Wolf pack’s last hangover
A return to the US gambling capital is a fitting way to wind up The Hangover trilogy, reports
FOR the cast and crew of The Hangover, returning to Las Vegas to film the final chapter of the comedy trilogy was something of a triumphant homecoming.
When director Todd Phillips and his leading men – Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifi anakis and Justin Bartha – made the original movie in 2009, the Nevada city renowned for excess of every sort took little notice.
But after the ingenious comedy was released to rave reviews and close to a half a billion dollars at the box offi ce, the Wolf Pack became almost as much a part of Sin City as the Rat Pack and the blackjack, poker and roulette wheel immortalised in Elvis’s Viva Las Vegas.
So when the production returned to its natural home last year – after an even more financially successful detour in Bangkok for the second film in 2011 – they were confronted with slot machines and T- shirts bearing their faces, street buskers impersonating their characters and a welcome mat that pretty much gave them the run of the city.
For Hollywood heart throb, and now Oscarnominee Cooper, whose career trajectory skyrocketed after the first film, it was a very strange feeling, particularly when his mother came to visit.
“She dragged me to The Hangover slot machine,” he recalls with a laugh during a break from filming in a distinctly unglamorous part of the city, well away from the famous Strip. “It was very embarrassing. She loved it.”
For Helms, also known for his role in the longrunning US version of The Offi ce, he went from being a face in the crowd to a casino drawcard, as he found out while playing blackjack with co- star Galifi anakis.
“I have learned not to stroll casually through the Caesar’s lobby on a Friday or Saturday night,” he says. “All it takes is one drunk to shout your name and tackle you and start taking pictures of you – and then a mob forms.”
Meeting his impersonator left the bearded and portly Galifi anakis, whose face adorns I Love Las Vegas shirts all over the city, a bit confused.
“He’s very nice and quieter than I imagined but I haven’t seen him work out there,” Galifi anakis says.
“I want to go, I don’t know, support him. I don’t know what to do. Maybe heckle him.”
But for Phillips, there were some very practical advantages – like being able to control the famous fountains at the sumptuous Bellagio casino.
“They would never have let us do that on the first one,” he says. “But they let us do it now, because it’s like, ‘ OK, The Hangover’s here’.
“They kind of roll out the red carpet in Vegas, which has been great for us, production- wise.”
A huge part of the success of The Hangover came from its imaginative backwards structure. Three men – Phil ( Cooper), Stu ( Helms) and Alan ( Galifi anakis) on a bucks’ weekend in Vegas wake up in a Caesar’s Palace suite to find they have a tiger in the bathroom, a missing groom ( Bartha) and no recollection of the previous night.
The sequel, which was an even bigger success at the box offi ce but drew more lukewarm reviews, repeated the formula but transplanted the action to Bangkok in the leadup to Stu’s wedding. Although the plot details of The Hangover
Part III have been more closely guarded than a Vegas vault, Phillips and his co- writer Craig Mazin freely admit they were wary of going to the same well once too often in bringing the story to its conclusion.
“This film is a departure from the first two in the sense that they don’t pass out, there’s no moment where they don’t remember what happened before,” Mazin says. “Todd and I always say that can happen to you once and it can happen to you twice – three times it can’t.”
For the three main characters Cooper, Helms and Galifi anakis ( Bartha, it must be said, is a little touchy at being perceived as “the other guy” from The Hangover), signing up for the third film was an easy decision.
The actors share an easy rapport, joking around between shots and clearly comfortable in each other’s company.
“There’s totally a dynamic and a vibe and there’s a fair amount of social interaction in our lives outside of this,” Helms says of the bond the three have formed over the course of the movies, particularly the physically testing Bangkok shoot.
Cooper, nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for his role in Silver Linings Playbook, agrees.
“You know, chemistry’s a big thing,” he says. “I think that the three of us work well together. It’s easy and it just feels right. You also have Ed Helms and Zach Galifi anakis who are just unbelievable comedic talents, and they created two great characters.”
THE HANGOVER PART III
Opens at Village Cinemas on May 23
THE WOLF PACK: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifi anakis and Ed Helms in The Hangover Part III.