Inspired by real events, the movie is about what happens when DeMasso attempts to further his career by forcing Irving and Sydney -- con artists played by Amy Adams and Christian Bale -- to help him take down other criminals in New York and New Jersey. Plunged into a world of gangsters and corrupt politicians, the likable misfits, along with Irv's loose-cannon wife Rosalyn [played by Jennifer Lawrence,] quickly discover they need to work together if they're going to make it out of their predicaments alive.
Asked at a recent New York press conference about his character's unique look, which he is seen on-screen achieving by putting his hair up in plastic curlers at night, Cooper replied, "Richie, the sort of exterior, the crustation around the exterior of the spirit David was creating, it all was informed by this idea he was a child, really.
"He's a young boy. And also we wanted him to look different, like maybe I'd be a bit unrecognizable," Cooper told the reporters. "We thought maybe he should have curly hair and then David had the idea that he curls his own hair because he wants to look different. He's trying to look like these guys he thinks are archetypes of men. Like Doc Ellis, this baseball player who has curly hair. And then he chews his tongue as kind of this manly thing. ... It's a very odd thing to do and it's probably stress-related. And all these different things that are kind of fun to play as an actor. He constantly is making noise. Even when he is sitting there idle, he's groaning in some way. He wants to be present. He wants to be part of the world and that's why he becomes enamored with these two [hustlers] and really falls in love with [Sydney] like a boy in eighth grade. The way he behaves. So, all of those beautiful, wonderful, playful, physical attributes that I enjoyed doing really were always grounded in this idea David had of who Richie DeMasso is."
So, what was it like working with Louis C.K., the stand-up comedian who plays his no-nonsense boss at the Federal Bureau of Investigation?
"I hit the jackpot working with, I think, the two best comedians around -- ['Hangover' co-star] Zach Galifianakis and Louis C.K. He was just unbelievable. It just was perfect casting. You never do know when you get in a room with someone, but we just flowed. It just worked. It was effortless and addictive and we wanted more. We've become friends since and we just sort of look back at those scenes with a lot of delight."
Although Cooper said he loved working with C.K., he emphasized the stars of "American Hustle" worked as a true ensemble.
"My memory of it was all of us working together," he said. "The way we made this movie is not just with two actors talking to each other. David is right there. It feels like he was in the scene with us, along with the camera operator and the boom operator. He came into the fold of the community. It really is like a sporting event almost. Everyone gets on the field every day."
Co-starring Jeremy Renner, Michael Pena, Jack Huston and Alessandro Nivola, "American Hustle" is in theaters now. The film was nominated for the Best Musical or Comedy Film Golden Globe Award last week, while Cooper, Bale, Adams and Lawrence each earned individual Globe nods for their performances.