The stars of the Hangover trilogy reflect on just how far these box-office hits have taken them, writes Michael Cidoni Lenno
Four years ago, Bradley Cooper had built a solid reputation as a scene-stealing supporting player. Ed Helms was best known for his sweet but buffoonish Andy on the American version of The Office. And few, except comedy-club bookers and his own family members, could wrap their mouths around the last name of Zach Galifianakis.
Then came The Hangover, a tale of debauchery and bad behaviour set in Las Vegas, which would go on to become the highest-grossing R-rated comedy in North American box-office history - and become a hit around the world. The 2011 sequel, which saw "the Wolfpack" up to no good in Bangkok, took in more than half a billion dollars worldwide. And today, the third and supposedly last of the trilogy opens in cinemas.
In keeping with tradition the film is about a road trip where things go extremely awry.
But this time round there is no bachelor party or wedding and the lads are on a mission to get Alan (Galifianakis) psychiatric help.
It is this sort of hare-brained and simple formula that has made the films so popular - and why the careers and lives of the three co-stars have been changed forever.
"I never would have gotten Hangover II if it wasn't for Hangover I," jokes Helms, sitting alongside his fellow castmates in Las Vegas, where the first of the films was set.
"The effect it's had on my life, from a career standpoint, is just is off the charts. I've gotten to do some really great, cool, fun stuff that I never would have been able to do," he says of his work, including two well-received low-budget comedies, Cedar Rapids and Jeff Who Lives at Home, from 2011.
Before The Hangover, Galifianakis was making a living as a stand-up comic, whose credits included his own "Comedy Central Presents" special. But that success was nothing compared to what would come. "Well, you know," says Galifianakis, "financially it was really great to be able to pay to get her [his mum] a salt-and-pepper shaker set for Mother's Day."
"Set?" butts in Cooper. "Salt and pepper?" adds Helms.
"For years it was just salt, just the salt shaker," Galifianakis says. "So now I can afford a set. So that's how it's changed my life."
Cooper's star was already on the rise before The Hangover, after having done a number of TV series (including five seasons on Alias and starring in the short-lived Kitchen Confidential). He acted opposite Julia Roberts and Paul Rudd on Broadway in Three Days of Rain in 2005, and played the maid of honour's hot-headed boyfriend in Wedding Crashers. Then came roles in Jim Carrey's Yes Man (2008) and the ensemble rom-com He's Just Not That Into You (2009).
In fact, Cooper was already such hot stuff, he'd hosted Saturday Night Live four months before the first Hangover's release.
Still, says Cooper, The Hangover also changed the course of his career.
"The truth is, The Hangover sort of equally hit us all," he notes. It led to to him getting the lead in his first major feature film, Limitless, opposite Robert De Niro, in 2011. "If I had not been a part of a movie that was financially lucrative, there's just no way," Cooper explains. "And then, following the success of The Hangover II, I don't think I could afford to do four movies where you just don't get paid that much," he says referring to last year's Silver Linings Playbook for which he earned an Academy Award nomination as best actor.
"We've also just learned about ourselves," Cooper says. "We've all grown a lot. There was the movie and then what happened with the movie, and then being about to go all over the world. I had never done that before ... It's been a multi-faced learning experience."
What: The Hangover Part III, the last hurrah
Who: Actors Bradley Cooper as Phil Wenneck, Ed Helms as Stu Price, and Zach Galifianakis as Alan Garner
Opens: In cinemas today
- TimeOut / AP