" 'The Hangover' was lightning in a bottle," director Todd Phillips told us back in September of his $467 million-grossing comedy. "You can't judge other successes or other movies based on it."
Well, what if you just so happen to catch that lightning again? And what if, it turns out, you managed to bottle a whole lot more this time? Then can we do some comparing and contrasting with the original? Perhaps even Phillips wouldn't object at this point, with some industry insiders suggesting that "The Hangover Part II" could reel in more than $120 million domestically over the five-day Memorial Day holiday weekend. No R-rated film in history has opened to more than $100 million in box-office receipts. So how did Phillips & Co. reach this ultra-lucrative point? To understand that, we have to flash all the way back to before the June 2009 release of the original "Hangover," when the film was testing so well in early screenings that Warner Bros. started making plans for a sequel. Just after the flick opened to $45 million, another "Hangover" was officially a go. Where the filmmakers went from there is something you'll find out below in another MTV News cheat sheet: everything you need to know about "The Hangover Part II." Sobering Up "We were thinking of sequel ideas when we were shooting, which sounds cocky, but we were doing it more because it was just fun to talk about ideas while hanging out on the set," Phillips told us in June 2009. "Two weeks ago I was saying, 'Let's see how it works out.' Now that the movie has really connected, it's something we're doing for sure." The question was, would all four stars — Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms and Justin Bartha — return for a new adventure? And how would Phillips spin another "Hangover" story after a ridiculous, couldn't-possibly-happen-twice tale set in Las Vegas? By December of that year, Phillips seemed to have his answer — he just wasn't going to let the secret get out. "It doesn't take place in Vegas, but it's certainly the same characters," he revealed. Then Phillips and his team kept their heads down and worked on a script — one which, we found out nearly a year later, would take the Wolf Pack to Thailand for the wedding of Helms' character, Stu. True to Galifianakis' word, shooting kicked off in the fall of 2010. Glug, Glug, Glug Our first peek at the "Hangover Part II" production came in October 2010, with a shot of the boys in an airport (Ontario doubling for LAX) on their way to Southeast Asia. That same month, news broke that Mel Gibson had signed on for a brief cameo as a tattoo artist. But after cast protests reportedly cropped up, the controversial actor was dropped from the film and Liam Neeson was hired to take over the role. (Neeson, in turn, was eventually replaced by Nick Cassavetes). "We just had a long talk about it, I explained it," Phillips told us of his conversation with Gibson to let him know about the recasting. "He certainly understood, you know. He wasn't happy, but he certainly wasn't upset. I mean, it just was kind of a bummer because I think he understood the intention of the casting and the role." Production wrapped up on January 1 of this year, and a teaser trailer dropped the next month. "It's truly a teaser, so it might end up frustrating more than solving questions," Phillips told us shortly before the promo arrived. He wasn't kidding: We could tell that the pals were in Thailand, that things were not turning out very well for them and that Helms somehow got stamped with a Mike Tyson-style facial tattoo. But other than that, plot info was hard to come by. A full "Hangover Part II" trailer appeared in April, giving us more information about the storyline. The shenanigans get started after Stu's rehearsal dinner, when one beachside drink leads to the guys waking up in a shady hotel. Stu's soon-to-be brother-in-law is missing; Ken Jeong's hilarious gangster, Mr. Chow, is hanging out; and everyone has to get back to the resort before the wedding ceremony is set to begin. Recovery As the film's Thursday (May 26) release date approached, we began to chat with the stars and get their insights into what the sequel would offer fans. "[It's] disturbing, horrifying, unnerving," Helms told us. "Oh, and also hilarious. I forgot that ... Lots of craziness happened on set, and you'll see all of that in the movie." Cooper declared that he believes the second film is funnier than the first, which made any initial nervousness secondary to his enthusiasm. "I think it was more excitement once we got the second script, which was really wonderful — actually stronger than the first one," Cooper said. "It was just utter excitement to play these characters again and hopefully deliver a movie where fans will be excited to see what happened. We get to see where [Galifianakis'] Alan lives, we get to see Stu progress to two years, [my] Phil as well, so I think it was just exciting to hopefully provide a lot more comedy for people who liked the first one." That's exactly what Phillips is hoping too. "I think there are very few sequels that have been made that live up to or exceed their first film. 'The Godfather' is the first one," he told us. "We had always planned on calling it 'The Hangover 2,' and when we finished the script, I changed the cover page and wrote 'The Hangover Part II,' because I think the film lives up to or exceeds the first one. It was very much a nod to 'The Godfather.' " Check out everything we've got on "The Hangover Part II." For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com.