A little help from my friend

Bradley Cooper was in a great place. The star of The Hangover was basking in the monster success of the comedy and promoting Limitless, a fresh concept sci-fi film that opened yet another door to global success for the huge Hollywood drawcard.

At the same time last year he was celebrating his new friendship with one of the world's best film actors, Robert De Niro, and was being lauded by his acting alma mater in an Inside the Actors Studio television special. So what was next for Cooper?

''Well, I'm doing a film with friends,'' he told Metro at the time. ''It's small and something I've wanted to do for a while … hopefully the little bit of success I've had has helped.''

For a decade The Words looked unlikely to become much more than a good idea for a film, but when People magazine's sexiest man alive officially attached as both lead actor and executive producer, the project took off.

The baby of Cooper's childhood friends, co-writers and first-time directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, The Words attracted enough investor interest for a two-week shoot in Montreal and a stellar cast, including Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune, The Lion King), veteran Dennis Quaid (The Big Easy, Far from Heaven) and Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy, The Change-Up).

Yet a key piece of the puzzle wasn't put into place without some difficulty: the preferred candidate for Cooper's ''love interest'', Zoe Saldana, didn't want to be part of it.

''Yes, that's right, I didn't,'' says the 34-year-old US-born, Dominican Republic-raised former dancer. ''I didn't want to play a wifey character but when I read the script I was taken by it.''

The Words follows a writer, Rory Jansen (Cooper), whose earnest efforts to pen the next great American novel fall flat. But he comes across an old manuscript and, despite pangs of guilt and spurred on by a desire to create a comfortable life with his beautiful partner Dora (Saldana), he plagiarises the work.

The book is a huge success, elevating the couple economically, socially and professionally, but Rory's dishonesty catches up with him and his actions have devastating ramifications.

''I love these stories that are small in relation to Hollywood movies because they are all heart and so beautiful,'' says Saldana, whose star turns in Avatar and Star Trek have earned her a blossoming reputation as a big-budget action-movie star.

Cooper says the script for The Words was rewritten as the film was shooting to embrace the ''tremendous love story between Dora and Rory that really happened in the filmmaking process'' - and outside the filmmaking process, too, with Cooper and Saldana involved in an on-again, off-again romantic relationship that is reportedly on again.

The Words trips over itself occasionally, but it's a worthy labour of love that convinced Saldana, at least, to ensure she remains open to independent film roles. ''What I took away from it was the knowledge that I love working with first-time directors the same way I love working with prolific directors,'' she says. ''There is a warmth in a film like this that is hard to explain.''

THE WORDS

GENRE Romantic drama.

CRITICAL BUZZ There are too many words and not enough compelling visuals, but the ''what if'' question it asks is a good one.

STARS Bradley Cooper,

Zoe Saldana, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde.

DIRECTORS Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal.

RATED M.

RELEASE Now screening.

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