In 2008’s phenomenal success, The Hangover, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Justin Bertha (along with Bradley Cooper) went on an unforgettable adventure in Las Vegas. In The Hangover 2 the ‘Wolfpack’ is on their way to Thailand, where Stu (Helms), Alan (Galifianakis) and Phil (Cooper) will find themselves in a cheap Bangkok hotel, with a monkey and no recollection of how they got there. Luckily for Doug (Bertha), he was left behind at the luxury hotel, lying happily by the pool.
The actors spoke with us about the sequel, the extraordinary success of the first movie and the challenges of working in Thailand, well, for everyone but Justin!
What was the most challenging thing that happened to you in Thailand?
Ed: I had a very serious hurdle to get past the first week, which was severe food poisoning. Well, it never fully went away, and maybe I should just leave the rest up to your imagination. Let’s just say, my body exploded.
Zach: I think just getting used to the city for the first few days, and the jetlag was a little bit tough, but once you got there and you got settled in, the people are so brilliantly nice that you feel welcomed. It’s a great society, it really is.
Justin: I spent most of the time by the pool, so the funniest thing that happened to me was I ordered a diet coke once and I got a regular coke!
Were you disappointed not to go on the adventure with the other guys?
Justin: Yeah, of course I would love to spend time with them, but when I got the script and I saw what Doug was doing I was very excited just because it was a fantastic script and I’ve total faith in Todd (Phillips, the director) and everyone else, and I’m just happy to be a part of it in general. I did Kraft Service on this movie.
What were the joy and pains of working with Crystal the monkey in this?
Ed: My favorite part about Crystal is, her trainer was this guy named Tom (Gunderson) who was a sweet guy, but whenever he needed Crystal to do something, he would literally just say, ‘Crystal, jump on the table, jump on the table, jump on the table.’
Then Crystal would do it. I don’t know if Crystal actually understands English, or if she just is able to read the energy based on what he’s saying, but I just found it so hilarious that her trainer would just repeat an English command over and over and over again until she eventually did what she needed to do.
What was it like working with Todd Phillips again?
Justin: Todd is the leader of the ‘Wolfpack.’ When we’re shooting, he gets as close to the edge of frame as possible, and when he has an idea, he’ll just spit it out in the middle of the action. I think that lends an immediacy to the scenes and makes the whole thing so alive.
Zach: Todd’s sense of humor is not about telegraphing the joke necessarily, but letting jokes hit that you don’t expect. And I think all of us really like the unexpected.
What was it that you brought to these characters this time around?
Ed: I think the first movie we were defining those characters and discovering them ourselves.
They were really more just conventional archetypes in a way that we just added our own accents and inflections to. When it came time for the second movie, it was very exciting, because we were able to add dimension to these characters, because we’d already done the homework, we knew who they were.
We knew what the relationships were and [screenwriters] Craig (Mazin) and Scot (Armstrong) and Todd gave us a lot of fun stuff that just fleshes these guys out.
Getting to go to Stu’s dental office, just [added] more layers on these guys that was fun to explore.
Zach: We all wanted to see us turning against each other a bit, which was fun to watch. It calls for it for Phil and Stu to kind of clash.
I admire Phil but he gets mad at me and he’s been real gentle with me in the first one, but this one I think he’s at his wit’s end so I think that was something new that we explored. As Ed was saying, to go behind the scenes to see people in their environment, to see Alan in his bedroom, I think is really kind of fun.
Is Alan crazier this time?
Zach: Yeah, I think he’s hidden a lot of mental trouble for [most] of his life.
The first movie became such a phenomenon, when you were filming it did you have any sense that it would become so iconic? And why do you feel it did become such a success?
Ed: There was some kind of lightning in a bottle that the first film captured. We found it to be hilarious, but you can’t be sure until a movie is out there if it’s going to resonate with anybody else. Thankfully, it did.
Justin: There was an inclusive quality that the movie has. It is about the characters and I think they are very identifiable, but I think the fact that it’s a detective story is a part of it and the audiences feel like they’re included with this ‘Wolfpack,’ and they are on this journey with them.
I think that’s the secret weapon of why it became such a big hit. I don’t know about the other guys, but I still can’t really wrap my head around the fact that it’s become this cultural phenomenon, I don’t think it’s possible to really digest that.