley Cooper Patricia Clarkson Elephant Man
Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

There’s a lot of history in the current Broadway production of “The Elephant Man,” which opened on Dec. 7 with Bradley Cooper in the title role.

First, there’s the history of the play, which opened in 1979 at the Booth Theater — the same theater where the current production resides.

Which is funny, because the lead producer of the current Broadway production, James L. Nederlander, is the president of the Nederlander Organization, which owns nine Broadway theaters — but not the Booth.

“We looked at theaters with Bradley and he just fell in love with the Booth,” Nederlander said at the opening night party at Gotham Hall. “I offered him the Brooks [Atkinson Theater, one of the Nederlander houses], but he wanted the Booth. I try and appease my star!”

“I love doing it in this theater,” Cooper enthused. “I love that it originated on Broadway there. David Bowie did it there, and Philip Anglim.”

Cooper has a history with the part, too — “I feel like I’ve had the luxury of preparing for my whole life,” he said. He played the role for his thesis in grad school, and then played the part again at the Williamstown Theater Festival a couple of years ago.

Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson, who co-star in the Broadway production, also have a history with “Elephant Man.”  They first played their parts alongside Cooper in that Williamstown staging.

And then there’s Nivola’s history with a ‘stache. He’s rocking quite an impressive one as the Elephant Man’s doctor. The last time he grew a mustache was for his part in 2009 film “Coco Before Chanel,” but that was a different look.

“When we were filming I was living in Paris in the Marais, which is a very gay neighborhood,” he remembered. “One night I was walking home wearing my leather jacket and my jeans, and this gay couple passed me and I heard one of them say to the other, ‘Ooh! Freddie Mercury!’ So this mustache is the reprise of that one. But this one’s longer. I’m just gonna let it keep growing. I’ll look like a walrus by the time I’m done!”