Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis on The Hangover


Some people just can’t handle Vegas and Warner Bros.’ raunchy and hilarious new comedy The Hangover shows you what can happen if you party just a little too hard. In the Todd Phillips-directed film, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis play three guys who go to sin city for a bachelor party. When things get out of hand and they lose the groom (Justin Bartha), they are desperate to do anything to find him and save the wedding. recently went to Vegas and talked to the guys about their new film and what it was like for them playing such outrageous characters.

Q: Was that the greatest CGI in the world, or did you really lose a tooth?
Ed Helms: No. There was no CGI at all. This is an implanted tooth that my dentist was able to take out for the run of the movie.

Q: How did you lose it?
Helms: It’s a birth defect, actually. I never had a tooth there.

Q: Really?
Helms: Yeah. I never had a tooth. So I don’t have any kind of cool story.
Bradley Cooper: You had a baby tooth though, didn’t you?
Helms: I had a baby tooth. When the baby tooth fell out, I never had an adult tooth that came in.

Q: Did Todd know that, or was that already in the script?
Helms: It was in the script. Todd didn’t know it. And we actually tried alternatives first for a while. We tried to black it out. We did some screen camera tests blacking it out. And they made a prosthetic for me, and they gave it to me, and I was like, “This is like the worst joke ever. This is my first big part in a movie, and I look like a horse!” It waslike a picket fence with a gap in it that fit over my normal teeth. And I was like, “No. This is vetoed!” And then they came up with the implant, and I talked to my dentist, and he said, “Yeah, we can do it.”

Q: Anybody else have any birth defects that helped their role?
Zach Galifianakis: I was born with this beard.
Helms: That’s a skin condition. That’s not an actual beard, it’s a fungus.

Q: Zach, how much of your character was in the script, and how much did you invent?
Galifianakis: Well, the script was very well written, but you take a little bit of your own things that are in your mind for the character and kind of add it. But a lot of it was there already. But Todd Phillips let us add to our characters and improvise, and it worked. I think it worked. I haven’t seen the movie.

Q: So was it your decision or was the script that he idolizes Bradley’s character?
Galifianakis: That was something we kind of came up with as we were doing it. Because I myself fell in love with Bradley Cooper as an actor, so I thought, “Well, we’ll just put that in the movie.” And yeah, I don’t think that was in the script.
Cooper: No, it wasn’t. Yeah. I just remember us talking about it like halfway through, we thought…
Galifianakis: Yeah, it would be funny…
Cooper: Because the three of us are together the whole movie, and it’d be great to sort of see what happens. Because if you spend the time with each other, your dynamic will change. So Stu and Phil sort of reconnect, because they were obviously friends years ago, because they were best friends. So they reconnect. And then Alan and Phil, we just came up with this idea that he starts to sort of idolize Phil. And Phil sort of starts to really appreciate Alan, too. Even from the beginning when he swerves the car into the truck where everybody’s flipping out, Phil loves it.
Helms: That’s one of my favorite traits of Alan’s, is how much he idolizes Phil. [laughs]
Cooper: When he says it like, “Does my hair look like Phil’s?” at the end.
Helms: At the end, he wanted his hair to look just like Phil’s.
Cooper: We pitched that to Todd, remember?
Galifianakis: That was a last minute thing. We changed it. Right before we shot the closing scenes.
Helms: And then another thing that was totally Zach and not in the script was your character’s penchant for saying the word “classic.”
Cooper: Oh, that’s right!
Helms: Which became like…
Cooper: …a tagline.
Helms: Our cast and crew gift at the end was a hat that said “classic.” And that actually came up with the hair moment at the end, too, when you’re like, “Does my hair look like Phil’s?” And we were like, “How do I respond? Do I blow him off? Do I just kind of like call him an idiot?” And I was like, “No, it should be something warm that shows a connection.” So we agreed on “classic” Phil. It was a little tribute to Alan.
Galifianakis: It came together really well.

Q: What was it like shooting in Vegas and spending such a long time at Caesar’s Palace?
Cooper: It served the movie very well, because you sort of can’t fake that feeling of what it’s like to be here for a month and a half in a casino. So it really fueled everything. Because there’s a grittiness. Vegas is sort of the fifth character of the movie. And luckily, we shot the Vegas portion first, and then the L.A. portion second. So we sort of brought what this town does to you to L.A. But yeah, you know, you feel like you’re in this sort of crazy other world when you’re here for so long.

Q: Did it normalize at a certain point?
Cooper: Absolutely. Yeah. I have a lot of anxiety coming to Vegas all the time. I’d get off the airplane and I’d hear the slots and I’d sort of get panicky. And now it’s like home. I can’t believe it. It was really true. It’s sort of comforting, all the sounds. [laughs]
Helms: Yeah. I’ve always thought of Vegas as a sort of like dark wonderland. Like it’s sort of like a sort of f*cked up amusement park. And then when you spend five, six weeks here–and we were shooting all over the city, like places where tourists never go–this city actually becomes normal. Like you start to see the things that really are normal about the city, like little league baseball teams, and a library. [laughs] And like all these things that you just never associate with Vegas. Like, “Wow, people live here. And function here. Pretty normally.”
Cooper: And Zach would go… You went to a lot of little league games in your time.
Galifianakis: [sarcastically] Yes, Bradley, I went to a lot of little league games.
Cooper: Alan has this thing where he can’t be like 500 yards in front of a Chuck E. Cheese. So like Zach, in order to study his character, would go…
Galifianakis: Can I just say, because I’ve said it before, that that does not come from… That can’t be near a school or Chuck E. Cheese or a food court has everything to do with the character Alan wants to hang out with 12-year-olds and skateboard with them, not because he wants to do anything malicious.
Helms: But let me tell you something: I love that you keep throwing that disclaimer out there, but to a parent, there’s no difference.
Galifianakis: Yes! But if you knew the true intentions, you would not be offended by it.

Q: Were there lines in the script that implied that?
Helms: No, this is a retro-fitted explanation. [laughs]
Galifianakis: And that wasn’t in the script, the hinting that he’s had some problems being around children. And then he ends up with a baby. [laughs]

Reporter: You’ll be happy to know that in my notes, I put “Zach wants to hang out in schools because he is a 12-year-old.”
Galifianakis: Right. Can you please…Instead of “Zach,” can you put “Alan”? [Everyone laughs]

Q: Out of all of the adventures you guys go on in the film, do you have a favorite?
Helms: These are some spoilers I guess… I loved the whole sequence of drugging the tiger all the way through [Mike] Tyson’s house. That’s the one glimpse of the night before that you actually see which is Tyson’s security footage.

Q: Which was more intimidating – Tyson or the tiger?
Helms: The tiger was scary as sh*t. Tyson was really cool actually. He was incredibly gracious.
Galifianakis: Tigers kill things and eat their young. That never left my mind.

Q: When Mr. Chow jumps out of the car, how many takes did you do of that scene?
Cooper: Too many. We did a lot. It wasn’t just Mr. Chow. It was the stunt guy too who would jump on my neck. He wasn’t naked though. Mr. Chow was.
Galifianakis: They did a lot of takes with Mr. Chow and the stunt guy, but Bradley was in every take. He caught the guy.
Helms: I can’t believe your spine held up.
Cooper: I know. I don’t understand it. God was good to me that day.

Q: What kind of special relationship do you have now with the guy that jumped crotch first on you?
Galifianakis: You have nut neck.
Helms: You actually got jockage on your cheek.

Q: Were you guys pleased with the level you could take this movie to or did you want to push it even further?
Cooper: There is no level that you could push farther than what Todd Phillips wants to push. You could murmur an idea that you think is outlandish and he’d go, “Yeah, yeah let’s do that in the movie.”
Helms: Todd has no boundaries.
Cooper: He has a very dark sense of humor at times. The whole tone of the movie is suitable to that. It’s really kind of his vision. I realized two weeks in that all I had to was pretty much play Todd. “Oh, I’m just pretty much playing you.”

Q: Can you talk about the tasering scene? Todd really wanted you to be shocked right?
Cooper: Yeah, he did want us to be shocked. Luckily Warner Bros. said that was illegal. So we didn’t do that.
Helms: He’s so funny, Todd, because he’s like, “We really want to taser you because I just want you to have something to react to. I was like, “No, you can’t taser me. I’m an actor.” I can act like I’m being tased. He’s like, “You know we dialed it down from 50,000 to 30,000 volts so it won’t be as bad.”
Cooper: He’s like, “Look at this YouTube footage. See the guy’s fine.”
Helms: The guy looked like he was in a lot of pain. He’s paralyzed on the left side of his body. That was a fun one to shoot because it was just so extreme. Also Rob Riggle is one of the funniest human beings on the planet and thank God he gets a chance to really pop in this movie. Rob Riggle is the cop. I’ve known him for years and I just adore him.
Galifianakis: I was getting ready to say that the other good thing about that scene was there were kids in it, but given what we talked about earlier I realized we should not talk about it. It was fun though to have kids reacting to tasering because tasering by itself that’s funny, but if you add the element of kids there it’s just extra funny. Then they’re clapping and they’re tasering us.

Q: Are you actually spitting on a baby?
Helms: No comment. We did a couple of takes where I… I don’t think spit is the right word. Sprayed maybe a little bit of water at a baby. Oh boy.
Galifianakis: It was actually bleach.
Helms: What you see in the movie is what we shot. It is what it is.

Q: Ed, you work in an ensemble cast as well on “The Office” so is that something you can bring from the show to a film like this?
Helms: Yeah well I don’t know. I think every part is different and Stu fits in with these guys very differently than Andy Bernard fits in with the cast of “The Office.” I guess in terms of understanding a group dynamic, maybe having the eagerness to be playful with other people. The generosity too I would think – that’s a huge thing on the set of “The Office.” Everyone wants to give everyone else a lot of space to shine and be funny. And that crossed over here too. One of the really fun things about this movie is that we are as people really different and then our characters are also very different from each other so there wasn’t any sense of competition because what was funny for Zach wasn’t funny for me or Bradley. We could all be ourselves and not feel threatened. That’s the hallmark of a good ensemble and that’s a testament to Todd’s casting.

Q: Can you talking about the song you’re singing in the movie.
Helms: Yeah totally. That was the day of. Todd said, “let’s get the song in the movie,” so I went off and wrote it. Todd and I did the words together and we shot it right away.

Q: Brad, you’ve been rumored to be in “Green Lantern” for a while. Is there a reason playing that character would be especially meaningful for you?
Galifianakis: Oh was that to Bradley?

Q: Have you been in talks with the studio?
Cooper: No, it’s a great character. But I don’t know.

Q: Are you a fan of the comics?
Cooper: Sure. Yeah.

Q: Have you been trying on rings?
Cooper: No.

The Hangover hits theaters on June 5th.