It’s another hazy morning after for the men of the wedding party. Phil (Bradley Cooper) slowly awakes on the floor of a hotel room that’s far seedier than the one he and his buddies shared in Las Vegas. After Alan (Zach Galifianakis) falls out of a ramshackle bed, Phil points out that his hair is missing – Alan first clutches his shaggy beard in horror, before realizing that it’s his head that’s been shaved. They discover Stu (Ed Helms) asleep in the bathtub – this time, Stu’s teeth are intact but he has a shocking surprise when he looks in the mirror: a painfully real facial tattoo (reminiscent of their pal Mike Tyson’s). As Stu starts to panic, the latest member of their entourage makes his debut: a feisty capuchin monkey – dressed, inexplicably, in a sleeveless denim jacket with a Rolling Stones lips logo), who when Alan tries to make friends takes a serious swat at his hand.
The scenario plays out over and over, with the cast and crew dissolving into suppressed giggles as soon as director Todd Phillips calls “Cut” – the monkey’s angry swipe at Galifianakis’ friendly approach gets funnier with each take. The only one who seems unaffected is Phillips’ sweet natured yellow Labrador, who lolls around the soundstage looking for the next affectionate pat.
Welcome to the set of The Hangover – Part II.
The sequel to the smash hit comedy’s set in exotic Thailand – an even more anything-goes setting than the original film’s Vegas locale – where the guys have traveled for another wedding ceremony: this time it’s Stu who’s tying the knot, and it’s his future brother-in-law who’s gone missing after a blackout-plagued night out in Bangkok (though it’s worth mentioning that Justin Bartha’s Doug is also nowhere in sight during this particular scene). Phillips and his crew are eager to bring the production to Thailand, but for now they’ve settled for a convincingly scruffy set in a soundstage on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank.
“You’re coming in on the first day of us waking up, where the engine starts in the film,” Cooper tells the small group of journalists who watch the scene play out. “As you can see we have a new friend,” he grins, nodding to the monkey, who’s real name Crystal and who Cooper worked with previously on Failure to Launch (he particularly remembers a scene where a diaper-less Crystal added her own special touch to his wardrobe … over and over again. “It’s the exact opposite of where we woke up two years earlier.”
“We’re in a slightly less opulent setting,” deadpans Helms, who’s thrown on a robe to cover the fact that he’s been playing the scene in tighty-whiteys. “I've been walking around in my underpants all day. You're a much smaller audience than hopefully this movie will ultimately find. Why should I be bashful? I’ve got to keep the ladies interested. I take these off, the ladies aren’t so interested.”
“This is kind of a run down hotel in Bangkok, in the Chinatown district of Bangkok that they end up waking up in,” explains Phillips. “They came here the night before, late in the night just to sort of crash. Mr. Chow plays a role in this movie – he's an important reason for why they're here in this place.” Phillips admits he’s loathe to say much more about the setup at the risk of killing the big laughs he’s hoping for. “It's a little difficult to answer specific questions, just because so much of the magic of the first film is in the surprise.”
Galifiankis, in a pale yellow tee that appears to feature the face of Phillips’ beloved dog, keeps a discreet distance from the press through most of the downtime, primarily because his shaved head hasn’t been revealed to the public in the film’s trailer at this point (though he and Phillips reveal that Galifianakis wore a convincing wig during their “Due Date” press tour to keep it under wraps). “Just going to an exotic place is going to be fun, especially with this movie and this cast,” says Galifiankis. “Todd has found a place where danger exists and so I think that element really helps the movie.
“There's some element of excitement that comes with these three guys when you see them walking down the street in Bangkok and you know they're kind of out there without a safety net,” says Phillips. “When you say the words ‘Las Vegas’ it means something. When we talked about doing the sequel to 'Hangover' and a location, I wanted to find a city where the world meant something. You could say ‘New York City’ and it doesn't really mean anything. It's a very varied, kind of spread-out city, as far as culturally and all these other things. When you say a word like Bangkok, in my mind it means something. There's not a lot of cities where the world literally brings a picture to your mind.”
“We’re looking forward to what you’re watching right now: us back together again,” says Cooper, and the playful dynamic of the original group is obvious. “Warner Bros. wanted to make a sequel before the first film came out, so it was planted in our mind before the first film was even released. It’s been with us a long time, and we were hoping it would do well so they would follow through with that. Of course we couldn’t anticipate it becoming what it was, but one thing I will say that we’d sit there in Caesars Palace eating dinner after shooting and say ‘Hey, this is pretty good, and this is kind of different.’”
“You can never predict that kind of response to a movie, but we were all confident that we were making something that we liked and that we thought was funny,” agrees Helms. “We’re a couple weeks in on this one, and I can honestly say I feel the same way. I’m laughing a lot!”
Phillips says that the edgy comedy envelope – which was pretty far out in the first film – will be pushed even further this time around. “Everything is a little bit amplified. I think it still feels really real, and that's always a goal for me with all the comedies that I do. But it's amplified just in what's at stake.”
“It's still an R rated studio comedy,” he adds. “We're not making Apocalypse Now, but just like the first one a lot of the comedy came from some of the darker and more twisted and f*cked up situations. So we're not shying away from it, but it's not going to be intentionally so much darker.” He grins as he surveys the unsavory environment surrounding them. “Don't let this set fool you!”