When the first Hangover movie premiered in 2009, not many could guess at the impact the Wolfpack would go on to make in Hollywood history. The crazy action that ensued when Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stuart (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) got together made for a very entertaining sequel, with the third part being released in theatres today. This one, director Todd Phillips promises, is not like the first. There isn’t a hangover, but it finds the three heroes looking out for Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), master criminal and mad man. More from Phillips, known for movies like Road Trip, Old School and Due Date:
When did it occur to you to make a third Hangover movie?
Well, I think it occurred to us on the second movie because, honestly, we just love doing them so much. And people can be cynical and say it’s a money thing or it’s a studio thing, but if you talk to these guys, we love hanging out. We wake up every day and the goal is just to make each other laugh.
What goes into writing the script with Craig Mazin?
We try to make each other laugh. [laughs]. But even before that - because we know that the funny stuff will come - it’s really about setting up a plot that will hold its own weight. We do this thing where we say, ‘Does this plot work if we do no jokes?’ In other words, will this movie work with zero jokes in it as a story? And if we get that story tight enough, we go, ‘Okay, now how do we make it ridiculous, funny and all that?’
And how much have the guys in these roles inspired you?
So much. I mean, in a sense, I jokingly say – although Craig Mazin would have a heart attack – that the movies write themselves. They don’t, but because when you put these guys in a situation, we’re so familiar with their characters, you kind of know what Alan would say or how he’d behave or how Phil would react here. And that’s a big head start.
How does the chemistry work between the four actors?
It does seem to be always there. I’ve talked to other directors - whether it’s Steven Soderbergh on his Oceans movies or Jay Roach with his three Austin Powers movies or Brett Ratner with the Rush Hour movies – and everyone talks about a shorthand. There really is a shorthand when you go to a third movie on that side of the camera. Bradley knows his character almost better than I know his character, and I’ve written it. It’s very much about the machinations of the plot and about how to amplify the comedy or pull off the moment.
Having worked with these actors for five years, how has their career growth been?
It’s amazing. Cooper’s just a great actor and sometimes they just need to get that shot and I think The Hangover put him on a stage. And with Zach as a comic actor, I’ve worked with a lot of funny people over the years, having done now eight or nine movies. Zach’s the funniest. I feel, in a weird way, more ‘ownership’ over Zach, in that I feel like we really put him out there.
Was there ever a moment during production when you just lost it?
Oh, it was always Zach. I ruined takes because I laugh off-camera. Zach cracks me up all the time...it’s almost a private joke between him and I.
What was it like returning to Vegas?
It was fantastic. All the places there really rolled out the red carpet for us on The Hangover Part III. In 2009, when the first one came out, and the country was going into a recession, probably still is, I got calls from the CEOs of different casinos thanking us for The Hangover and what it did to bring young people back to Vegas.