Release Date: May 23, 2013
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Todd Phillips
Screenwriter: Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong, Heather Graham
MPAA Rating: R
It's been two years. Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha) are happily living uneventful lives at home. Tattoos have been lasered off, files purged. The last they heard from disaster-magnet Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), he'd been tossed into a Thai prison and, with him out of the way, the guys have very nearly recovered from their nights prowling the seamy side of Las Vegas in a roofie'd haze, and being kidnapped, shot at, and chased by drug-dealing mobsters in Bangkok.
This film is rated R by the MPAA for pervasive language including sexual references, some violence and drug content, and brief graphic nudity.
About the Production
BUT WHAT ABOUT ALAN?
"We're stuck with him. We're gonna spend the
rest of our lives with him because we're all he
has now. You realize that? We're it." – Stu
In 2009, writer/director Todd Phillips threw a bachelor party the likes of which had never been seen before, and invited the whole world to bond with a group of guys now universally known as the Wolfpack. In 2011, he raised the stakes to show us how far they could be pushed without completely losing it.
By asking—and then answering—the diabolically simple question, What could go wrong?, both "The Hangover" and "The Hangover Part II" not only shattered boundaries and box office records, entertaining millions around the globe, but made an indelible mark on pop culture. Mr. Chow's deranged catch phrases still ring from the most unlikely mouths, and fans from Baltimore to Bosnia sidle up daily to the front desk at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to crack themselves up by requesting "the Hangover suite" or quoting Alan's clueless query, "Is this the real Caesar's palace?"
Now, "We're going for a truly epic finish," says Phillips, as the story takes Phil, Stu, Alan, Doug, and their nemesis Chow south of the border and then back to the original scene of the crime for the saga's fitting conclusion: Las Vegas, where things first went very, very wrong.
What they thought happened in Vegas was only the half of it, which they are about to discover in ways that the filmmakers believe should surprise audiences as much as it surprises the guys. "There's a lot of action and comedy, a heist, a road trip, and an element of mystery, too, as we touch on certain things that weren't explored before but were always part of the undercurrent of the two previous films," Phillips continues. "It brings everything together and wraps it up with an ending that follows its own logic."
Screenwriter Craig Mazin, who first collaborated with Phillips on the script for "The Hangover Part II," recounts how they reached back to the two prior outings to prime that logic. "We uncovered a chain of unfinished business that arcs through all three movies for a final story that doesn't just end on its own, but ends all three. Something happened in the beginning, although few caught its significance, and that thing is going to come back to haunt the guys and start them down a path of what will be, in many ways, their most difficult and challenging journey of all."
Designed more as a quest than the forensic investigations that went before, "The Hangover Part III" shakes up the morning-after structure of its predecessors while still delivering plenty of laugh-out-loud and what-the-hell moments to keep moviegoers on the edge of their seats.
Rather than memory loss, the final chapter hinges on clarity, and things coming into full focus. It's not about a specific hangover this time but harkens back to the original—that mother-of-all hangovers, triggered by Alan, which set all of this into motion six years ago in ways they couldn't imagine.
Bradley Cooper, returning as high school English teacher and unofficial pack leader Phil, says, "There are little story points we maybe glanced by in the original that become pivotal pieces in the larger whole. Speaking as a fan, myself, watching these movies, the best part—and certainly the funniest—is putting it all together."
Part III does not shy away from the dark side, either, the better to give its humor a sharper edge, Phillips feels. "With us it always starts with darkness, because that heightens the comedy. Plus, it just gets more interesting and more real as we bring them into darker places and amp up the tension. It's essentially a fish-out-of-water story for these guys who don't belong in the situation they've been thrown into, so the fun is in watching them struggle and trip their way through it."
"Todd is our captain. We just follow him into battle," says Ed Helms, reprising his role as the perpetually panicked dentist, Stu. "At this point, it's safe to say these characters have been to hell and back...but in a good way. There are some scars. Stu, literally, has one from a regrettable tattoo, not to mention a tooth he'll never get back. But I love these stories and these guys and I was excited to read the script for 'The Hangover Part III,' to see what was in store for them. I kept turning pages and thinking, 'No way, are you kidding me? Where did that come from?'"
Similarly, audiences know these characters well enough now to follow them into any situation and trust that they will somehow prevail. Or have a phenomenally good time trying. "Bottom line: the amount of funny that comes out of these movies is unbelievable," attests Ken Jeong, returning as bad-luck charm Chow. "And this one answers all the questions. You want to know what happened to Chow? You'll get that answer, real quick, and in spectacular fashion."
At the same time, part of what makes "The Hangover Part III" a satisfying conclusion to all the madness is how it copes with the one member of the group who has, thus far, eluded anything resembling growth or self-awareness. Who has ostensibly, throughout all the trauma and drama and near-death experiences, never learned anything and never changed.
In other words..."This one is Alan's story," says Phillips.
"It's kind of bittersweet knowing that, after this, I won't be able to play Alan ever again. It was a nice run, though," Zach Galifianakis remarks, considering the persona that has earned a worldwide following and made a significant impact on his own life and career.
Knowing that "people come to these movies not to be enlightened, but to laugh and be entertained," Mazin adds, "I think we laugh more when we care, and Todd and I care very much about these characters so we wanted to finish this in a meaningful way, and that meant dealing with Alan."
Consequently, "The Hangover Part III" nudges Alan onto an inner journey he desperately needs, that runs parallel to the story's main action. "I hate to suggest he grows up because I don't know how possible that would be, but something definitely starts to change in him, at a cellular level," offers Dan Goldberg, Phillips' longtime producing partner.
"This allowed us to mine comedy from the deeper aspects of the characters," Goldberg continues. "We couldn't rely on the same things that worked before, either in character or story. Alan has given us a lot of laughs, and this movie is no exception, but there comes a time when you think, he can't go on like this. What if he was your friend? One element that comes across so well in these movies is that no matter how insane things get, the friendship feels real. You believe these guys truly care about each other. So the question eventually becomes, how could they allow one of their own to continue on such a self-destructive path?"
Phillips concurs, emphasizing that the Wolfpack dynamic has always been key. "From the beginning, I think these movies work because of the characters and the casting. If we had, say, three Alans, apart from that being impossible, it would be tapping the same vein. These actors are not only funny in their own right, but each one comes from such a different place, comedically, that it makes for an extraordinary chemistry.
"When you watch a movie, you usually identify with a certain character," he further notes. "I think a lot of people see things through Stu's eyes, because he's the one who seems most normal. Confident audience members see through Phil's eyes and some people, if they're completely unhinged, see things through Alan's eyes, but ultimately it's the group they're responding to, and that's a real testament to the actors. Beyond the comedy, beyond the plot, no matter where they wake up or whatever harebrained heist they have to accomplish to get out of trouble, I think people are just happy to get back together with these guys and go along for one last ride."
OK, HERE'S WHAT REALLY HAPPENED
"... and then everything went black." – Chow
Alan is not doing well. In fact, he's not doing much of anything, and his family has grown increasingly concerned. "The guys, led by Doug, who is Alan's brother-in-law as well as his friend, stage an intervention in the hopes of getting him into a facility where he can get some help and put his life in order," says Phillips. "Knowing he can't do it alone, Doug enlists Phil and Stu. So it's helping Alan that brings the four of them together."
Naturally, Alan is resistant, but he finally gives in to the irresistible promise of a road trip with his three best friends.
"Alan has to be told he's having a midlife crisis because he's not aware of it," Galifianakis admits. "He has no idea. I guess it's more like a coming-of-age crisis, but it's hard to come of age when you're already over 40."
Unbeknownst to the four of them, though, Alan's long-overdue bid for mental health coincides with an equally momentous event occurring halfway around the world: Leslie Chow is breaking out of prison, "Shawshank"-style, and, like a malevolent genie freshly uncorked, will waste no time in bringing havoc into the lives of anyone close to him. And no one is closer to him than Alan.
As a result, states Helms, "What starts out as a fairly magnanimous gesture quickly escalates into utter chaos and hell."
Still, Phillips asserts, "If you talk to people who love these movies, they'll often say they wish they had a friend like Alan, and that's largely attributable to Zach. He has such sweetness behind his eyes, that he can say and do most anything and you'll think, 'Oh, he didn't mean it like that.' So he gets away with all sorts of things. People love Alan for his innocence, his big heart, and his ability to just have a good time without worrying about what other people think—which is good, even though he always goes too far and screws it up."
While Alan's unhealthy relationship with Chow ranks high on the list of things that skew his approach to life, there isn't a single member of the Wolfpack who hasn't been affected by its fallout. "It comes to light that Chow did something during the time of the first movie that greatly pissed off a very dangerous enemy. He compounded that offense during the second, and it's all going to come back on him now—and on Alan, Phil, Stu and Doug," warns Goldberg.
Again, it's Phil who is the first to lose patience. However, once dragged in, he will likely be the last to give up. Though some see this alpha-male character as the most level-headed of the group, Cooper disagrees. "If Phil represents the voice of reason, that's a pretty messed up reality they're living in," he suggests. "I think Phil's view on life is demented in its own way. He can be highly moral but, at the same time, it's a very specific and personal code. He marches to the beat of his own drum, so he may seem rational on the surface, but he's actually willing to go to some pretty extreme places to get things done."
Stu is arguably the group's true voice of reason, but since that voice is so often accompanied by screaming and hyperventilation, it's hard to hear. Loyalty and good intentions aside, improvising at a crime scene just isn't his strong suit. Never was; never will be.
"Stu got married to a beautiful, sophisticated woman in 'The Hangover Part II,'" notes Helms. "And, as typically happens when schlubs like him marry women a class above them, it automatically ups his game. So the Stu we first see in 'Hangover Part III' is right away a little cooler, a little more fashionable. But it's all a house of cards. The minute things get scary, Stu reverts back to his true self. Nerd. Major nerd."
If Chow is the catalyst for chaos, and Phil and Stu the ones working for a solution, and if Alan is the linchpin for every mistake and wrong turn they've ever made... then Doug, poor Doug, is the collateral damage.
"Yeah, Doug gets screwed again," confirms Justin Bartha, wryly reflecting on the role that often has him tied up, blindfolded and shoved into the back of a van. "They know where he is this time; they just don't know how to get him back. I think that even if this wasn't the last movie, it would probably still be the last time that anyone ever saw Doug hanging out with these guys. I think he'd be crazy to pick up the phone next time they call because they've gotten him into so much trouble already."
Goldberg takes a more philosophical view: "That's his lot in life, unfortunately. We love Doug, but he's just meant to be kidnapped, misplaced, or stuck on a rooftop."
Similarly, Leslie Chow is just meant to stir up trouble. Ken Jeong first came aboard as Chow in "The Hangover," and his uninhibited portrayal helped develop the supporting role into something vastly more significant, to the delight of fans around the world.
Says Jeong, "Chow is like a squib, a little cap that explodes and makes a mess everywhere. You never know if he has a trace of fear in his heart or not, because that tiny bit of vulnerability he exposes might just be a trick to draw you in. In this film we see him, for the first time, in a seriously compromised position and it's possible that, like Alan, he's finally exploring the consequences of his actions. Or, knowing Chow, maybe not."
"Not to get too highfalutin' about it, but if you look at Greek drama there were humans and gods, and the gods weren't always nice," offers Mazin. "Sometimes they were terrible. They would insert themselves into the lives of humans and they were immortal so you couldn't kill them, you couldn't stop them, and they would just do whatever they wanted and disrupt things for everyone. That's Chow. He's a force of nature. He's the god of mayhem."
But this time the Wolfpack's troubles are far bigger than Chow. Now, the one calling the shots and making the threats is a guy who makes him look like a camp counselor. John Goodman takes on the mysterious role of Marshall, a very bad man in a very bad mood, who sends them on a mission to retrieve something he believes they caused him to lose—with dire consequences if they fail.
"It's hard not to love John Goodman," says Phillips. "He's so versatile. He can play steely and dead-serious or completely whacked out, or a combination of both."
"Marshall is the prime mover behind everything, the kingpin," Goodman describes. "We don't know a lot about him, which is for the best, except that people jump when he snaps his fingers and they do what he tells them to do. He's pretty scary. Also, he dresses like a plush toy; lots of velour. So he's kind of plushy, kind of squeezable and laid-back...and he kills people."
In addition to introducing Goodman into the mix, "The Hangover Part III" re-introduces some familiar faces, including Hangover alum Jeffrey Tambor, as Alan's beloved father, Sid, who helps to set the stage for this third excursion in a dramatic and most unexpected way; and Heather Graham as Jade, the former Vegas stripper who was once very temporarily married to Stu.
One of the few people to have benefited from her entanglement with the Wolfpack, Jade's life has changed for the better since they first staggered through town. Says Graham, "Like many of the fans, there's a part of me that was thinking maybe Jade would end up with Stu, but even though things turned out differently I'm glad to say that she's happy. I wanted a good ending for her. We all did. Jade has stopped stripping, gotten married and become a suburban mom, and it's easy to believe that her brief introduction to nice-guy Stu was the first step in that process."
Of course, where Jade goes, Tyler can't be far away. Audiences will remember the good-natured infant—now four—that Phil, Alan and Stu discovered in their trashed hotel room in "The Hangover," and toted around for a day before identifying him as Jade's son. In fact, Grant Holmquist, the youngster who appears as Tyler in "Part III" was one of several babies who originally shared the role and it was his image on the movie poster art, sporting sunglasses and nestled in a pouch around Alan's neck.
Says Phillips, "He still has those beautiful cheeks and big blue eyes that were so striking. He's not an actor. But he came in and met with us and he seemed very cool. We felt like we knew him, and it was great to have him back."
The filmmakers also welcomed back Mike Epps as the hilariously volatile "Black Doug"—a moniker he clearly hates and was first coined by the guys, in desperate straits, to distinguish him from their missing friend with the same name.
Additionally, Sasha Barrese returns as the anxious Tracy, forced to split her concern between her husband, Doug, and her brother, Alan. Jamie Chung returns as Lauren, the woman Stu risked life and limb to wed in the second film. Sondra Currie appears again as Alan's long-suffering mother, Linda. And Gillian Vigman is still Phil's better half, Stephanie.
WELCOME TO LAS VEGAS
"I told myself I'd never come back." – Stu
"Don't worry. It all ends tonight." – Phil
The film's final recurring character is Las Vegas, itself—or, as Phillips calls it, "the heart of darkness for these guys."
As much as the past six years have impacted Alan, Phil, Stu and Doug, it can't compare to what those years have meant to the real-life principals and fans of this phenomenally popular film franchise since its debut, and nowhere is that clearer than in Las Vegas. A quick glance in any direction offers ample evidence: Hangover-themed slot machines, visitors circulating in Wolfpack tee-shirts and gift shops featuring souvenir items tied to the movies while, outside, it's not unusual to see an Alan impersonator posing for tourist photo ops.
"'The Hangover' has become an iconic Las Vegas film, which I love and really makes me proud," says Phillips.
"Certainly shooting the first one we had a much lower profile," Helms remembers. "Going back could only be described as completely bananas because not only are we all more recognizable now, but 'The Hangover' is such an institution there. It was overwhelming at times, but always fun and exciting, too. It's hard to walk through the lobby or play blackjack for an hour without drawing a crowd or having fans come up to say hello, and it's so cool to be a part of it."
The production returned to Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino, where the action kicked off in the first film and where it was destined to culminate like some twisted deja vu. Citing the story's lasting influence on this long-standing Vegas landmark, Cooper says, "Security guards told us they're constantly stopping people trying to get onto the roof."
Once again, filming incorporated areas in and around the property, featuring its famous lobby, elevators, and the interior of a 10,000-foot suite that serves as Chow's party pad. "The Hangover Part III" also tapped local sites such as the Super Liquor Store on Paradise Road and the area around downtown's Fremont Street.
Its most elaborate stunt sequence embraces the distinctive nighttime panorama of the Las Vegas skyline from a truly unique point of view: through Leslie Chow's aviator shades, as he attempts a daring escape off the balcony of his penthouse. High above the lights and rooftops, over Las Vegas Boulevard and past the Paris Hotel's Eiffel Tower, Chow soars like a leaf on the wind, bound for who-knows-where, while his pursuers frantically try to track him from the grid of city streets below.
The shoot required a herculean level of preparation, involving helicopters, stunt parachutists, a massive crane and even the coordination of The Bellagio's famed fountains. "We shot it over two nights but it took months to organize," says Goldberg. "The strip is one of the busiest thoroughfares in the world and you can't have people flying over cars; it's too dangerous. We had dozens of PAs closing streets along with the help of the Las Vegas police, and we could only do it for about eight minutes at a time. We would film the parachute jumpers coming down, wait for them to land safely and then get them off the street so we could let the traffic flow. Wait 10 minutes and do it again. It was like a military operation, but it's a great sequence and such a signature Chow move."
Four jumpers stood in for Chow at points on the route, including Philip Tan, who has doubled for Ken Jeong on all the "Hangover" films. Their trajectory was traced by six strategically placed cameras on the ground, as well as a helmet-cam and an aerial camera supported by cables that proved the piece's biggest logistical challenge.
Stunt coordinator Jack Gill offers some of the details. "We strung a thousand feet of cable 350 feet in the air. After picking points on the various hotels that would work, we then had to find a crane from which to mount the wires." This meant pre-positioning the 500-ton apparatus near the entrance to Bally's, which took seven trucks and eight hours to accomplish. From there, he continues, "We had a 2-wire rig going over to Planet Hollywood. It's a 1000-foot run and we put Phil Tan on one wire and a camera on the other. The camera moves toward him, then wraps around him as he goes by the other way."
The fact that the jumpers launched themselves from helicopters required FAA approval. Beyond that, Phillips recalls, "it required the collaborative assistance of five or six high-profile properties that share the strip. Suddenly I had a button that controlled when the fountains at The Bellagio were going to go off, because we didn't want Chow drifting into the spray. It all went smoothly, and it gives the story real action, which I think always enhances the experience of watching a movie like this. Even if people don't realize it, subconsciously they see it in a different way."
Helms jokes, "Unlike some of the stuff we did in the other movies, where we would do something and then our stunt crew would perform the more badass version of it, in this movie, certain scenes are so badass that they wouldn't let us have anything to do with them."
In fact, the actors did participate in a fair amount of their own stunts, most notably in another of the film's major set pieces where Alan and Phil rappel down the sheer side of a hotel tower. The sequence was actually captured on a soundstage; however, it still required Cooper and Galifianakis to vertically navigate portions of a 60-foot façade constructed on Warner Bros. Studios' Stage 16.
Integrating the existing Caesars Palace architecture, production designer Maher Ahmad built the structure that represented five stories of the hotel's Augustus Tower, including cantilevered balconies, carvings of trumpeting angels, and the nine-foot illuminated letters of the hotel's logo that had to withstand the shock of actors and stuntmen tromping on them. It was also engineered to accommodate a 3,200-pound crane atop the 100-foot-long set, in addition to personnel and additional gear, and parts of the stage floor were removed to allow additional room for its height.
The entire set was then completely surrounded by green screens onto which the visual effects department added meticulously recorded views of the Vegas skyline.
When it comes to meeting the physical demands of such moments, "Bradley doesn't flinch, he doesn't even talk about it, he always wants to do it. He hates it when we use a stunt man, whereas I think Zach wishes his stunt double could do the whole movie," Phillips laughingly offers.
Acutely acrophobic, Galifianakis counters, "Alan and Phil are climbing down from the roof with bed sheets. We had harnesses, so it was completely safe, but my irrational mind told me otherwise. Did I mention how much fun it is to be in the movies? I'm afraid of heights. If I were two inches taller I'd live my whole life in fear because that would be too high for me."
Additionally, for Chow's explosive prison break, a safety-harnessed but perpetually drenched Ken Jeong spent a day repeatedly diving from a tank into a 30-foot free-fall as water gushed out behind him.
For the prison itself, Ahmad and his team repurposed an existing hydroelectric plant, which was then joined to an elaborate system of interconnecting sewer tunnels constructed on a studio stage. "What Todd and I wanted to do was to construct it on two levels," the designer says. "As Chow goes through a hole in his cell wall he falls 15 feet into the hub and goes down a smaller side tunnel which branches off the main artery. From there, he climbs up to another level and whole thing narrows down to the point where he gets swept out, all of which was more visually engaging than a straight run."
Ahmad also built a Las Vegas pawn shop out of a furniture store, that proved realistic enough to attract a couple of would-be customers poking around for a deal.
His largest job, however, was turning three blocks of real estate in the border town of Nogales, Arizona into a busy Tijuana neighborhood where Phil, Stu, Alan and Chow mark a clandestine reunion. "Rather than one building that required construction, nearly every one of the more than 50 storefronts needed some kind of transformation with dressing and signage," says Ahmad. "It was a very interesting area with the streets forming a Y, and a perfect spot in front of a building for a bus bench, all of which was integral to the scene. The same building is also the exterior for the flophouse where Chow is holed up."
It's a cozy little dive he shares with a cache of fighting roosters, which indicates how low the former high-stakes player has sunk in his effort to make a living. At one point, when Alan upsets their tenuous calm, the room erupts into a melee of wings, claws and squawking as the birds attack Alan, Phil and Stu. The manic moments were filmed entirely on a soundstage and employed a dozen birds, both roosters and hens, trained by Birds and Animals Unlimited, to leap up and hang onto the actors' backs. Birds flying out the window were caught in sound blankets to cushion their landing. To protect both animals and humans, animatronic models provided more hands-on interaction such as simulated pecking and scratching.
A trainer from Birds and Animals Unlimited also escorted the film's star giraffe, an easygoing adolescent named Stanley, to his big close-up on a different soundstage. There, Stanley's placid demeanor was digitally recorded and later married to footage of Alan hauling an empty trailer down the highway, for a final cut in which the two are seen traveling together, equally unaware of impending catastrophe.
"This movie was rugged, brutal, massive," says Cooper. "I mean, we have parachutes flying around Vegas at night, wild animals in places where they shouldn't be, lots of crazy things going on. But it's all grounded. I don't think there was ever a point where Todd, or anyone, thought, 'Let's outdo the first or the second film.' The intention was just to tell a good story, and it feels like the normal progression of the lives of these three guys."
In that same vein, bringing them back to Las Vegas for the trilogy's grand finale not only serves the story, but should offer a satisfying sense of completion.
"This time we're really able to close the book, in a way that's congruent with what we built in the first movie," says Galifianakis. "We have some good jokes and some high-octane action. There's also some genuine emotion that finds its way in."
Not surprisingly, emotions also ran high as work on "The Hangover Part III" drew to a close, largely due to the camaraderie that has developed among cast and crew, most of whom have worked together on all three films.
"A lot has happened since shouting 'Action' on day one of the first 'Hangover,'" Phillips reflects. "It's fun for us to look back on five or six years and three movies, and think of all the insane things we did and the places we went together. When we came to the last scene of the last day, I certainly felt that something special had come to an end.
"I know it's a rare privilege to be able to make movies like this and create characters that audiences respond to the way they've responded to these guys," the director adds. "And I'm glad we were able to wrap it up in a way that honors the story and gives them the big send-off they deserve."
About the Prodution
Production Notesl w/2 videos
THE HANGOVER PART III
About the Cast
...Mr. Chow w/video
THE HANGOVER PART III
About the Crew
...Director of Photography
THE HANGOVER PART III
THE HANGOVER PART III
HD TRAILERS (external)
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THE HANGOVER PART III
Studio photos, notes and videos © 2013 Warner Bros. Pictures