Director Brian Klugman and producer Andrew Panay have been Cooper's close friends for decades
Bradley Cooper and his mom, Gloria Cooper, are back for their second straight Super Bowl ad with T-Mobile, and the Maestro actor tells PEOPLE that it's all thanks to his longtime close friends and collaborators, Brian Klugman and Andrew Panay.
Not only that, "my mom is such a character," Cooper says.
This year's hilarious "audition style" commercial for T-Mobile — created and produced by Panay Films, — features megastars like Laura Dern, Common, Jennifer Hudson, Zach Braff, Donald Faison, as well as Suits stars, Gabriel Macht and Patrick J. Adams, alongside Cooper and his mom.
Yet, it wouldn't have been possible without Hollywood's respect and creative admiration for Klugman and Panay. Klugman, who appears in Maestro alongside Cooper, directed the spot while Panay, who met Cooper on the set of Wedding Crashers in 2005, serves as producer.
This year, the two are back for T-Mobile's hilarious slate of ads, including Jason Momoa's first-ever time singing and dancing onscreen and the follow-up to the Coopers' 2023 spot.
Cooper and Klugman met when they were just kids, and the Star is Born actor tells PEOPLE, "I remember it so well. I transferred from public school to this school called Germantown Academy when I was in fifth grade, and it was a huge change."
Cooper was "a pretty shy kid," while Klugman was "very extroverted" in those days, he recalls, and being one of two transfer students at the school led to kids "making fun of" him, especially because "I put my napkin under my food, and they thought that was very weird."
And now, Cooper says he "was lucky" that Klugman befriended him soon after. "We lived in the same area and took the train to school, and we wound up really being really good friends throughout high school and really close and then just kept that relationship, which takes work as you get older. It's rare to have a great friend from when you were in fifth grade."
Klugman and Cooper, who were interviewed separately, both tell PEOPLE that they remember a particular night that solidified their lifelong bond. "I remember we invited people over to watch Apocalypse Now, followed by the making of Apocalypse Now, and everybody fell asleep except for Brian and I, who had already seen the movie like 800 times," Cooper shares.
"That night was so great. Bradley and I really bonded over our love of movies and entertainment, and it started so young," Klugman recalls.
"Brian was always so wonderful because he always really believed in me. I always wanted to be an actor in movies or performances, and I was so terrified that I never did anything. But he was such a huge part of the theater program at our high school, and he was always so just always believed in me, which I never really understood."
Cooper, who met Panay while filming Wedding Crashers, says "we became instant friends forever from there."
"When I first saw Bradley audition for that movie, he blew my mind. I knew it was going to be him," Panay tells PEOPLE. "The amount of nuances that Bradley Cooper brings to a role, it's on another planet."
Klugman says he recognized Cooper's talent during a school play and never looked back. "Bradley is as talented a human being as anyone walking around on the planet," says Klugman, "And he's completely dialed into everything around him, completely dedicated to doing the best work he can."
In 2012, Klugman directed Cooper in The Words, which was "an awesome experience" that Cooper says helped him "grow so much" creatively.
Klugman and Panay "met through Bradley" and went on to form a continued creative partnership that both credit Cooper for incepting by recognizing their shared love for film and bold ideas. "People are possessive in this business, but Bradley's not like that," says Panay.
Cooper and his mom, Gloria, appearing in the hilarious Super Bowl ads "wouldn't have happened" without Klugman and Panay, who have "spent Christmases and Thanksgivings with our families together for decades," says Cooper.
He adds, "If it wasn't for Brian and Andrew, I never would've even contemplated doing something like this, but because I knew that my mom would feel like it was basically us around the kitchen growing up, she felt comfortable."
When Panay and Klugman had the idea for the "auditions" to be the spot's theme, Cooper says he thought it was "amazing," and shooting it with his mom "was just joyous" for them both. "It didn't even feel like work; it was just awesome," the actor notes.
Before the actual ad was filmed, Cooper and his mom filmed an "audition tape" for their T-Mobile sequel in the actor's West Village apartment. "The dog was barking. My daughter and her friends were there, and it was just crazy," says Cooper.
He shares, "And with my mom, when you put her in that environment, well, really, if you put her in any environment, gold's going to come out somehow. She's so unpredictable. It's like working with a child. They're difficult, but everything they do is truthful."
"It's hard to tell a story in just 30 or 60 seconds," Klugman says of directing commercials, "but we're so proud of this one, and it's an honor that this incredible brand T-Mobile believes in this work we're doing." He adds, "What artist doesn't want their work to be seen in the biggest venue like the Super Bowl?"
The messaging of this year's ad promotes the phone company's new Magenta Status customer appreciation program, which offers VIP treatment and one-of-a-kind deals on nationally loved brands like Hilton, Live Nation, and more.
"We genuinely appreciate working with T-Mobile because they give us the freedom to create," Klugman says.
Panay and Klugman were "cracking up" watching Gloria's audition tapes, and both agree that having Cooper and his mom return for a second straight Super Bowl commercial with T-Mobile was a special moment for all of them.
"There's nothing better in the world than being a fan of your friends," says Panay, "and we love to see each other win."
Cooper adds, "Life is hard, and Brian and Andrew have always been there for every low and high moment. Hopefully, I've been there for theirs. And so as one gets older, you actually can count your real friends on one hand. And so to be able to have friendships like that and that's the stuff that's kind of all that matters, friends and family."
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And watching his longtime friends explore their creative passions is special for Cooper. "I've never met two idiosyncratic people and the fact that they forced this incredible creative bond is nuclear. That I have any part in brokering their friendship and artistic collaboration I feel very proud of, and their ideas and the way they execute them; I mean, it's just unstoppable, but more than that, it's their heart," he explains.
Cooper continues, "They're really just beautiful people, and it's a mystery of life that you grow up, you meet people, and then you have two friends, and they become great friends, collaborate together, and create this incredible company and create all this wonderful product and content. I feel sort of selfishly proud of being whatever part of that that I was."
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