| 5.6°C Dublin

'There are buttons we don't push'

Actor Chris Cooper reveals the secret of a long-lasting marriage to Shereen Low

You may not have heard the name Chris Cooper -- but you are bound to recognise this prolific actor's face. The 57-year-old American has appeared in major movies such as The Bourne Identity, American Beauty and Jarhead.

His may have been a career on the sidelines, but it's a successful one that allows him to sign up to independent, small budget movies.

He takes the lead in new indie film, Married Life, alongside Pierce Brosnan, Patricia Clarkson and Rachel McAdams.

"At one point, we thought the project would never get off the ground and with that in mind, I got involved with a studio production, The Kingdom,'' he says.

"But then, all of a sudden, Patty (Patricia), Pierce and Rachel came on board and the project was working again.''

However, things got difficult for Chris, who then had to juggle the two films at the same time.

"I was, over a five-month period, doing both the studio job and this job. So any time off I had, I was flying up to Vancouver to work on Married Life,'' he says.

In Married Life, Chris plays Harry, a gentle, middle-aged, married man whose life is turned upside down when he falls in love with another woman. "I think Harry's big flaw is that he expects too much,'' he admits.

"In Noel Coward's words, he's looking for that 'first, fine careless rapture'.

"He had it with his wife, but it didn't last, and now Harry is carried away by his curious need for something more. He could be going through what we all call a mid-life crisis.''

In real life, Missouri-born Chris -- whose 25-year marriage to actress and screenwriter Marianne Leone is considered one of the strongest in Hollywood -- is nothing like his character, although he readily admits a successful marriage has to be worked at.

"Harry's put Pat and his relationship with her in a box. He just settled and didn't appreciate how much he had,'' he says.

The film looks at what happens when secrets are exposed within a relationship. Chris advises that some secrets should stay that way.

"It certainly depends on the secret,'' he reveals, with a wink.

"In my relationship with my wife, there are subjects we know not to talk about and there are buttons we know not to push.''

Chris and his wife are a solid couple not just in name -- they have also just finished working together on the film Hurricane Mary.

Inspired by their son Jesse, who was born with cerebral palsy in 1987, the story has been written by Marianne and stars Chris. It is a true-life account of a mother's struggle to have her disabled twin daughters integrated into the US public school system and co-stars Dakota Fanning and William H Macy.

"Hurricane Mary is the story of Mary Somoza and her twin daughters who suffer from cerebral palsy,'' Chris explains.

"When the girls came of age, they ran into a brick wall as far as the educational system was concerned. All Mary wanted for her daughters was a simple public school education. We had run into the very same problem with our son and we met Mary through our paediatrician.''

Sadly, Jesse died in January 2005 from complications of the disease, and the Jesse Cooper Foundation memorial fund was set up in his name.

Chris adds: "The script is very emotional, but Marianne wrote me a part that allowed me to say and express what I was too emotionally tied up or shut down to say when it happened to us.''

Married Life is in cinemas on Friday, August 1