Bradley Cooper confesses he didn’t know if he loved his daughter Lea until she was eight months old

The actor, whose film ‘Maestro’ is in the thick of the Oscar race, spoke on his friend Dax Shepard’s podcast about the intense bond he now shares with the little girl, the fruit of his relationship with Irina Shayk: ‘I don’t know if I’d be alive if I wasn’t a father’

Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper and his daughter, Lea de Seine, at the screening of the film 'Maestro' at the Academy Film Museum in Los Angeles on December 12, 2023.Axelle/Bauer-Griffin (FilmMagic)
María Porcel

The Oscar race is almost over, but it has been an uphill battle for months. Winning the highest award in the world of cinema, especially in its most important categories, like acting, goes far beyond a good performance. There is a months-long campaign that involves publicists, agents, managers, stylists, photographers, press... in which the actors try to convey a relatable image. They attend television programs and award ceremonies and conduct interviews and activities that sometimes surprise or go beyond the ordinary. Such is the case of Bradley Cooper, who sat down on a podcast to talk about his personal life, his home and his daughter, about whom he said that he didn’t know if he loved the girl until she was eight months old.

Confessions like that put the nominee, in this case Cooper, in the limelight and make the public and members of the academy think of him again. In this case, the Maestro actor and director decided to speak on Armchair Expert, the podcast that actor and comedian Dax Shepard has been hosting for the past five years. The two have been good friends for almost 20 years; in their chat, Cooper himself acknowledges that they have “a strong connection,” while Shepard explains that they feel like they’ve been “friends since childhood.” Together with actress Kristen Bell (then Shepard’s girlfriend and now his wife and mother of his two daughters), they starred in 2012′s Hit and Run, which Shepard also directed and wrote. Hence, Cooper, 49, really opened up on the podcast. Among other things, he explained how important it is for him to be a father. He has a daughter, Lea de Seine, with model Irina Shayk, whom he dated from 2015 until 2020. The little girl is about to turn seven years old and has already made a cameo in a film: she appears in her father’s latest movie, playing his (Leonard Bernstein’s) daughter as a child (Maya Hawke, Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke’s daughter, plays her as an adult). That’s why the little girl went with her father to the film’s premiere at the Hollywood Academy of Motion Picture Museum on December 12.

But in an unusual confession, the actor acknowledged that his love for his daughter was not automatic when she was born in March 2017. “The first eight months — I don’t even know if I really love the kid,” he confessed to Shepard, recalling how he experienced that time. “It’s dope. It’s cool. I’m watching this thing morph,” he said. “That’s my experience. Fascinated by it. Loved taking care of it. But would I die if someone came in with a gun? It’s only been a couple of months! I would be a complete idiot! And then all of a sudden, it’s like no question.”

His impressions are very different now. He admits that he and Shayk “bawled” when the little girl began to speak and articulate words and speech of her own. Lea reminds Cooper a lot of his father, who died of cancer in January 2011: “There are some moments where she looks just like my father… I watch too many movies,” he laughs. More seriously, Cooper admits that the little girl has changed his life: “I’m not sure if I would be alive if I wasn’t a father. I just needed someone to say, like, ‘We’re gonna drop this massive anchor.’ I’m like, ‘Why? We’re speeding! I just got an upgrade on the boat, and I know where the wind’s coming in.’ They’re like, ‘No, no, no, there’s a tsunami coming in, and you need an anchor and we’re gonna drop it.’ Because this is gonna dictate everything you do from now on. Your DNA is going to tell you that there’s something more important than you.”

Now, he wants to spend as much time as possible with his daughter and have lots of conversations with her. He confesses to giving a lot of thought to their relationship. “I think about that a lot, in terms of how does my relationship with my daughter impact her growth and the journey that she’s going to be on?” he reflects. “I’ve clocked that she’s going to be 7 in March. You know my relationship with my dad, [I didn’t ] spend a lot of time with him. I think I’ve already logged more hours with my daughter than I did with my dad his entire life. So that alone is bonkers.”

Joking about their family routines, Shepard claims his daughters feel no shame about talking to him when he’s in the bathroom, walking in and invading his privacy. “The girls start coming in and out — is this the same with Lea? Where they sit and talk to me, like a foot away from me, and it’s terrible in there!” Shepard asks him. Cooper laughs, explaining what his New York home is like, where everything is in one place: “My bedroom is, the bathtub and toilet and bed are all in the same room. It’s 24/7, dude! There are no doors. ... The stairs go up and it’s all one floor,” he explains. But he and his daughter don’t mind too much: “We talk where I’m on the toilet, she’s in the bathtub; that’s sort of the go-to,” he laughs, noting that it is a very different type of parenting than what he experienced. “I don’t think I ever saw my father on the toilet until he got sick. Like, ever in my life.” He does recognize, however, that he inherited his father’s tendency to go around the house naked, which he feels “totally” comfortable with and has also found very useful on some shoots.

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