LOS ANGELES — When the wolfpack awakens in a seedy hotel in "The Hangover Part II," Ed Helms' mild-mannered dentist Stu, Bradley Cooper's slick schoolteacher Phil and Zach Galifianakis' eccentric "stay-at-home son" Alan discover a monkey and a human finger. During the filming of the zany sequel, the cast actually found something very different: peace of mind.
About halfway through production on the follow-up to the blockbuster 2009 summer comedy about a bachelor party gone strangely awry, Cooper remembers that writer-director Todd Phillips told the actor and his co-stars over dinner that they had to step up their game. While some actors would've been put off by the halftime pep talk, this band of thespians relished it.
"That was in the middle of filming," Cooper recently recalled while chewing tobacco with Galifianakis in a group interview with Helms and Phillips. "It was going great, but it didn't matter. He was like a great coach with that pressure to never settle. The benefit is now we can sit back and relax. If something like that didn't happen, then I'd have tremendous anxiety."
The sequel finds Stu, Phil and Alan back together after a wild night that none of them remember. This time, the trio is searching for Stu's future brother-in-law in the urban jungle of Bangkok, Thailand. The foursome discussed the challenges of shooting there and whether this "Hangover" is too much like the first one.
AP: I understand it was challenging for you to film in Bangkok. How did you overcome that to try to be funny?
Phillips: You overcome it just by doing it. It was a tough shoot overall. The city was challenging. It's a beautiful city, but it's hard to roll in with a circus the size of a movie shoot and take over their streets.
Galifianakis: I think angst and anxiety can cause funniness to happen, especially in a movie like this because the script kinda calls for that. If you're feeling antsy in the city you're in, I think it helps.
Helms: Fortunately, the comedy in this movie isn't goofy, clowny comedy. It's more situational, tension-based comedy. I think Bangkok actually helped us.
Cooper: We've all known each other for three years now, and I don't know if there's any environment where we're not all laughing. It's also just about putting these four people together. There's just this dynamic, no matter how serious the situation is, a joke's going to come out.
AP: Because the film is set in Asia, unlike when it was in Las Vegas the first time around, did you consider how it would be received internationally?
Phillips: I never even thought about that in any way. The first movie is one of the biggest R-rated comedies overseas. It was a huge success internationally. I don't know why, honestly. Maybe it's because hangovers are a universal theme. I'm not sure. None of that was thought about or premeditated in the second one, but I do think the movie will play well overseas because the first one did.
AP: Did you feel pressure to top yourselves after the success of the first film?
Cooper: The pressure I felt was to make a great movie, and I believe we made a great movie. That's the pressure. Whether the audience is going to like it or not, it's out of our control. We've done everything we can to make a movie we're proud of. I think it's certainly better than the first movie.
Phillips: I look at it the opposite way. There was more pressure making the first "Hangover." ... Knowing that we're making a movie, and I know people are anticipating it and are going see it, just takes a lot of the pressure off.
Helms: I don't know. I thought the first "Hangover" was pretty good.
AP: What do you think is the funniest part of the new film?
Galifianakis: As I was watching it, and as we were filming it, one of the funniest things to me were the insults that the father-in-law-to-be says to Ed in the dinner scene. His reactions to it just make me laugh. As a movie that has so much energy in it, I like those sit-down moments where it just breathes.
Phillips: We all think Ed just brings it in such a huge way. It is Stu's story. Maybe it's the confidence from the first one or we're just better at how we approached the material, but Ed just took it to a whole new level in this movie. Every time I watch it, I notice new things that he's doing with his face.
Galifianakis: Yeah. I think Todd's right. Ed phoned it in on the first one.
AP: Are you fearful that the audience will think this film is too similar to the first one?
Helms: When I hear people say, "Oh, it looks just like the first one." I say, "Really? Do you know the surprises in this movie? You're going to be surprised. Things come out of left field the entire movie."
Phillips: The blueprint is the same because we like the idea of a comedy that is also a mystery. We thought the first "Hangover" owned that, and we'll own that in "Part II."
AP: How would you feel about doing "The Hangover Part III"?
Phillips: We'll see. It's about audience's desire to see it, and how well this one does, and if these guys are up for taking another trip and doing something (expletive) crazy.
Cooper: We don't want to get ahead of ourselves. There's no rush.
Galifianakis: We're definitely going to do "The Hangover Part IV" though.