Ed Helms, ‘The Hangover Part 3′ Star, on the End of the Franchise and Leaving ‘The Office’
This weekend it all comes to an end as the “Hangover” franchise closes in grand fashion with “The Hangover, Part III” — which might just be the best entry in the bunch. This installment sees the Wolfpack — Alan (Zach Galifianakis), Stu (Ed Helms), and Phil (Bradley Cooper) — first travel to Tijuana and then to Las Vegas (the scene of the crime) in an attempt to get their friend Doug (Justin Bartha) back from a villainous mobster (played by John Goodman).
We got to chat with Ed Helms about the movie while he was in Las Vegas for the junket. We’re not sure what went down out there, because, as we all know, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, although he did tell us what he wanted from the third installment, how his relationship with Zach’s character evolved, and his thoughts about the end of the franchise.
Good ole Vegas… It’s like a second home to me.
You should just live on the Strip.
I practically do, I spend so much time here.
Did you have anything specific that you really wanted to do in this third “Hangover?”
That’s a really interesting question. If anything, and for Stu in particular, I just wanted a sense of closure for the whole “Hangover”/Wolf Pack world. And then if I got a few good jokes in along the way, I’d be happy.
It seemed like the relationship between you and Zach was even more antagonistic this time around. Was that something that you two developed or was that in the script?
You know, it kind of became this running joke what a punching bag Stu is. And Zach, and as a consequence Alan, kind of picked up on that. Alan has always seen Stu as a threat to his bromance with Phil. So there’s a natural animosity there. Even though I really believe, underlining all of it, these guys would do anything for each other, including Alan, as tweaked as he is. He makes fun of Stu because it gives him a little sense of power or makes him feel cool. But he’s ultimately more vulnerable than anybody.
I know I’m not supposed to say this because the film is supposed to be edgy, but this one does have a nice sweetness.
Come on it’s hard! It’s so punk rock!
You’ve got two huge parts of your life missing, with both “The Hangover” and “The Office” coming to a close. Is it bittersweet to have these things ending at the same time?
Super duper bittersweet. It’s very very sad. I love both of these things so much and yet in both cases it just feels like the right time and the right step for both. I can’t even begin to describe how much both “The Office” and “The Hangover” have impacted my life. It’s been a hell of a ride. The best analogy I can think of is when you get on a rollercoaster and it’s so fun and there’s peaks and valleys, there’s scary parts, there’s exciting parts, there’s a lot of laughs and screams along the way. And then when you finally pull into the station at the end of a rollercoaster ride, you’re bummed. You don’t want to get off. But you realize if you stayed on the rollercoaster you’d probably get hurt or sick or something. It’s time marching on. It’s life evolving. And it’s very poignant and very exciting.
It must have been fun too because you probably didn’t think, “I’m signing on to a long-running show” or “This is going to be the highest grossing comedy franchise of all time.”
That’s part of the peaks of the rollercoaster. It’s like Space Mountain at Disneyland. It’s dark, you can’t really see where you’re going… and I’m going to stop with the rollercoaster analogy. You can’t know. All you can do is, when you’re in a creative situation like that, just put it all out there and leave it all on the court. Which I really think everybody in “The Office” and “The Hangover” did. And you hope that people respond and they did. I’m just so grateful to have been a part of both things.
When you set out to make “The Hangover, Part III” did you look to anything in particular? There aren’t many third entries in a comedy series but did you set out to make it different or special in a specific way?
Well it had to be different. The first two follow the same template and it just wasn’t going to work; you can’t do that again. So the question became “How do you do it and what do you focus on?” And what I love about this third one is that, in the same way that a great serial TV show will be constantly mining its previous episodes for the structural tidbits to build future episodes, that’s how this narrative came together. There’s so many ghosts from one and two that haunt this story in such a cool and fun and organic way. I really think it all fits together. This is a great closer. I’ll say on top of that, Alan in screenwriting terms has kind of been the inciting incident or the precipitating factor to all the chaos, so it also makes sense for this third one to really explore Alan a little bit more and get into what that character is about. He’s so fascinating.
Was there anything that you didn’t get to do that you wanted to do?
Hmmm… Hmmm… Well I wish that between “Hangovers 2″ and “3,” Stu got really fit, like super buff with washboard abs. That way Warner Bros would have had to put me on some crazy diet and hire a personal trainer and I would have been a total bad-ass. But that didn’t happen. Zach and I laugh about that — that we wish a movie would take responsibility for our health. But honestly I couldn’t ask for anything more than what’s in these movies. What an incredible journey to be on and an incredible team to be a part of.
So if Todd Haynes called you tomorrow you’d be down to collaborate again?
I would throw myself in front of a train if it meant working with Todd again. If Todd told me audiences would laugh, I’d throw myself in front of a train. So many of these horrible things Stu goes through I’ve just had to trust Todd. I have these kneejerk reactions — I am not a dark, edgy comic and a lot of this stuff pushed me out of my comfort zone. I just realized: don’t fight it. And I’m always glad I did.