Dashing Dominic Cooper scrimped, saved, succeeded

Actor Dominic CooperDominic Cooper is an emerging screen hunk who has romanced the likes of Mamma Mia! costar Amanda Seyfried off screen and Keira Knightley on screen, but it wasn't so long ago that he was just a bloke trying to make ends meet. In an exclusive interview with WalletPop, the actor opened up about how getting famous turned personal finance into someone else's business, plus other matters of money management.

"I've become much less organized there than I used to be," he said to WalletPop at the recent Toronto International Film Festival.

An injection of wealth and celebrity came courtesy of Cooper's breakout role as the singing and dancing groom-to-be in the film version of Mamma Mia!, which grossed $609.8 million in ticket sales. He next appears as a sneering drummer in Tamara Drewe(Oct. 8) and recently completed the big-budget Captain America: The First Avenger.

"I appreciate the fact that I know the struggle of how hard money is to come by, having worked from the age of 15 at cafes to make my money, finding jobs for myself, and working til 4 or 5 in the morning," he said. "[But] it doesn't change the fact that it becomes more and more difficult, the more people you have that surround you, that advise you. Your life changes. Your needs change."

At age 32, Cooper is a relative latecomer to prominence in movies. He accompanied the stage play The History Boys from its long run in London and beyond to the 2006 movie adaptation. He then played Earl Grey (yeah, the tea guy and future prime minister of Great Britain), who carried on a steamy relationship with Keira Knightley's Georgiana in 2008's The Duchess.

Hard-earned success, he said, has carved his philosophy about being industrious and saving money. "Getting things without any form of struggle, you lose your appreciation quickly," he said. "I think that that is very dangerous. It's the same with kids who are spoiled and get too much stuff, too many gadgets, and haven't used their imagination. The less you have, the more imaginative you need to be."

Cooper remembers trying to make 5 pounds last for the weekend, including a night out in London. Asked what he could do with that amount, he answered, "Not a lot."

The actor said that when he waited tables, he liked the feel of the coins from tips in his pocket. He wasn't earning money from his first love, acting, but he was earning his keep and that helped maintain his self-worth as he studied drama, he said. It also made later employment in his chosen field that much more satisfying.

The details of receiving his first professional paycheck, about 200 pounds, for a play at the National Theatre in London remain vivid: picking up the envelope at the stage door, tearing it open, and heading straight to the bank.

"Acting was something I'd been doing since I was a child, but to be paid for it, it was extraordinary," he said.

The money probably went to saving for an apartment, he remembered. "That's the most secure place to have the money -- in bricks and mortar."
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