“The Hangover” hits theaters this Friday, but Blast was lucky enough to catch up with Ed Helms when he was in Boston and get the inside scoop on what it was like working with a live tiger, the bromance that developed on set and news on a possible “Hangover” sequel. Some spoilers are revealed in the interview.
BLAST: Between you, Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis, you all come from really different comedy backgrounds. How was it working together?
ED HELMS: Well, you just kind of hit on it. I think that we’re all so different that there was no competition because like everyone’s funny in a very different way, so a line that Zach might say that’s really funny would never work for me or my character. So there was never a sense of competitiveness about like trying to one-up each other. To the contrary, we all just sort of dovetailed really nicely and actually, I think as people we’re really different too, and that just made for a really easy dynamic hanging out. As the characters become friends over the course of the movie, the three of us really like “" after spending 14 hours a day together for three months “" got really tight. And I think you see that. I mean, you actually see that on film, hopefully. I mean I see it when I watch it now, it’s like, you sort of feel like how easy it became between us.
BLAST: Usually with the character of Alan (Zach Galifianakis), that kind of outsider-from-the-group character, that is usually enforced a lot in these movies, but in this one it really subtly showed your friendship. Like he asks at the end, “Does this look like Phil’s (Bradley Cooper’s) hair?” and you’re like “Oh yeah, it’s totally Phil’s haircut.”
EH: Thank you for saying that. That’s so funny. The whole thing where Alan has a bro-crush on Phil, that was invented by Zach on set, and it sort of just kept bubbling up and it became this hilarious thing. So that little exchange, when we’re getting hair and makeup for the wedding scene, Zach was like, “I think I should have Phil’s hair.” And it was really such a funny moment. So then that little exchange became a moment, so it was like, “What happens there?” Well Zach will ask if his hair looks good like Phil’s and, initially, [director] Todd [Phillips] was like, “Yeah, you dismiss him, or you know, tell him he’s an idiot or whatever” and I was like, “No, that’s not where we’re at anymore.”
BLAST: So did that [scene] come from you?
EH: Yeah, that’s why I was really psyched you brought it up, because like, I felt strongly that at that point in the movie we all have each others’ back, and even this ridiculous thing like Alan trying to look like Phil, I’m suddenly on board with. And there’s a lot of moments that I really pushed for in the movie that, and I’ll say this, working with Todd is so great because he’s so collaborative and I trusted him on 99 percent of the comedic choices in the movie, but the one thing I kept pushing was that we don’t shy away from actually like having, not poignant, but genuine affection between these guys. Another good example is when, and this is before we really become friends, but like when Zach has that horribly degenerate moment with the baby, and I laugh at it. My character laughs at it, which wasn’t in the initial cut. And it’s like, come on, let them have this moment, because it is funny. It’s like, let’s lay a little groundwork of they do crack each other up. And then later on when Mr. Chow’s goons are beating us up and one of them says, “Yeah, you thought he was a lucky charm so you put him in the trunk” and Phil and I share a laugh, and that once again wasn’t in the initial cut and it was like, when two people laugh at something, it’s a shared moment, and it’s just groundwork for this growing friendship, and I just love all those moments. They’re so small but they like just make it.
BLAST: I actually think that is one of the better aspects of the movie, that it’s not just your average go crazy moment. But speaking of going a little crazy, which were you more worried about working with: the tiger, or Mike Tyson?
EH: The tiger. I was pretty sure Mike Tyson would be cool, and it turns out he’s even cooler than I thought. The tiger, however, doesn’t take direction very well and likes to eat people.
BLAST: The scene with you in the bathroom: was that the live tiger, or was that CGI?
EH: It’s both. It’s funny, we were shooting the DVD commentary and this scene came up, and I was like, “In this scene “"” and Zack like [stopped me from talking]. I think you can see it because the DVD commentary is actually video, so I think you can see Zach being like, “Shh.” So I didn’t say it on the DVD but I’ll tell you, I did a ton of takes before I walked in and threw the steak to the actual tiger. I think that what you see in the final cut is a combination of one of those takes with a composited thing of me coming in, getting scared, and running out. The getting scared I didn’t do with the real tiger. And then the tiger actually lunging and pawing, that was done with a trainer. So those two pieces were composited together. But it looks incredible. That said, and I don’t want to undersell the extreme valor and bravery I exhibited in shooting those scenes because”¦ Actually, none of it was brave or valorous. I was terrified the entire time. But we were so damn close to that tiger for a ton of stuff, particularly, way more scary than that stuff in the bathroom, was the stuff in Tyson’s yard, during the flashback, when you’re seeing the video footage of us just traipsing around a yard with the fucking tiger, I mean that was [terrifying].
BLAST: Before this movie even came out, it must have been about a month ago, they okayed a “Hangover 2″ for 2011. Do you know anything about that?
EH: Well, Warner Bros. clearly likes this movie a lot, which is very exciting because that’s why I’m talking to you now. They’ve like put tons of energy behind promoting this movie, which is very exciting. That said, they haven’t greenlit a movie yet. I think they’re, and I’m not in the loop so much, it seems that they’re just kind of like exploring the possibility and maybe even tossing around ideas for it. At the end of the day, this movie has to perform before they’ll greenlight a sequel. I think they just wanted to get ahead of the game. “Old School” I think, was a movie that they immediately wished they had sort of gotten ahead of on putting a sequel together, and it didn’t happen. But, you know, it would be so fun. This was the most fun thing to do in the history of the universe, so if we get to do another one.
BLAST: What do you think it will be about?
EH: The only way to heighten “The Hangover” I think, is to take it outer space. So yeah, I think it would be a bachelor party in a space station.
BLAST: But who would be getting married?
EH: Maybe me and Heather. Who knows.
BLAST: Maybe Zach and that baby.
EH: [laughs] That’s fucked up.
BLAST: How was the baby during shoots? Did you have to make it miserable to cry during shooting?
EH: Here’s the thing: babies cry all the time. The baby made us miserable. We used I think like eight babies. Six or eight babies. Six. Gosh, I can’t even remember now. I want to say eight. There were a couple that we used a lot because they were actually so wonderful, but if you see the movie, there’s actually like three or four different babies. Sometimes they change in the middle of the scene. Because they start crying and you have to switch them out. And Todd was so funny, he was like, “No one cares. They all look the same.”
BLAST: It’s funny because Zach actually came and performed at Northeastern University a couple months ago and the promo shot for it was actually him holding the baby. Speaking of Zach, is he as awkward in real life as he can portray himself in his stand-up?
EH: No. No, thankfully. I mean, he’s goofy and incredibly silly and that sensibility is just very much a part of who he is, but he’s also just extremely kind and sweet and I love Zach so much because he just loves to giggle. We kept shutting down the set because we’d keep getting in these giggle fits. It’s totally ridiculous. I think he just makes me laugh, and then when I laugh he laughs, and it’s just this horrible feedback loop, and Todd gets mad, and that just makes it even harder to stop laughing.