Not bad for a project that most people thought had no bankable star when it went into production. But director Todd Phillips knew better. He expects that after The Hangover people will start seeing Cooper as a leading man instead of just "the asshole boyfriend of the girl," the sort of part he's been getting so far. Phillips sees Cooper moving into the kind of territory inhabited by actors named Grant (Hugh, Cary). "The key with any comic actor is the willingness to fail and make a fool of yourself," he says. "A lot of times, guys that look like Bradley think, 'Ah, I don't have to do that. I have this other thing.' But Bradley doesn't give a fuck."

For now, Cooper claims, he never gets recognized anywhere. "I don't have to curtail my life at all," he says the morning after our clam feast. "Zero. Zero. Zero." To the extent that's true, it's probably thanks to his hair, which can be completely distracting. In person, his features, a grab bag of wicked good looks—the road-trip scruff, the sniper's blue eyes, the thin and curling lips, the pointy Shakespearean chin—are pretty much what you see onscreen, but he keeps the hair so operatically disordered that you barely notice the movie star beneath it.

One other reason he never gets spotted: He's up before anyone else. So that we can burn off some of that seafood by hitting one of his favorite mountaintop runs, Cooper and his G 55 come by my hotel at 6:30 A.M. At that hour, you might bump into a few nature photographers, but not a paparazzo.

In the back of the truck, his two dogs, Samson and Charlotte, bark at empty buses as Cooper zips through the curves on Sunset Boulevard. He got the mutts from a shelter in the Valley seven years ago. "Nobody rescues older dogs," he says. Cooper was 27 at the time, a newcomer to L.A., just a year or so into his role as Will Tippin, Jennifer Garner's best friend on Alias. Middle-aged dogs weren't the only thing in need of rescue. It was a "debaucherous" time in his life, he tells me, and when I point out that the word is a combination of debauched and lecherous, he laughs and says, "Exactly. That's very specific."

Cooper is rarely reticent, but he's a grown-up and maintains a grown-up silence on certain topics. On his short-lived marriage—for four months, ending in 2007, to Jennifer Esposito—he says, "It was an experience." In most conversational scenarios—jogging, driving around, sharing a meal—he's very active: He bumps, he gestures, he pivots, he leans in, he throws his head back. It's all eminently watchable. But when I ask him about dating, he stops the nonsense and pulls up to his full height. He squints, purses his lips, and orders a general shutdown of charm. He says that he's single and sober but that he's not going public on these subjects any more than he'd give me Julia Roberts' phone number (in 1996, the two worked together on Three Days of Rain, the Broadway debut for both of them). Except, as he slaloms down Sunset, to say this: "I was driving here about 3:30 one morning. And these cars flew past me. My instinct was to go and chase them. But it was a time—thank God—when I was sort of changing my lifestyle. And I said, 'No, man. Let that happen.' Then, as I'm coming around the bend, I see all this smoke. And one of these poles is down. One car had rammed into it and the other took off. I pulled over and this girl was in the car, and I said, 'You okay?' And we called the police. A month before that, I never would have stopped. And I definitely would have chased them."