It's been a long road for the Wolf Pack and for ComingSoon.net, too, along the way.
We were in Las Vegas back in 2008
, visiting the production of the original comedy in and around Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Two years later, it was off to Thailand
(by way of Burbank) for The Hangover Part II
. Now, with The Hangover Part III
hitting theaters May 24 and ending Todd Phillips' trilogy, we're finally allowed to share our very last on-set adventure with Phil, Stu and Alan.
"Much to the chagrin of some people," Phillips smiles on a soundstage made up to represent a seedy Tijuana motel, "it goes darker… Funnily enough, there's a line in this scene that we shot yesterday, which I turned to Dan Goldberg, my producing partner, and I said, 'That's the tagline for the movie.' Which is when Chow turns and he goes, 'And then, everything went black!' 'Everything Went Black' is also the title of a Black Flag album, but it's also a great tagline for this movie in a weird way. Because 'everything went black' makes you think, 'Oh, is it another blackout?' No, no, no. It just got very dark… People die in this movie."
"It's different from the previous 'Hangover' films," says Ken Jeong, returning as Leslie Chow. "It doesn't follow the formula of a forgotten night or a bachelor party. I think it deals with the consequences of actions in general."
"[T]here are ways that both of the first two movies weave into a narrative that you didn't see coming," teases Ed Helms. "…It pulls things from [The Hangover] and [The Hangover Part II] that you didn't know may have been part of a larger narrative."
"[T]his movie is Alan coping with the things that he's done wrong and coming to grips with that," adds Zach Galifianakis. "So there's the other side of it, not just the mishaps of the character. It's also him trying to improve himself, which is kind of fun to do… In a way it is Alan's awakening a little bit."
"This is Alan's story, in a way," Phillips continues. "And it's funny, because I've read on the internet how people say it's about breaking Alan out of a mental institution, which I can honestly tell you it is not about… It's not a hangover. It's not a missing night. There's no drinking in the movie, or excessive drinking, I should say. It just takes a totally different turn, and it catches the guys two years after the last movie and where they are in their lives. And it's kind of a movie about a crisis. Alan, his own personal crisis, is probably the best way to describe it. Best way of saying something without saying anything."
To that end, plots specifics were kept to a minimum on set, but the day's scene has the Wolf Pack arriving at a Tijuana hotel with Chow. It's unclear why any of them are there but, as they enter the room, someone knocks over a cage, setting loose several chickens prepped for cockfighting. The trio is overcome by feathers and flapping as Chow pulls out a revolver, attempting (but mostly failing) to shoot the birds as they fly around the room (click on the photos for bigger versions).
"The chickens are difficult," jokes Cooper. "They have crazy hours… Very big divas. It's actually the same trainer that had Crystal the Monkey in the second one."
"There was one take, that third take, I think, where there were four chickens descending on me," laughs Helms. "And I watched playback and I definitely had a little Hitchcock recollection there."
"I think that pretty much says it all," grins Keong. "It's like, 'Chow' and 'cockfighting.'"
Among the newcomers to the cast this time around is John Goodman, playing a mysterious antagonist who has need of the Wolf Pack's assistance and who plans to take it by any means necessary.
"When you do work with an actor that's been in a lot of stuff," says Galifianakis, "I think sometimes people get intimidated. To me it's just kind of exciting to be able to work with these experienced people. And Todd is very good at casting. But there is a moment when you're standing next to this big, great American actor and you think, "God, I used to watch this person in 'The Big Lebowski,' and all this stuff, and now I'm in the same state with him." You know? That intimidation goes away and you get to work. But John is a big laugher and he's a big man, and he fit in quite nicely with all of us."
While the final adventure promises new characters and environments, some familiar faces will be appearing as well. Heather Graham is set to reprise her role as Jade and the story will also see the gang returning to Las Vegas.
"I was so excited to go back and go to Rao's and stay at Caesars," says Cooper, "and to do all the things we did the first time. We all felt like, 'Oh, my God, it's going to be different. We're going to get bombarded!' Nothing. Literally. It's like Vegas is completely indifferent to anything that happens there. It's wonderful."
As much fun as the cast is having concluding the trilogy, the mood on set is bittersweet knowing that this is truly the gang's last hurrah.
"It feels like the one thing that was unanswered in those movies was, how is this guy going to turn out? Meaning Alan," Phillips says. "How is he going to be okay? It doesn't make sense. So I feel like, through this, once that's complete there isn't really much else to do with it. We wouldn't do it. We would never do another one."
"This is actually a really interesting and exciting year for me," adds Helms, "because both 'The Office' and 'The Hangover' are wrapping up. And I actually feel an incredible amount of pride in both of those things, and also in the way that they're ending… We're kind of going out with a bang, and in a way that is, I think, exciting for fans, but also exciting for us and respectful of the franchise. I don't feel like we're cheapening it in any way, or taking the easy way out. It's actually a really fun and elegant ending, in a way."
"To say that it changed my life is an understatement," says Jeong. "I think Keith Richards said the turning point for him in his life came when his life changed from black and white to Technicolor, and that's what the first 'Hangover' did for me. It just changed my whole career."
"Zach and I lived in Venice," Cooper recalls of his earliest days on the first film, "and I got his number and I said, 'Hey, man, I'm going to drive to Vegas. You want to drive?' And he said, 'Sure.' So that was actually kind of great. We got to know each other on that ride up, which was perfect. The ride out. And then Ed was doing 'The Office,' so he was only here for two days and then he was gone - it was crazy, that first movie. And then we just sort of made it work on set. But then, having gone through Thailand together, and then we actually all wound up spending New Year's together that year after we shot the movie, and then having to go through the promotion of it and having it be as successful as it has been, you sort of cling together, the three guys, against the storm of the success. And that's a bonding experience in and of itself. The ride of the movie itself has bonded us."
"You know, I probably will get a little [emotional]," says Galifianakis. "It's one of these things that's like, 'Well, I can't play that character anymore. I won't do that again in a thing.' Obviously, I'll probably play a variation of a weirdo, because you get painted into a corner in this business. But yeah, I think I'll be very sentimental about it. These movies have been very good to the actors in this, and we want to return it by being good to the audience as much as we can. How much are movies? Ten bucks? Thirteen? I haven't paid for a movie since 'Yentl.'"
The Hangover Part III
arrives in theaters on May 24.