With just days to go before the much-anticipated release of The Hangover Part II, ComingSoon.net is bringing you a week of exclusive interviews with the cast and crew. If you missed yesterday’s, please check out our first conversation with writer/director Todd Phillips by clicking here.
Though he’s been a comic for more than a decade, Zach Galifianakis became a household name with the role of Alan Garner in the first The Hangover. Reprising the part for the sequel, Zach re-teams with Bradley Cooper’s Phil and Ed Helms’ Stu as the action moves from Las Vegas to Bangkok.
ComingSoon.net sat down with the actor to talk about maintaining Alan’s childlike persona for a second film, the sometimes-subtleties of comic delivery and how he’s been dealing with increasing Hollywood fame.
Please be aware, the below interview does contain some minor spoilers:
ComingSoon.net: I’m sure a lot of people have been asking you about the shaved head, but was it your idea and how comfortable were you with shaving it?
Zach Galifianakis: What happened was that my original idea was to catch my beard on fire and wake up with it singed off. Or at least half of it. But that became a real makeup/continuity problem. So someone said — I don’t remember who — that we should shave my head. But originally, it was going to be that the beard caught on fire. That would have been a whole big stunt and makeup thing, so we went with the shaved head.
CS: One of my favorite sequence in the film was the dream/flashback sequence that shows the whole cast as little kids. I talked about it with Todd and it didn’t even occur to me before that that those kids had to be in Thailand for the whole production. Did you get to interact at all with the mini-Alan?
Galifianakis: He’s a very, very cool kid. I hope he hasn’t seen the movie. (laughs) God forbid. You know, child actors that young, I sometimes feel bad for them. How much of it is their decision to be an actor? But that kid is super, super good and super sweet. I think he told me that he’s not allowed to see the movie, which makes me happy. You need to let children be children. But we were on-set together because we’d shoot a scene and then they’d shoot a scene to copy us. He was physically just funny. Really, really funny to me.
CS: Before seeing the film, I had seen the trailer over and over and there’s a bit where you’re in the car and shout, “Oh my word!”. I missed it, the first few times, how funny the phrasing there is and now it just cracks me up. I think that’s a really good example of how your humor works and one of the reasons the first film has a lot of re-watch-ability. Is that natural for you or do you target jokes expecting them to grow on people?
Galifianakis: That’s the kind of observation that makes me really happy, because that’s what we like. Some subtlety. Not that that was a subtle line, but it wasn’t the big thing of that scene. It kind of gets buried. I think that if you watch it on a second viewing, you might think about how “Oh my word!” is such an old lady thing that people say. Alan doesn’t curse. I don’t like cursing in movies. I feel like cursing has become the new hackiness. You try to find substitutions for cursing. Anyone can say “Oh, f–k”, but “Oh my word!” is something that you would only hear your great aunt say. For Alan to say it, who only hangs out with adults because he lives in his parents’ house and doesn’t have any friends, it’s kind of a — not that it’s that thought out — something that is just what he knows.
CS: And there’s the sense that it gets perpetuated because everyone treats him, in turn, like a child.
Galifianakis: Yeah, right. You’re exactly right.
CS: Do you keep track of interesting phrases when you’re out in the world or does it just click when you’re performing?
Galifianakis: I think the other line which didn’t make it into the movie is Alan saying, “What a sight!” I know I was filming with Todd somewhere — maybe on “Due Date” — and I said, “What a sight!” I heard my girlfriend’s family member say it in Canada and I wrote it down, thinking, “That’s a great thing. ‘What a sight!’ I’ll use it.” Those expressions you don’t hear anymore. People go, “What the f–k?” or whatever now they say. I like those old-timey expressions. There’s an innocence to it. Alan is very innocent and you want to keep that. He doesn’t know how to curse. If he did it, it would only be to impress someone and go, “Isn’t that cool?” Cursing isn’t his thing.
CS: The first film really opened up the whole world to you and your comedy —
[Zach sighs and slams his head down on the phone in front of him]
Galifianakis: Oh, wait. I was hoping to get [the dial tone].
[He tries again, sighing as he slams his head into the phone, setting off the dial tone.]
Galifianakis: (laughs) I mean, it’s a drag. I’m not good with it. As a comic, it’s anti-comedy to be known. I think a lot of comedic actors get lost in this world of Hollywood and all this stuff. They lose what brought them there in the first place. I’m very trepidatious about it. I just don’t want it to happen. That’s part of the reason that I don’t like to be in this town that much. You get swallowed up in it. There’s tracking and all this stuff that people get caught in. I keep my distance as much as I can.
CS: Does it make you want to radically change things or do you just feel like you’re going to keep doing what you want to do and let other people worry if they don’t like it?
Galifianakis: I try to ignore it. I just try to keep myself a traditionalist. I liked being an underground comic doing my thing. I want to maintain that. I just do. Privacy is big for me. To do interviews even, I have a very love/hate with it. Talking about it almost kind of ruins it in a way. No offense, of course. But you have to promote the movie so it’s one of the Catch-22s of it. You’re in a successful thing, but you try to be as grounded as you can as a comic. That’s what I’m trying to do, maintain normalcy.
The Hangover Part II hits theaters this Thursday, May 26th.