Jennifer Esposito rose to fame in the 90s, making her first television appearance on Law & Order, before transitioning into movies like Spike Lee’s 1999 crime thriller Summer of Sam and the 2004 Best Picture winner Crash. In 2006, she found love with another up and coming actor, Wedding Crashers‘ breakout star Bradley Cooper.
The pair married over the holidays, but a mere four months later Esposito filed for divorce. At the time, Cooper’s rep called the split "mutual" and revealed that they had been "separated for quite a while." Cooper said their brief marriage was "just something that happened" during a 2011 interview with Howard Stern (via E! News). "The good thing is, we both realized it. … Sometimes you just realize it. It just wasn’t right. It’s interesting … things happen!"
The NCIS actress and Cooper made news again in 2019, but to find out how they got there, we need to learn more about the woman Phil from The Hangover once loved. Here’s the untold truth of Bradley Cooper’s ex Jennifer Esposito.
An undiagnosed disease landed her in a ‘psych ward’
During a 2016 interview for Oprah: Where Are They Now? (via People), Jennifer Esposito revealed a scary health issue that eventually led her to a hospital psychiatric ward. While working on the sitcom Samantha Who?, Esposito said one of her teeth fell out after trying unsuccessfully to make doctors take her unexplainable symptoms seriously.
Esposito went back to the doctor and pleaded for a more thorough diagnosis, because she felt that she was "jumping out" of her skin. But instead of being checked into the hospital, they sent her to the psychiatric ward. "And I’m thinking, ‘How did I get here? This is a problem with my system, this is not a problem with my brain,’" she said. "I was almost dead – my hair was falling out, my eyelashes fell off, my fingernails were falling off. I was bad."
Esposito was eventually diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes the small intestine to be hypersensitive to gluten. In 2017, Esposito released a gluten-free cookbook, Jennifer’s Way: My Journey with Celiac Disease—What Doctors Don’t Tell You and How You Can Learn to Live Again, that details her struggle and experience living with the disease.
Did she shade Bradley Cooper in her book?
Jennifer Esposito’s book didn’t make headlines for the recipes, however. Many felt a passage in the book was a thinly-veiled swipe at her ex-husband Bradley Cooper. She detailed her struggle to find love in Los Angeles before meeting someone and going on a date. It wasn’t a love story for the ages.
"I should have noticed the red flags from the beginning — actually, they were more like an entire marching band squad of red flags — but I ignored them because, honestly, I didn’t think the relationship was really going to go anywhere," Esposito wrote (via Us Weekly). "He was funny, smart, cocky, arrogant, and a master manipulator. I didn’t necessarily find him that attractive, but I figured that I could enjoy his sense of humor and nonsense for a while."
She goes on to describe the man as having a "cold side" and a personality that "could flip on a dime." Esposito never specifically named the man, but she never publicly denied it was Cooper either. In her only comments on the subject, Esposito was upset this portion of her book received any attention at all. "This book is about my journey with celiac disease and only that," she said in a statement to People. "To refer to anything other than the subject at hand or to make this book about anything else is an insult to me and this disease that plagues so many."
Her brief engagement to a tennis legend
Bradley Cooper wasn’t the only brief public romance for Jennifer Esposito. In Oct. 2009, the Law & Order actress announced her engagement to Australian tennis legend Mark Philippoussis (above right). "They are happily engaged and enjoying their time together," his rep told People. Barely a year later, Esposito called off the relationship on Sept. 17, 2010.
"They just couldn’t get along. Mark wanted to live in San Diego, and Jennifer is a native New Yorker; the issue of where to live was emblematic of deeper problems in their relationship," a source told Popsugar. While we’re unsure what the "deeper problems" were, Digital Spy reported that Philippoussis was "believed to have started negotiations with magazines to gain exclusive access to both his engagement and wedding ceremony." Not cool, Mark. Not cool.
The second time wasn’t such a charm
In 2013, Jennifer Esposito opened Jennifer’s Way Bakery, in Manhattan’s West Village that only served gluten-free food. She fell in love with her business partner Louis Dowler (above right) and the pair got married on Nov. 16, 2014.
"He’s lovely," Esposito told Katie Couric during their engagement (via Us Weekly). "He wanted no part of it in the beginning. He said ‘I don’t know anything about a bakery.’ And I said, ‘I don’t either! But we’re gonna do this. I’m gonna do this. And if you want to see me, that’s where I’m gonna be.’"
She revealed that Dowler, Kate Winslet’s ex-boyfriend, lent her money to open the bakery, but their marital bliss didn’t last long. Mixing love and business turned out to be a recipe for disaster for Esposito and Fowler, and less than two years after the pair exchanged vows, they had essentially become enemies. Let’s find out how this happened.
Her divorce and $43 million lawsuit
In March 2016, Louis Dowler and other Jennifer’s Way Bakery investors filed a $43 million lawsuit against Esposito. According the New York Post, Lawrence Wenner and David Drake invested "$250,000 each" and loaned the bakery an additional $1 million to "expand the business with a commercial plant in Queens," to open an online store.
The investors alleged Esposito was challenging to work with, and when the online store struggled financially, they claim she bad mouthed the company on her official Facebook page and refused to help secure a loan. "Esposito has instilled and promoted a groundless and downright false sense of fear that the very same products with the same recipes, coming from the same facility, that she once stood behind, are now unsafe to consume," the lawsuit stated.
Esposito claimed the maneuver was a hostile takeover designed to push her out. It was also revealed that Esposito filed for divorce from Fowler on the grounds of "cruel and inhuman treatment." She also claimed Dowler was all about the money and not much else. "Like he did during the short-lived marriage to me, Dowler now seems to be aligning himself with individuals he thinks could best earn him money," she wrote in an affidavit. In 2017, Jennifer’s Way Bakery closed.
She went viral with a two letters
Not only was Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s steamy performance of "Shallow" the talk of the 2019 Oscars, but it was also the talk of the internet. During the broadcast, comedian David Spade hopped on Instagram to ask what pretty much everyone thinking. "Is there any chance these 2 aren’t f***ing?, he captioned a photo of the Academy Awards’ duet.
Jennifer Esposito jumped in comments to say "Ha." People thought she was criticizing her ex and Gaga, which led Esposito to respond in an Instagram post of her own. "I’m allowed to think something is funny," she says in the video. "You’re also allowed to say something and obviously this is a time where everybody is saying whatever the hell they want." Esposito went on to say she was disappointed in other women attacking her as an "old lady" and needing to feel relevant. "I didn’t watch the Oscars," she said. "I don’t know what went on, I don’t care what went on."
In an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live a few days after the Oscars, Lady Gaga rolled her eyes about the rumors. Calling social media "the toilet of the Internet," Gaga explained why you may have thought she and Bradley were soon to be an item. "People saw love, and guess what, that’s what we wanted you to see. This is a love song, the movie is a love story."