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Brad and Fed’s Excellent Adventure

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Wimbledon is a tournament steeped in tradition: courts covered in grass, players dressed in white, strawberries and cream, Bradley Cooper stanning his dick off for Roger Federer, rain.

The tradition we’re interested in — fascinated by — is Cooper: How did the third male lead in The Hangover become the mascot for one of the most elite athletes in the history of sports?

This is “Bradley Cooper’s 2010s Wimbledon Journey: A Story in Pictures.”

Chapter One: A Star Is Born

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It’s 2013 and Andy Murray has finally done the impossible — given the British a homegrown Wimbledon champion. Not since Fred Perry in 1936 has the feat been accomplished. Let’s take a look at the headline:

“Bradley Cooper and Gerard Butler Bond at Wimbledon Leaving Suki Waterhouse Out”

That’s all you need to know about how iconic Bradley Cooper is at 2013 Wimbledon. It’s a tour de force in which he outshines Murray, the Royal Family and the entire U.K. Not even Butler — who is sitting next to Cooper — has a chance at much notice. For as many as tens of minutes, Cooper’s debut is all anyone wants to talk about.

And of course this is the photo that puts Cooper on the Wimbledon map:

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Notice how Cooper’s camera is pointed not at a middle point between the actors, but directly at Cooper himself. This is his way of announcing his “arrival” to the rest of his box — of establishing a celebrity tone that says, “Yes, I’m a rookie, but I’m a rookie who is ready to make an impact. A two-person selfie with Gerard Butler goes through me — and happens on my terms.”

See how Cooper’s suit is just a little sharper — how it complements his sunglasses just a little better? See how Cooper’s hair is slightly sun-kissed, while Butler’s is a puddle of the sun’s vomit? See how Cooper’s smile says “Welcome to London, bitch,” while Butler’s is more, “I may have left the stove on in my apartment”? This is all by design.

The rest is just execution.

Chapter Two: Icarus

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This is a classic turf war between two titans of Wimbledon celebrity. Jude Law is OG, and by 2014 has been a leading-man presence at the Championships for decades — having more-or-less earned full Royal Box tenure. Bradley Cooper in 2014 is ascendant: coming off of his triumphant Wimbledon debut the year prior, American Sniper shot and set for release later that year, and Royal Box Alpha aspirations in his heart. This is the old upstart, now the new master, against the new upstart, shooting his shot for the first time.

You already know how it goes: Cooper isn’t ready. His suit is the right idea, but the execution is all wrong: the black is a hedge; the three-piece feels two years too soon; the shirt’s blue is middle-school-dance chic at best; the less said about its collar the better.

Law deads him with one look — and no one should have been surprised. You come at the Young Pope, you’d best not miss.

Chapter Three: I’m a Wizard With a Toothpick

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“I told them our first day on set at Aloha that no one else could have a buzzcut. Literally, babe, the first fucking day. And then you know what I see? A PA with a buzz cut. Swear to god, babe. Can you believe that? Anyway, try this cantaloupe.”

Chapter Four: The Rom-Com Apprentice

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Here is Hugh Grant telling Bradley Cooper to never wear tan or speak in a fake British accent ever again. 2015 is off to a rocky start.

Chapter Five: :(

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Same.

Chapter Six: :)

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2015 is an important transitional period for Bradley Cooper at the Championships, as it marks his emergence into the only Wimbledon spectator status more elite than Royal Box. I’m talking, of course, about Federer Box. Federer Box is the tennis fan holy grail: a clique so exclusive that you don’t even know you’re being initiated into it — or excommunicated from it — until you already have been. Federer Box is about trust, and aesthetics, and family, and excellence, and perseverance, and double-dating, and hats, and grace, and, again, family, and, again, excellence. What I’m trying to say is that it’s about aesthetics.

You know the names: Michael Jordan, Anna Wintour, Gavin Rossdale — we’re talking the best of the best. For Bradley Cooper to get an invite into Federer Box — fresh off his Royal Box L to Jude Law in ’14 — is beyond impressive. It’s astonishing, really. For him to get an invite into Federer Box’s no. 2 spot — adjacent to Roger’s wife, Mirka — as a new member? It’s almost without precedent.

So don’t even talk to me about the backwards hat, or the muted demeanor, or the toothpick, or the crooked mirrored-lens sunglasses, or anything else in this photo. When you’ve reached no. 2 status in the no. 1 clique at the no. 1 tournament in tennis, you can do whatever you want.

Chapter Seven: Champion

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2016 marks the completion of Cooper’s ascent: from star on the rise, to Royal Box contender flying too close to the sun, to resilient hair radical, to Federer Box pledge, to Federer Box member, to finally — miraculously — Federer Box leader.

Look at the beard. Look at the confidence. Look at the allegiance-wave hat. Look at the glasses, on straight. Look at the beard like 10 more times. Look at the watch. What time is it? Bradley Cooper could literally tell you. Look at the impeccable T-shirt. Look at the Wimbledon-lanyard swag. Look at the twin fist pumps, on a perfectly even plane.

Look at this man, who is just a person — who is just a Brad — with a dream:

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Look at this movie star who likes tennis and friendship, in that order, a lot:

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Congratulations to Bradley Cooper, Wimbledon champion.