In The Hangover Part 2, the Wolfpack -- Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and Alan (Zack Galifianakis) -- head to Bangkok, Thailand, for Stu’s wedding. Unfortunately, things go pretty much like they do anytime these three go on vacation together. The cast and director Todd Phillips sat down recently to answer questions about shooting in Thailand, pushing the boundaries of comedy, and where the Wolfpack might head in the next sequel. Check out Part 2 of the interview below, and read Part 1 here!
Note: Light spoilers.
Question: You obviously need to get permission to shoot in a country like Thailand. Did you have to pull back on any jokes to pull that off?
Todd Phillips: “As a producer on the movie, I can tell you that we did have to show the script to Thai government and Thai film officials and the film office of Thailand. They were really pretty great with what they saw. There are certain touchy, hot-button issues in Thailand that we just naturally avoided. Everything there they read and saw. I think again, the same way Vegas really embraced us filming The Hangover there and benefited from it afterwards, I think, Bangkok was really happy to have The Hangover Part 2 there. The prime minister visited the set. It wasn’t like we were there shooting a small little movie. Everyone knew we were there. It was in the paper all the time. We had a blast. I think they were happy to have us, but you’re right, a lot of people don’t know, it’s actually kind of a conservative city and culture.”
Question: Speaking of Thailand ... what should I check out when I’m there next?
TP: “For me, Bangkok is just one of the most beautiful cities. That’s where you have to go. Bangkok’s a very cosmopolitan city. In our movie, we shot a lot in the Chinatown district of Bangkok. We really took a liking to the look and the feel of that area, but Bangkok as a city is just a beautiful, unbelievable cosmopolitan city. I was there for about three months, and still felt like I could’ve stayed longer, just more to see. But Thailand, in general, is beautiful. These guys went to a lot of the islands at some points.”
Bradley Cooper: “Yeah, we spent Christmas in Chiang Mai, which is incredible. But I would echo what Todd said. For me, I just fell in love with Bangkok. We spent two weeks in a resort town, and I couldn’t wait to get back to Bangkok.”
Question: Was there a restaurant or bar you liked?
BC: “I actually took a liking to Top Menu, which was a Chinese restaurant that I ate at a lot in Bangkok.”
TP: “Yeah, definitely check out Top Menu. It’s the best.”
Edward Helms: “It’s just like any Chinese takeout place in New York City.”
BC: “I would totally disagree with you.”
TP: No, he’s wrong. It’s great.
BC: “How dare you, Ed.”
TP: “He wonders why he got food poisoning. It’s that attitude.”
Zack Galifianakis: “There’s another place called Very Top Menu. Don’t go to Bottom Shelf.”
Question: And where might the Wolfpack and the series head if there’s a Hangover Part 3?
TP: “If we were to do a third one -- and quite honestly, we really haven’t talked about it. We just finished the movie two weeks ago. This is the first time we’ve all been together in a while. If we were to do a third one, if the audience, if the desire was there, I think we have a very clear idea where that would head. It’s certainly not in the same template that you’ve seen these movies. Obviously we always envisioned it as a trilogy, as you can imagine. The third would be very much a finale and an ending. The most I could say about it, what’s in my head -- and I haven’t discussed it with these actors -- is that it is not following that template, but very much a new idea. As far as where it takes place, I said I’m very open, like the Olympic committee, to being pitched and presented cities. Flown around with wine and women and bribed. Then I will make my decision.”
ZG: “And the winner is, Salt Lake City.”
Question: Could there maybe be a spinoff?
TP: “Oh yeah. I mean, listen, I love this world that we’ve created. I love every actor in these movies, even all the ones that aren’t here today as well. Who knows? Maybe we do a Mr. Chow movie. I haven’t talked to Ken [Jeong] about it, but Chow is definitely a man of mystery much like Austin Powers. He obviously has a web that is woven deep in crime and women.”
Question: I meant a new group of three comedians.
TP: “Yeah, tell that to these guys and their agents.”
EH: “We’re just like the kids in the Vacation movies.”
TP: “No, I would not see spinning it off like that. I thought you meant in the other way. No, I wouldn’t do that.”
Question: Can you talk about the decision to use the N word? I think it shocked a number of people.
ZG: “I think [my character] Alan, for someone to say that word so cluelessly, it’s funny because it comes out of a place of ignorance. Alan just doesn’t know any better. He’s an idiot, so he gets away with that kind of thing. It’s kind of commenting that anybody that would say that so loosely is an idiot. That word can be very inflammatory, but Alan is such a dimwit that it’s not excusable at all, but you’re making fun of people that would say that word, I think. That’s the way I see it.”
TP: “For me, it’s really an illustration of how left-footed Alan is with the world. It’s just what you do as writers and as a director and an actor -- you sort of exhibit these qualities. You have certain tools with which to work and I think that moment right there just highlights how out of step and out of rhythm -- in fact, he goes, “Oh, I’m on my way, nigg@s,” and then he corrects it wrongly with the N word. It just shows you how backwards Alan’s thinking is and out of step it is. I think that’s what makes Alan’s character fun quite honestly.”
Question: And it does start with Mr. Chow, a bad guy.
TP: “But he’s also a pseudo gangster who obviously uses that word, Chow does, in that way. Then Alan of course, in his left-footedness, misinterprets that. I think that’s the best way to describe it.”
Question: In the movie, Alan’s flashbacks of the Wolfpack show everyone as children. Why is that?
TP: “Well, he sees his friends as children, and to me it was sort of the Michael Jackson idea. Michael, I really believe, thought he was a young kid, so he would surround himself with kids. I think that’s how Alan sees the world. In the first movie, Alan says he can’t go within 200 feet of a junior high or a Chuck E Cheese. He says that not because he’s a child molester, he’s not. He’s just somebody who hangs out with a skateboard at the local junior high because he just wants to be friends. So it’s how he sees himself. There are adults, like if you notice in the flashbacks there are adults. But his posse, his crew, is made up 12-year-old boys.”
Question: The photos you use in the credits have a very cinema verite quality. Do you just shoot them after each scene?
TP: “No, it’s very random, because we have these ideas of where and what we’re going to shoot a scene of. Like, OK, Teddy losing his finger. Then it’s like, ‘Oh, I saw this great Chinese restaurant in the Chinatown section of Bangkok. Let’s shoot the finger thing over there after we’re done today so we get the actors and we literally shoot it with my regular camera, because like you said it’s very verite. We want it to feel very homemade like your friends would post on Facebook with your own little point-and-shoot camera. We do it really by the seat of our pants sort of. Of course, we go clear it with the restaurant. But not a lot of forethought is put into it outside of, this is the basic idea. Then we go and everybody just gets real crazy. It’s a real free-form thing, and these guys will have ideas of what it should be and what to do in the pictures. We had a lot of pictures done in that run-down motel room. All we had was a couple bags of ‘cocaine,’ a monkey, a couple of guns, and that was the idea. We shot 40 to 50 pictures and I love them all. They’re ridiculous photos.”
Question: Do the actors get final say of what gets used?
EH: “Clearly not [judging by what was used].”
Question: How important is surprising your audience, and do trailers frustrate you given how much is given away in them?
EH: “I think there are abundant surprises in this movie. It’s sort of fun to hear about a nugget here or there, and then see where it fits into this movie. This is always a conversation when promoting comedies: how many jokes do you put in the trailer? I don’t think it really matters because, when you’re in the movie, it’s a whole different presentation of that same information.”
TP: “And more specifically to that, because it’s an R-rated movie, you can only show so much [in a trailer]. There are so many things we aren’t able to show on TV and in the trailers just by nature of being R-rated. Most of you, I think, have seen the movie so you know what I’m talking about -- but there is a difference. When you make the first Hangover, it’s nice to make a comedy when you’re flying under the radar. On this movie, obviously we were not under the radar. It was a sequel to a big comedy, the biggest R-rated comedy of all time, so it’s not going to fly under the radar. So you have casting decisions that are getting announced before or people dissecting casting decisions before we’ve even had a chance to shoot the scene. That said, I call these ‘uptown problems.’ The fact that people are anticipating the movie so much that they want to talk about it, whether it’s on the Internet or on entertainment shows, it’s kind of an uptown problem. It’s nice to have them talking about it. It’s a double-edged sword, or I don’t know what the right word is. It’s a single-edged sword, I guess. I don’t know. It’s a spoon.”
Question: When you were shooting the first Hangover, did you have any sense that it would take off like it did? And why do you think it was that it did take off?
TP: “I think it’s quite honestly a bunch of things. I think it’s a lot to do with the unapologetic nature of the comedy. I think a lot of American comedies tend to apologize for their bad behavior in the last 10 minutes of the movie. The Hangover just doesn’t do that. It’s like, ‘F@#k it, whatever. It’s over, leave.” It just doesn’t apologize. You know what I mean? It just sort of has an unapologetic tone that I actually think people responded to because we’re used to a certain way of these stories being told.”
ZG: “By the way, if you went to a party at Todd’s house, that’s how he ends it: [‘F@#k it, whatever. It’s over, leave.’]”