Chris Cooper can thank his wife for his latest role.
In “Live By Night,” Ben Affleck’s new Prohibition-era crime drama out Sunday, the Oscar winner plays Tampa police chief Irving Figgis, a character with some of the film’s most intense and troubling scenes.
The actor has worked with Affleck before (“The Company Men,” “The Town”). But it was his wife, the writer and actress Marianne Leone (“Goodfellas,” “The Sopranos,” “Joy”), who pegged him for the part well before the movie was even in the works.
The couple would often run into “Live By Night” author Dennis Lehane at Boston book fairs.
“We slowly got to have some hellos and good conversations with him,” Cooper, 65, told amNewYork.
One time, his wife approached Lehane at a reading for novel about rum-running gangsters.
“She told Dennis, ‘You know, keep Chris in mind for this Irving Figgis character,’ and apparently Dennis’ reaction was, ‘Hey, that’s a very good idea,’” Cooper said.
Fast forward to 2016 and Chris Cooper is Irving Figgis.
The Massachusetts-based pair, who have been married for nearly 30 years, makes a great team, said the actor, best known for his role in “Adaptation.”
“I really depend on her when I get scripts. I want to see what she thinks of it,” he told us. “And when she gets scripts she shares them with me. And she always wants me to read her essays or take a look at her books. … It’s a pretty good relationship.”
The two met in New York City in the late ’70s. Cooper moved from Missouri to pursue acting, first living in a shotgun apartment in midtown.
“When I lived here I lived in right in midtown right on 48th and Eighth and I always as a younger person I thought, ‘Oh my god, New York is so exciting!’ And now I just think of it as chaos.”
Back in the day, he says he and Leone were too broke to eat out. Instead, they’d while away their nights at bookstores, like the iconic (and now closed) Coliseum Books.
“We often had date nights just walking through the aisles, looking at books and scripts and all. But we were so poor!” he laughed. “Dinner out was in a coffee shop, and street vendor food. … Oh my god, and there used to be a terrible chain of bars/restaurants … I think it was called The Blarney Stone. Oh man, I depended on that for a long time.”
Cooper prefers to hang downtown these days when he’s in NYC and mentioned to us a penchant for the bar at The Bowery Hotel.
He will be back in NYC this spring for his return to the Broadway stage — a comeback decades in the making.
“It’s been more than 25 years,” Cooper said.
He’s been waiting for “something I’m really passionate about,” and he’s found that in “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” a sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s 19th-century play, written by Lucas Hnath.
“It’s just nice to get in your head,” Cooper said. “Unlike film you’ll actually have a lot of rehearsal time — and I look forward to it.”