todd-phillips-hangover-3-craig-mazin-sliceThe Source Magazine sat down with “Hangover 3” Director Todd Phillips and Writer Craig Mazin. Check out what they had to say about working on the epic final installment. 

Q: I liked the action, how did you go about trying to make it different but make it still relevant and then sell it to America?

Craig: We knew that after the first two movies we wanted to end it. That in and of itself is a big decision to make. We’re not looking to spin this like James Bond, forever. And to end it, we knew that we needed to address some things that were problematic throughout the movies for these characters. And the number one issue was Allen. Allen’s the one who gets them into trouble and then also gets them out of trouble a lot. But we wanted to solve his story and that meant telling a different kind of story, it’s not about the mechanics of “what did you do this time,” it’s about “what is wrong with you, period.” And “what can we do to help you.” Once we started going down that path, the movie started to present itself to us as an adventure, as a heist, as a coming of age story. And for it to be a proper finish, it needed to be the most dangerous of the movies. And that’s where John Goodman came in.

Q: And him singing “Ave Maria” at Ted’s funeral that was genius, how did you think of that? That was brilliant.

Todd: He has a lot of hidden talents. We like how in that first one he can play cards, it’s like Allen is almost like Autistic maybe or has Asperger’s or something. And he has these things we’d never know about, I kind of love it. I think he’s such an interesting character. He’s such a sociopathic/weird character but he has so much heart. What’s fun about this movie is the ability to show some of that emotion, being that it’s his story. I really like seeing that kind of emotional part to what Zack gave to this Allen character and what he went through.

Q: It seems like you gave Allen another layer with his language, it’s seemed that he maybe spent some time with African-American people or something.

Todd: That’s a really good point because we talked with Zack about this new hip-hop Allen. Allen gets easily influenced by anything so the back story to that was that they just got BET in his house. And he’d been watching it like crazy. And there was a version where he had a baseball hat sideways, it was the worst look ever, he was going to be like hip-hop Allen because he’d been watching BET. But he lost the hat but it’s still the attitude.

Craig: And he also doesn’t know that everyone else understands that stuff, he thinks it’s new to them. Allen’s always five years behind the curve, so he’s doing stuff from 2005 like “I got a sixth sense of humor, brah!” And he thinks they haven’t heard that before.

Q: The impulse in this business is to keep going and keep going, and you said you knew you wanted to end it, why?

Todd: It just felt like a natural thing to do. People would argue that it should have ended before this but for us, once that loose thread that is Allen finds somebody equally left-footed as him in Melissa McCarthy, he finds his new sort of secure place to be. Because the Wolf pack isn’t really that for him, it’s all he’s ever been searching for. It just feels like the story is told. It feels like, “Okay, this one’s going to be okay.” If you look at Hangover 1 and 2, Allen starts here and he ends here. He’s the funniest but he never goes through anything. He never changes at all. In this movie it was very much about we have to heal this one really fucked up guy. And get him better, and then finally this may end. And at the end we sort of do this thing where they wake up and it will never end for them because they have bad luck. Which is ultimately really what the Hangover is about, bad luck.

Q: So the movies end, but you feel like these characters are going on and will have this for the rest of their lives?

Craig: They’ll struggle on one way or another. There will be some moments.

Q: I remember from the Hangover 2 junket, you said “Hey maybe we’ll do a spinoff on Mr. Chow someday.” Does this take care of that?

Todd: I don’t know. I probably said that on the side but we love the Chow character, this has a lot of Chow in it but we’re not going to do anymore.

Q: I’d like to ask you about the beginning of the film, we were told earlier that in a slightly different beginning you have him running naked during the escape in the tunnels.

Todd: Maybe Justin said in the script. Maybe that was an original thought.

Q: The ending was supposed to be different too, I heard you guys weren’t going to go with that originally. What was that about?

Todd: The original ending is the one in the movie, which is them walking down the hallway. And weirdly it’s an emotional ending. It’s like oh yeah it’s these guys who’ve spent this time with their friends but then we kind of looked at each other and thought it’s the Hangover, do we really want to end it on this sort of emotional beat. In a weird way we kind of want to undercut that stuff sometimes. It was also, to be quite honest, a little bit of a response to some of the criticism on Hangover 2 was “how can this happen twice to the same people?” It was a little bit of a response to that of people saying “how can this happen twice?” So we’re like, watch it happens a third time.

Q: So were they always going to end up back in Vegas?

Craig: Oh yeah, it had to end where it began. The thing with the ending was that we knew something was going to go there and we talked about it while shooting like we literally said we knew we were going to do something. It had to end in Sin City because ultimately the movie’s really about these guys paying for the sins of the past, paying for the bad decisions in Hangover 1 and 2. And they finally come back to haunt them, and they have to sort of settle that score.

Q: You mentioned that the third one had to be more dangerous, it certainly is, how’d you come to grips with the high body count in the film? Did people think it was too much?

Todd: No we’ve screened the movie, doesn’t seem like it. But we’ve talked about “is it an end to me?” Thats what’s so interesting about these movies, is the tone. That’s what takes it from being just broad comedies, is that tonally, we kind of fucked with the tone sometimes in a way where it gets pretty dark. And you kill Mike Epps, who everyone loves by the way in the movies, he’s such a cool character. He’s a small character but he’s great. You kill him point blank and two seconds later, Zack pees his pants and he says a joke of like “can you bring me a few options.” And it’s a huge laugh and to me that’s the fun part about making these movies. It’s like how do you go from there and get them to laugh.

Q: Why was Chow’s life spared at the end?

Todd: He’s sort of like the fifth Beatle for the Wolf pack. Allan and his friendship is so stupid that it’s perfect. It’s Buddha like. The movie is ultimately really about friendship. The Hangover movies to me are kind of an ode to friendship. And Allen’s obsessed with friendship. From Hangover 1 he’s talking about the Wolf Pack and how he’s always been a lone wolf and has always been looking for a group to belong to. He just values friendship in a very serious way. He considers Chow his friend and of course he’s not going to let him die. No matter what Chow did to him.

Q: When you’re wrapping up something like this and you see Allen walking around every other block, how does that make you feel with that being your creation?

Todd: It’s pretty awesome because if you’ve been to LA and you see it on Hollywood boulevard, there’s Iron Man and Spiderman, you think about that and you go “well Spiderman’s been around for 50 years, this Allen and this Stu, they have a Stu as well, which were created five years ago.” And I think about this all the time, how long will this last? Will he be there in ten years and will that be a thing in ten years. It is a cool thing to have been a part of, creating that, obviously the actors did a huge part in creating that. But creating that, when we were recruiting for Hangover 3, I saw the guys and went to take a picture with them, Stu and Zack. And the Zack character turned around and goes “no free pictures.” And I go, “No I directed the movie, I don’t have my wallet on me.” And then he wouldn’t let me take his picture. And then the Stu guy finally recognized me and said “No no this is Todd Phillips.” He turned around and I sent it to Zack.

Q: Was that the actual baby Carlos from the first movie?

Todd:  Yeah his name’s Grant Holmquist, he’s the same baby that you saw on the poster of the first Hangover. He’s now 4 and a half years old. Same kid. We called up the mom and dad and I said we’re doing another one and I’d love to see how Grant’s looking. They sent me a picture and I couldn’t believe his blue eyes and his cheeks. Then they came into my office and wanted to see if he’d be super shy or if he can do it, he’s obviously not an actor. But he came in and he was great, and we had so much fun seeing him again.

Q: When did you know you were going to bring Heather back in?

Todd: When we knew we were going back to Vegas we wanted to see Heather. Heather really to me was one of the only rays of sunshine in the first Hangover. And I mean like, moments of light, it’s pretty dark. Well not dark but like “Ah this happened or that happened.” And Heather always represented sunlight to me in that movie. So I just thought if we’re going back to Vegas we needed to see Heather again. And it’s a short part I know but it’s just so nice to see her okay. It was very important to see like, “oh my God look she got married, she’s having another kid, she’s got a great guy, she has a good life.” There’s another version we wrote where she’s like Sharon Stone in Casino, at the end.

Craig: We write a bunch of versions of these movies, some of them for us. But we wanted Heather because we wanted the kid. Allen loved that little baby, that was the only time in his life he was ever responsible for something and he didn’t kill it. We didn’t want Heather just because we wanted the kid, we love Heather. But the two of them together as a family meant something. He loved Heather too, “She’s a nice lady.” It was great to see that reunion for him. But we know when we were writing when the little kid goes “are you my real dad?” And Allen takes that long beat and goes “yes,” in an Allen moment.

Q: I met Melissa (McCarthy) a couple weeks ago, she’s great. I almost feel like nobody else could play that role in this move except her. How did you kind of come up with her (role)?

Todd: Well we wrote it for her, obviously. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to think “we’re going to do a love interest for Zack, what woman would be unbelievable for the Allen character.” The question was more how do we get her. Craig wrote Identity Thief, he knew Melissa so he was able to text her and say “hey we’re writing this thing, would you take a look at it?” And actors like to play and like to come and be funny with a guy like Zack and these guys in this movie. And I think she saw that and we were so lucky to get her. But you’re right, I look at it and I wonder what would we have done if she had said no. Because it’s so perfect, she’s so good. She’s just amazing.

Q: When you were writing the first script did you have any inkling that the thing about Marshall would turn out out to be so big?

Todd: No literally that moment, funny enough, he’s even named Marshall because I was listening to Eminem at the moment while I was writing that, That’s why his name’s Marshall. Craig wasn’t involved with the first one but never did that thing become a thing.

Craig: When I came on board on Hangover 2, we were looking through the movie Hangover 1, we were looking through the movie for certain scenes for references and I remember Todd said, “this is my favorite line in the whole movie, nobody laughs and it’s my favorite line.” When Epps realizes that he sold the wrong drugs, he says “man Marshall’s going to be pissed off now.” Marshall is a guy that wanted roofies. And he’s given someone roofies and she’s just on ecstasy, and it’s just not at all what I want. Then when we were talking about the third movie and we were looking for a villain. We just remembered this name Marshall that was out there, this great real estate, and that we’re the only two people talking about. And it’s just so fun to be able to dig it up.

Todd: But when you flashback, you realize it’s from Hangover 1. I wonder if people think that was random or that we planned it. These movies are a study of backwards engineering. They wake up in this room and what’s there? A baby, a tiger and this and that. Okay, why’s the tiger there. So you sort of tell it backwards. And Hangover 3 is the ultimate backwards engineering, it’s a very interesting way to write movies.

Q: I loved the music selection in the movie, were you a part of that?

Todd: Yeah always. I think the music in all these movies have been integral and a big part of it. I think music for any director is one of the biggest paint brushes you have with which to paint and I think a lot of directors do it well. I love it and it’s my favorite part of it, is picking songs and figuring out rhythms. And then there are things that are exclusive to the Hangover. We used Glenn Danzing in every single one, a song from him. And again I’d bring up the bad luck thing. Hangover 1 starts off with Glenn Danzing’s 13 because it really is ultimately about bad luck and bad decisions. And it carries through, if you really watch Hangover 3, all three of them closely, you’ll see the number thirteen appear all over the movie because of that. It’s an interesting thing if you really look closely. All over, in Bangkok it shows up four times, in this movie it shows up three of four times.

“Hangover 3” is now playing.