One of the more exciting aspects of last week’s CinemaCon was the return of prodigal son Todd Phillips, whose trailer for The Hangover debuted there two years ago to huge acclaim. The prolific comedy director was there to present the first full trailer for The Hangover Part II, which appeared almost simultaneously online, as part of Warner Bros.’ The Big Picture 2011. The anticipated sequel has the characters played by Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis traveling to Bangkok in Thailand for another bachelor party (this time for Helms’ Stu) and waking up the next morning after blacking out everything that happened the night before.
Phillips is clearly exhausted after making three back-to-back movies with no break in between, but he’s also fairly anxious about letting too many of the surprises for the sequel get out before people have had a chance to see the full movie for themselves. Even so, ComingSoon.net had two chances to talk to Phillips briefly, once before the presentation and once after, so we mostly talked to him about how making the sequel compared to the original and a similar line of questioning.
ComingSoon.net: One thing I’m really impressed by is how fast you make movies. I noticed that with the first “Hangover” and then “Due Date” came out pretty quickly, but I noticed that there’s a lot more action in the trailer and you mentioned earlier the difficulties with shooting in Bangkok.
Todd Phillips: Here’s the thing. The thing is, I don’t have a life, I really don’t, maybe on the first “Hangover.” Since the first “Hangover,” there hasn’t been a day I’ve had off. I’m physically exhausted. (Laughs) It’s crazy. It is, because I don’t make movies that look they were shot in a room, like a TV show. You see movies that look like TV shows, and you go, “What the f*ck is this, it looks like it was shot in three sets and what the f*ck?” We try to make epic films. I think “The Hangover” and I think “Due Date” and I know “The Hangover 2″ have a real cinematic scale to them that I take really seriously as a filmmaker. I’m honored to be able to do it. I want to make movies. I meant what I said up there when I was like, “If I wanted to make TV I’d be making TV.” I love making movies. A, I appreciate you noticing because it has been a bit of a ridiculous schedule to do three movies in three years – I don’t know that anybody has been doing that a lot, and I don’t recommend it and I’m definitely going to take some downtime. (Laughs)
CS: The trailer looked really stylish, and I don’t know if it’s the same DP you’ve used in the other films…
Phillips: Yeah, it is. He’s always my guy, yeah. I have had the same team of everybody since almost the beginning. We all make movies together, and I just love the family vibe of making a movie. It’s the best part about it.
CS: What was cool about the first “Hangover” is that you wrote it for your friends with them in mind. I’ve talked to Ed and Bradley in the last couple of months, and I was curious whether there was a very different vibe making the sequel and was it harder?
Phillips: It was crazy. I don’t know what they said, but for me, day one of shooting “The Hangover Part II” was like we never stopped shooting the other movie. Surely, Zach and I had just done “Due Date” together and that came out six months ago, but everyone just fell into their thing, and there wasn’t the nervousness that you always have at the beginning of your movie of like, “Where is this character coming from? What am I doing?” Everybody was so informed as to what they were playing, and I was informed as to what movie I was making. The cameraman was informed. It was just sort of was, in a weird way, so easy. The difficult part was just being in Bangkok and just being disconnected from everything else. It’s not a very film-friendly culture, you know? So that part was difficult and the language and all that stuff, crews, it’s harder, but the movie was just such a fun time because we all just sort of knew our roles.
CS: I think the first movie, you found the script and you developed it for them. This one, you obviously developed from the very beginning, so in the two years since the last movie, had you talked to any of those guys about where they wanted their character to go?
Phillips:; I would pitch them ideas as I saw them around and we all stayed in touch because we’re friends. Even when we were shooting “Due Date” I was like, “Do you think Alan, dah, dah, dah, dah?” and he’d laugh or not, but they also let me make the movie, which is super-great. I definitely–just because I trust them and because it’s their movie as much as mine–involved them in it, just updating them. Ed’ll send an email, “Where’s the script at? Dah, dah, dah,” and I’ll give him like bullet points of what it is. He’ll be like, “That sounds great,” or “Why?” So yeah, in some ways just a little bit just out of just the normal just staying in touch communication.
CS: I know you’re busy, but have you had a chance to keep up with what they’ve been doing in other movies?
Phillips: I’ve seen “Limitless” and I’ve seen “Cedar Rapids.” I actually see all their movies, yes, and I saw “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” and I liked all the movies. I really loved “Cedar Rapids” and I thought Bradley is just a f**king movie star now. I mean, I just think he’s going to crush it.
CS: Oh yeah, having “Limitless” open at number one, that was great for him.
Phillips: It’s great, yeah.
CS: I asked you this before “The Hangover” with taking on Will Ferrell and “Land of the Lost,” so how do you feel about taking on Jack Black Memorial Day weekend?
Phillips: Why? What’s Jack Black in?
CS: “Kung Fu Panda 2.”
Phillips: Right, but that’s a kids’ movie.
CS: It’s a kids’ movie, I know, but that’s the weekend everyone is watching this summer.
Phillips: Is it?
CS: It’s gonna be the weekend everyone thinks is going to have two $80 million movies.
Phillips: Oh my God. I don’t know that there’ll be an R-rated movie that’s $80 million, there hasn’t been, but I just see that not as a competition. I think this summer is gonna be a blood battle all around. I think there’s a lotta big movies coming out. I mean, it’s scary. I don’t think anything’s a sure thing, even “Kung Fu Panda 2″ or “Hangover 2.” It’s just like, who knows what’s gonna happen? But it’s fun, it’s part of the fun.
CS: One thing I realized that you don’t have to show much from this movie in advance because people will want to see it regardless, and I think the teaser was cool for that reason.
Phillips: I agree with you on that.
CS: You don’t have to show anything because you can just say, “These guys are back.”
Phillips: I like that. I cut that teaser where they’re just walking, it’s just like confidence like, “Hey, you’re either with us or you’re not. We don’t care. Come or don’t. Here’s the f**king thing.” (Laughs)
CS: Do you know what you’re going to do for the commercials so they don’t give away too much?
Phillips: Well, I mean, the truth is we’re constrained by the fact that we’re R-rated, so you can’t give – even the trailer you just saw, that’s a PG-13 trailer, so by the nature of the movie, we’re holding so much stuff back just because you can’t show it. So believe me, you won’t believe the R-rated surprises that exist in “The Hangover” that you won’t see touched on in commercials or trailers, really.
CS: It was great seeing you again.
Phillips: You too. Thanks for doing this.
CS: I hope you get a couple of days off.
Phillips: (Laughs) Yes, I will.
Now let’s travel back in time to before the presentation when we had a chance to talk to Phillips briefly about being back in Vegas to show the first footage to exhibitors as well as filming in Bangkok:
The Hangover Part II opens nationwide on May 26.