We’re only a few weeks away from what is set to be one of the summer’s biggest comedies, The Hangover Part II. The film reunites the Wolfpack and brings them to Thailand for Stu’s wedding. Of course things don’t go as planned and the gang ends up waking up in Bangkok, not remembering a thing from the night before. Todd Phillips returns behind the camera and in front we have Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Justin Bartha.
Bradley Cooper was recently in Toronto to promote the film and we had the chance to talk to him in his interview suite at The Four Seasons Hotel. He gave a great interview and was very friendly. He discussed things like the pressure to deliver in the sequel, his relationship with Zach Galifianakis‘ character Allan, what it was like working with the monkey, what it was like filming in Thailand, and more. Check it out below, audio version included at the end of the page.
The Hangover was an incredibly successful film. Not only did it gross nearly $500 million but it also took home a Golden Globe (among other awards) for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and deservedly so. It also received the prestigious honor of being named one of the top ten films of the year by the American Film Institute.
You’d think there would be a ton of pressure on Bradley Cooper to make The Hangover Part II equally as good. Surprisingly though, the actor wasn’t nervous or worried, just excited. He was also looking forward to reprising the same role again, since that’s not really something he had ever done before, aside from the television show Alias.
“I was just excited, it was more excitement than anything else. I’d never done anything like that actually. I mean, I was on a TV show called Alias where I went back two years later and played the same character again but that’s not really the same thing. So I was looking forward to playing Phil again and seeing what that would be like after two years. And after having shot The A-Team and Limitless, and just being at a different place in my life. To me, playing Phil again was fascinating.”
It is undeniable that there’s something about The Hangover that really tapped into the times and generation. We’ve seen road trip and buddy movies before, so what was it about the original film that worked so well? Why did it gain as much success as it did? Bradley thinks it’s because it functions on different levels.
“On one hand it’s a hard boiled detective movie, it’s also a film noir and a whodunnit and even a thriller. The second one is all of those plus espionage. I like to call this genre the Mr. Chow genre, it’s its own thing. But who knows, it’s a mystery as to what works and what doesn’t.”
When you go to make a sequel, the hardest thing you have to decide is whether or not to stick closely to the previous film. How similar do you want to make it? How different of a direction do you want to take these characters in? The filmmakers of The Hangover Part II were very conscious of this and Bradley tells us that they had to ask themselves where they wanted to take the series with the sequel.
“We had to ask ourselves, are we going to completely deviate from the first film and take these three guys on a completely new journey or are we going to adhere to the structure of the first one? I for one was over the moon that we adhered to it. As a fan of the first one, I don’t think that we’ve earned the ability to take these three guys out of it yet. I don’t think we know them well enough to have a movie that just has to do about their family life or something. I want to see them forget the night before, I want to see Phil call Tracy and say ‘we fucked up again’. I want it to be darker and I want the stakes to be raised. And you know what, let’s beat Vegas.”
But by sticking to the exact same premise, wouldn’t that cause for some repetitiveness? Would fans want to see the exact same thing all over again but just set in Thailand? Bradley Cooper acknowledged this but he points out that if you can just separate yourself from the first film, you’ll realize that the sequel is a lot better.
“I saw the film two weeks ago and I think it’s a lot better than the first one. I really do. It’s a better movie. Now it’s not as new as the first one. The first one established the structure but if you separate yourself from that and just look at the film as a whole, you can’t even argue that it’s not as good as the first one. Because really, it’s better.”
Last time the boys were in Vegas and as we can imagine, the shoot was probably pretty easy going. They were in America, not a foreign country and it was Vegas! How can you not enjoy being in Vegas? This time around though the gang hit Thailand and to say the least, the filming conditions were a bit more rough. They were in a foreign land and in a country that is known for having a wild and dark side. Did Bradley mind though? We asked him what it was like to shoot in Thailand.
“Well I didn’t get shot, although it felt like I did after some meals. But it was the hardest job I’d ever done, and same for Ed, Zach and Todd. Logistically it was a nightmare, as was the bureaucracy of getting things done. And there were so many people around all the time. Plus we’re halfway around the world. But all of those elements are what made the film as pungent as it is.
You really feel like we’re in Bangkok. You see it in our eyes and in our swagger and in the way we breathe. And that’s the same thing we achieved in the first one. Vegas was a character and here, Bangkok is a character as well. It’s described many times as having human qualities. A few times in the movie characters say ‘Bangkok has them now.’
One of the best parts of The Hangover was the relationship between Bradley Cooper’s character Phil and Zach Galifianakis’ character Allan. The banter and interplay between them is fantastic and it turns out, that in the first one, a lot of it was actually improvised. Bradley told us that him and Zach came up with the idea early on.
“It was improvised in the first movie. Actually, Zach and I came up with this idea a week into shooting the first one. Like what if Allan wants to be like Phil. He thinks he’s the coolest guy and wants to be him. And that evolves in the second one. And that’s what I love about this movie.
And that’s something we created in the first one and then evolved it in the second. And Todd obviously embraced it. For example, it was his idea for that scene when we were shooting in the sun and Phil suggests to get Alan out of the sun and get him a hat to protect his bald head.”
Now while most find The Hangover very funny, a few people complained that some of the humor was taken too far. Sure, it’s mainly gross out humor but some were concerned that there was a savagery underpinning it all. And in a way, some felt that it was malicious, particularly some of the events that take place in the sequel. Bradley agreed but he said that it’s not malicious since the whole point is that it’s funny.
“When we’re re-envisioning the Vietnam photograph, you know, when Phil is like that to Mr. Chow and laughing. There’s a savagery to that, but it’s not malicious. That’s my favorite still actually. Phil has a gun to Chow’s head yet their laughing about it. It’s almost like you’re playing with all these visuals but it’s from a pure place. We don’t try to think about it too much but once you de-construct it, it does become malicious, but the veneer is not.
It’s also not malicious because the whole point is that it’s funny. Everyone is in on the joke. The only person who is never in on the joke is Alan. But that’s ok and that’s why he gets away with saying the most ludicrous things. If that stuff came out of Phil’s mouth, it wouldn’t be funny. You’d think he’s a complete asshole. When Alan says “I didn’t know they gave out rings at the Holocaust”, it’s hilarious. But if Phil said it, you’d be like “that guy should be in prison.”
Bradley Cooper, along with Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis had quite a bit of input on the sequel, in terms of what they wanted to see and where they wanted it to go. We asked Bradley what was the most important thing for him that he wanted to see in the sequel.
“I wanted to make sure that you got to know these characters more. Firstly, I was really happy that we adhered to the structure. That said, it made it that more difficult to make it fresh, so I was really happy that we went darker. And the stakes are really raised. We all had to step up our game, especially Ed [Helms].”
Cooper continued on talking about his co-star Ed Helms, who is currently putting smiles on people’s faces every week with his TV show The Office. Cooper had nothing but praise for him.
“If I had to play Phil going through all the things that Stu went through, I don’t know if I could have pulled it off. When I saw the film, I was blown away by what Ed does in the movie, he’s incredible. He’s channeling some Jack Lemmon/Jim Carrey shit.
When he comes out of Kimmy’s, and none of that was in the script by the way, it just said react to what happens, whatever that is. And then he gets the phone call from Jamie Chung’s father. His reaction to that, that moaning thing he does, and then that prompts Phil to try and calm him down. And then just to see Ed on the phone trying to get away with what happened and talking about the fishing trip, it was just hilarious. And his reaction to Kimmy with the load, when he says ‘was there a condom’, it was just so crazy and he pulled it off. He by far had the hardest job and he was great.”
And finally, to end things off, Bradley was asked the question that he’s likely been asked numerous times before, what was it like working with the monkey? According to the actor, it wasn’t an issue working with the animal at all, in fact, he had worked with her before on a previous film.
Crystal the monkey was wonderful. The great thing about working with animals is that it forces you to be present, because you never know what they’re going to do. And I had to be with her a lot, she was on my shoulder for half the movie.
It’s really something to have a live monkey on your shoulder the whole time. I loved her though, I actually worked with her on Failure To Launch. She’s great though, she arguably steals the whole movie. She plays a male monkey whose a drug dealing mule. And one of my favorite scenes is the montage, a day in the life of the monkey to the Curtis Mayfield tune with Chow doing the voice over. [Imitating Chow] then she gets the thing and she gets the dropoff, that’s how she do it.