Bradley Cooper is ready for his close-up

Bradley Cooper will be in his hometown next month to film a thriller called The Dark Fields with Robert De Niro.

But first, the filmmakers had to do hair and makeup tests in a studio setting. In the film, Cooper's visage will change as his character devolves; he plays a failed writer who becomes successful after he takes a new drug.

The action yesterday was at Philadelphia Soundstages at Fifth and Oxford in North Philly, which also hosts the production company Invincible Pictures. It's the city's only real soundstage, and The Dark Fields people used it yesterday to set up movie-style lighting to test Cooper's look. Nine days of shooting will start at the end of the month in New York, before the production moves to assorted locations in Philly. (Cooper's leading lady, by the way, will be Aussie actress Abbie Cornish.)

While Cooper went through the hair and makeup drill yesterday afternoon, he was accompanied by girlfriend Renee Zellweger and his pooch Charlotte, a fluffy chow-retriever mix.

Though Cooper seemed to be in the zone while working, Zellweger -- who got her hair styled while Cooper was under the lights -- was all sunny, sweet, and nice to the assembled, including owners Kevon Glickman, Tom Ashley, Brad Heffler, and David Sabag.  So, for that matter, was good Charlotte. (Discretion prevented me from snapping photos.)

Tomorrow is a casting call for extras and be advised that Cooper himself will not be there. (Details here.)