Hair of the dog
The crazy crew that cut loose in Las Vegas has been unleashed for more monkey business in Bangkok, writes James Wigney
IT’S a steaming hot day in Ancient Siam, a recreated monastery on the outskirts of Bangkok. Through large red gates, three dishevelled men intrude on the serenity of the mock Buddhist temple.
One of them is sporting designer shades, another has a Maori tattoo and an air of bewildered desperation. The third has a shaved head and a bushy beard, which make him look mildly insane, and is pushing an ancient monk in a wheelchair. And a monkey.
A few minutes later they are copping a beating with a bamboo cane as profanities and shrieks of pain cut through the muggy air. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of the Hangover: Part 2.
The director yells ‘‘ cut’’ and one of the figures ambles over to a waiting group of journalists who have jetted in to get a sneak peek at one of the most anticipated films of the year.
It’s Ed Helms ( The Office), who plays uptight dentist Stu, the victim of the fiercest punishment in the previous scene.
After mysteriously losing his tooth in the first film, his face is now half covered by a tattoo that looks suspiciously like that worn by Mike Tyson. He gingerly lifts his shirt to reveal some rather angry looking welts on either side of a strategically placed pad.
‘‘ This is what I do for my craft,’’ he says with a grin. ‘‘ It doesn’t hurt at all unless he misses – then it hurts a bit.’’
It’s all in a day’s work though and Helms – like his co-stars Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis ( all pictured) – looks like he is having the time of his life.
Under the watchful gaze of director Todd Phillips, the mood on the set is buoyant, with everyone confident they are on to another winner.
The first Hangover film, released in 2009, raked in more than $ 450 million worldwide to become the highest earning R-rated comedy and won a Golden Globe for best film to boot.
The story followed a stag party gone wrong as three friends – henpecked Stu, abrasive alpha male Phil ( Cooper) and wacky man-child Alan ( Galifianakis) – combed Las Vegas looking for the missing groom, Doug ( Justin Bartha). So impressed was the studio with an early cut of the first film that a sequel was demanded even before it was released.
Confident in Phillips’s judgment, Warner Brothers left the director to his own devices.
The biggest question was how to top something that was already so over the top? For the director, the location was the key consideration.
He considered Las Vegas to be the fourth character in the original and needed another city that would instantly evoke an even stronger reaction in audiences.
‘‘ People have an image that is conjured up when you say Las Vegas,’’ says Phillips during a break from shooting.
‘‘ There are very few cities that when you say the word it means something. But Bangkok makes you think of something. There is a mystery to it and a legend to it and that’s what Vegas had.’’
For the Hangover: Part 2, the lads head to an exotic Thai resort for Stu’s wedding.
Having learnt their lesson in Vegas, a buck’s party is off the agenda. But things still go awry and they wake up in a decrepit hotel room without Teddy, the younger brother of the bride.
The hapless trio has to retrace their steps – confronting animals, gangsters, car chases and old friends – to fill in the memory gaps.
If that sounds a little like deja vu then up to a point it is, with plenty of sly nods to the first film. But Cooper, undermining his heart-throb status by spitting chewing tobacco into a plastic bottle, says they have definitely upped the ante.
‘‘ The first one felt so right because we were making each other laugh the whole movie and that hasn’t stopped,’’ he says.
‘‘ The difference I have noticed so far is that it’s taking it to another level; it’s a bigger movie.
‘‘ It’s the same formula on a grander scale, which is what I would want to see these guys doing.’’
The three leads genuinely seem to like each other. They share an easy rapport on set and Helms says they dine together most nights after shooting.
‘‘ It’s really comfortable and fun and it’s almost like returning to summer camp,’’ Galifianakis says.
Cooper, who thanks to roles in The A-Team and Limitless has become one of Hollywood’s most in-demand actors, agrees: ‘‘ It’s effortless and all you could hope to achieve in terms of a working environment. We all hit the jackpot and we felt that way on the first one.’’
Cooper admits the success of the first film took him by surprise but he didn’t quite realise how far it had wormed its way into the public psyche until strangers started quoting his most famous lines back to him.
‘‘ Ed Helms emailed us a link during a tennis match at the Australian Open,’’ he says. ‘‘ It was silent and the person was about to serve and in the audience you hear ‘ paging Dr Faggot’. Everyone started laughing, so we figured it must be catching on.’’
Galifianakis had been working in film, TV and stand-up comedy for more than a decade, but his oddball Alan took him to another level, leading to roles in Dinner For Schmucks ( with Steve Carell), Due Date ( Robert Downey Jr) and now Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie ( starring Will Ferrell).
Helms says his rotund co-star has the quickest wit he has ever encountered, but Galifianakis reckons he struggles with people who can’t separate his comic persona from reality.
‘‘ It’s offensive to me that I just show up and people laugh,’’ he says, deadpan.
‘‘ It’s a burden – I have to live with it in life too. At both my brother’s and sister’s weddings – not that they married each other – I gave toasts and got choked up and started crying and 400 wedding guests started laughing. To have people laughing while you are crying is a really weird emotion inside.’’