Rag Time is a bi-weekly media investigation of a single celebrity story that's vastly more in-depth than you ever thought you needed. This week: Bradley Cooper's mysterious breakup with Irina Shayk.
Have you heard? Philly native Bradley Cooper, 44, and his model girlfriend Irina Shayk, 33, have ended their relationship. The tabloids have been running wall-to-wall coverage of the split over the last two weeks, offering wild and varied theories about the breakup: Was Lady Gaga involved? Did Shayk want out of the relationship so she could party and have fun? Did Cooper become “emotionally distant”?
We will probably never hear the truth from Cooper and Shayk themselves, as Cooper has made it his policy to not discuss his private life in the press. (See: Taffy Akner’s profile of him from last September, in which he refused to discuss anything remotely personal.) Shayk, too, has declined to talk about her romantic relationships with reporters, telling Glamour U.K. last year, “Because my work requires me to be out there, I just decided my personal life will be quiet. That's why it's called personal, because it's something for you and your family and I feel happy with it."
And then, of course, there were the Gaga rumors. We’ll get to those, but first, let’s take a look back at Cooper’s relationship history to get some context on this most recent breakup.
Before Irina, there was Suki
Prior to his relationship with Shayk, Cooper had a scattered dating history. He was briefly married to the actress Jennifer Esposito in the mid-2000s; she has since appeared to characterize their relationship in a, let’s say, negative light. After Cooper and Esposito divorced, Cooper had several other short, private relationships with actresses like Zoe Saldana and Renee Zellweger (he dated Zellweger for two years without ever appearing in a photo with her or confirming the relationship). And then, somewhere around his 38th birthday, he seemed to decide it was time to settle down. Two months after the 2013 Oscars, to which he brought his mother as his date (something he has done several times), he started very publicly dating then-21-year-old model Suki Waterhouse.
Cooper and Waterhouse were photographed everywhere during the course of their two-year relationship, and some of their paparazzi outings seemed engineered to garner maximum attention. (Who could forget this set of images, taken in Paris a few months into the relationship, of Cooper cradling an overalls-wearing Waterhouse like a baby and reading to her from a paperback copy of … Lolita?)
In addition to appearing in totally candid paparazzi photos with him, Waterhouse dutifully supported Cooper during a busy time in his career: She was his date during awards season in 2014, when he was nominated for American Hustle, and in 2015, when he was nominated for American Sniper. (Waterhouse, incidentally, is British.)
But just a few weeks after the 2015 Oscars, People reported that Cooper and Waterhouse were no more. The interesting part? A source told the tabloid that “the couple ended their relationship before the Oscars in January but remained friends and attended the award show together.” The source added that they were spotted out to dinner the night after the ceremony but “they didn’t seem affectionate during the meal.”
E! News followed up People’s report that Cooper and Waterhouse broke up in part because, at 40, Cooper was ready to have children, and, at 23, Waterhouse was not.
Two months later, Cooper was spotted out with a slightly older model—Shayk, then 29—in New York City.
A new girlfriend for the Oscars
Cooper’s relationship with Shayk followed a similar pattern: Over the course of four years, they were photographed together at relative intervals, and she supported him at work events. As Joan Summers pointed out at Jezebel, Cooper and Shayk’s photo-ops were often tied to her fashion partnerships, which is nice. In 2017, the couple had a daughter together and named her Lea de Seine Shayk Cooper.
For most of his relationship with Shayk, Cooper was working on making his directorial debut (and best hope for an Oscar) A Star Is Born. The project spent years in development, so Cooper did not have any movies in awards contention in 2016, 2017, or 2018. But when it came time to premiere and promote ASIB, Shayk was there and publicly supportive, even though the relationship may have been coming apart behind the scenes. The week after ASIB premiered in October, Page Six ran a story about Cooper and Shayk having an unfriendly dinner date, reminiscent of Cooper’s post-Oscars outing with Waterhouse in 2015.
“They were not looking happy,” a source told Page Six of Cooper and Shayk’s date at Masa in New York. “The couple sat down. He was in a hoodie and she was fresh-faced—no makeup—and they barely spoke to each other at the start of the meal. Halfway through, she started looking off to the side and he was moody.”
A couple of days later, Page Six followed up with another story about the state of Cooper and Shayk’s relationship. “They are miserable together,” a source alleged. “They have been for months. He doesn’t drink and is into spirituality. She wants to go out.”
Still, Shayk dutifully accompanied Cooper to ASIB events and awards shows through the beginning of 2019. (It is worth noting that the only time Cooper acknowledged Shayk publicly during the course of their relationship was when he was onstage accepting an award at the BAFTAs. "Most of all I have to thank Irina for putting up with me, for all the music I was trying to make in our basement for a year," he said. "Thank you very much.")
Shayk politely smiled through Cooper’s much-talked-about Oscars performance with Lady Gaga, and she was photographed with Cooper a couple more times after awards season. But by June, Page Six reported that the relationship was “hanging by a thread.” People—every publicist’s go-to tabloid for bad news—officially reported that Cooper and Shayk had broken up on June 6. The report set off a wave of tabloid coverage about the breakup, including dramatic updates on Cooper and Shayk’s whereabouts. Cooper went out for a “guys' night” at Sunset Tower! Shayk left the couple’s shared home wearing a jumpsuit and carrying a SUITCASE!
And then Lady Gaga started to overwhelm the narrative.
The Gaga of it all
Rumors about a romantic connection between Cooper and Gaga flew throughout the promotion of ASIB—particularly when she broke up with her fiancé in the middle of awards season—but they peaked at the Oscars, where the two performed a stunning, intimate rendition of “Shallow” as Shayk looked on from the audience. The moment got an insane amount of attention from fans wondering whether Cooper was really in love with Gaga (like he was in the movie!).
The memes and otherwise breathless coverage of the performance got so intense that Gaga addressed them in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel two days later, where she explained that she and Cooper were acting: "Yes, people saw love and guess what? That's what we wanted you to see."
In keeping with his policy, Cooper never addressed the Gaga rumors himself, which gave the tabloids an opening to resurface the narrative after his breakup with Shayk. Despite the fact that there is no evidence that Cooper and Gaga were ever romantically involved, all of the tabloids have been pushing the Gaga angle—even well-respected outlets like People. Last week, the tabloid ran a story about Cooper’s supposedly “huge and overwhelming” connection to Gaga. (InTouch was bolder, putting Cooper and Gaga on the cover with the headline “IT’S ON!”)
Veteran gossip blogger Lainey Gossip has questioned the motivation of the sources pushing this narrative. “Is it a diversion?” she asked last week. “If you’re baiting the tabloids and social media into believing in Coop and Gaga, they won’t be looking at anything else, right?”
So, is there something else we should be looking at when it comes to this breakup? Maybe. But maybe it’s actually very simple. At the end of last week, a source told People that at some point in Cooper and Shayk’s four-year relationship, the dynamic shifted. “The romance changed to more of a partnership,” a source told the tabloid. “Since Bradley and Irina have always been very private about their relationship few knew there was really something going on.”
Entertainment Tonight talked to a source who put it more directly. “Their troubles have been going on for quite some time and they even considered splitting during the release of the movie," the source said. "They talked things through a great deal and seemed to hold off and keep up appearances for the time being. It was recommended they delay a split at what seemed to be the peak of his career because the negative attention would take away from the excitement of the release."
If this is true, Cooper and Shayk would not be the first celebrity couple to hold it together during an important awards season, only to break up quietly a few months later. (Reese Witherspoon separated from Ryan Phillippe after she won an Oscar in 2006; Julia Roberts dumped Benjamin Bratt right after she won in 2001.) After the Oscars, where Cooper did not win any awards, it seems he and Shayk decided it was okay to end their partnership.
Now, the promotional tour for ASIB is long over, and Cooper won’t have another movie to promote for a while. He is currently in negotiations to star in Guillermo del Toro’s new film, which could be headed for an awards season run. Who will he be dating then?
Got a tip about this or any other celebrity mysteries? Email Allie at email@example.com, or contact her on Twitter .
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.