Writer Craig Mazin Talks THE HANGOVER PART III, Concluding the Trilogy, Where the Film Takes Place, Returning Characters & More from Our Set Visit

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Just before Thanksgiving of 2012, a group of journalists were invited to the set of Warner Bros.’ The Hangover Part III, where screenwriter Craig Mazin (The Hangover Part II) participated in a roundtable interview.  Mazin talked about the plan – and the difficulty – of drafting a concluding film for The Hangover trilogy, just how many places the story will take the Wolfpack, familiar faces who will reprise their roles and new characters – like John Goodman as a “very dangerous man” – who will take us by surprise.

The film stars Bradley CooperEd Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin BarthaKen JeongHeather GrahamMike Epps and Jeffrey Tambor.  The Hangover Part III opens on May 24th and, if you haven’t seen it, you can check out the recently-released trailer here.  Hit the jump for our full interview with Mazin. 

craig-mazin-the-hangover-part-3Question: Before the second one came out it was revealed that it was going to be a trilogy to end everything. At that point, what did you know about this one heading in?

CRAIG MAZIN: Not much. Todd and I had talked about wanting to finish things. So we knew that the third one– We liked the idea that lightning had struck twice in these poor guys, and we knew that the third one was going to be a true conclusion, a true finish. So, in that sense, it wasn’t going to be another episode the way that James Bond always seems to have a cold open and always seems to have a mission and always seems to have gadgets, because those are designed to go on forever. “This is the end, my beautiful friend,” and so we really came at this story from that point of view. What was unfinished business and what needed to be fixed and solved for these three people to move on with their lives? So that’s really what we started with. It was kind of scary, because we could have done anything, really, and sometimes that’s the scariest thing of all.

So can you talk about how much of this is set in L.A. and how much is in Vegas? I believe it’s kind of split between both, or is it mainly in Los Angeles?

MAZIN: It’s not mainly in any one place. There is quite a bit of Los Angeles, part of the movie takes place in Tijuana, Mexico, part of the movie takes place in the Mojave Desert, part of the movie takes place in Vegas. It begins and ends in Los Angeles. Vegas is– There’s some unfinished business, it turns out. Something that happened in the first movie that none of you picked up on, but we know about, and you’ll see what we mean. But there’s some unfinished business. So eventually you knew Stu, in particular, even though he swore he would never go back, is going to have to find himself there. That is kind of the heart of darkness for these guys. But that’s roughly– It doesn’t take place in any one area particularly.

We don’t know a great deal about the project, but we do know that you’re not doing a wedding this time, and this time it’s a road trip. But also, there are– You’re bringing back elements from the previous films. Like, I know Heather Graham is coming back to reprise her role. Where does the balance come with this film, going back to what we’ve seen and also introducing the new?

MAZIN: Well, that was kind of the call to action when we started, was finding a way to finish things in a fresh way. And in a weird way, that really has been our guiding light. So we have brought some people back because it was important to bring them back, because we needed resolution on some things. Whereas other people we didn’t feel the need to bring back because they were resolved and it wasn’t open-ended. We let character really drive it, and Alan’s character, in particular. I mean, if you think about it, he’s a deeply disturbed person and he needs help, and this movie is going to attempt to help him, I think.

the-hangover-3-zach-galifianakis-bradley-cooper-ed-helmsThe first one had such a unique structure, with almost the whodunit aspect of it. Can you say anything about the structure of the third? Will it be completely different from the other two?

MAZIN: Sure. It will be quite different. This movie is a bit of a chase movie. Mr. Chow is out there somewhere and needs to be found. It’s a little bit of a heist movie, it’s a little bit of a road trip, and it’s a little bit of a coming-of-age story, quite frankly. There’s quite a few genres all smashed into one. But I suppose, at this point, given the success of The Hangover and The Hangover Part Two, it’s the Hangover genre. I don’t know what else to say. It’s our own sick thing that we do over here.

Is there a memory loss aspect to the story?

MAZIN: No. No. In fact, quite the opposite. There’s a few things that will be recalled. No, nobody loses their memory in this. No, not at all. No.

But is there still a lot of drinking?

MAZIN: On set, frequently. But no, there’s not much– There’s a little bit of drinking, but nothing– It’s not really about that. Again, if you think about Alan, he doesn’t really need much. Even sober, he is a very disturbed person. So, no, this movie is not really– There’s no party, there’s no drinking, there’s no passing out, there’s no amnesia. But there is unfinished business. That’s sort of the best way of putting it. We very much– Todd, I think, very smartly, wanted to make a third movie that wasn’t just the last movie, but was absolutely the last movie. “Let’s finish it.” And I think that’s important, to truly end it. And so we really worked towards a proper finish, a satisfying finish. 

So, in the first two these guys were racing to get back for the wedding. So is there a race-against-time element in this chase? Do they need to catch up with Chow before something happens?

MAZIN: Yes. That’s exactly right. Death is in the air. There is death in this movie. I will tell you, people die. I will say that. Not everybody lives. This is– We don’t mess around. 

hangover-3-imageOne of the things I enjoyed thoroughly about the last one was spending time at home with Alan. Is there a lot more of that?

MAZIN: I don’t know if there’s a lot more of it, but it’s there and it’s great. Alan’s family life is endlessly fascinating to us. There’s quite an interesting thing that happens in Alan’s family in this one. And there’s some terrific scenes early on, particularly, in the movie. But it’s one of those things where– Obviously at some point the movie has to start. You can’t– There’s a nice sitcom, I suppose, to be had of Alan’s house. (imitating announcer) “Alan’s House, this fall.” But you’ll be happy, you’ll be happy. 

So, some critics were pretty hard on Hangover Part Two–

MAZIN: Were they?

Yeah. And I’m curious if that was something you paid attention to and was in your mind at all when you were writing the third one. I don’t know, taking notes, in a sense, from what they were saying. I mean, not that you would necessarily want to do that, but–

MAZIN: Right. Yes and no is the answer to your two-part . Yes, I noticed. No, I didn’t care. The critics were wrong. I don’t know how else to say it. And I don’t say that because I personally have some sort of strong-held belief. I say it empirically. I sat in a theater and watched the movie with audiences prior to the film coming out, prior to reviews being written. I watched them and then I listened to them. And I listened to them afterwards and I read all the things they wrote down. And simply, the critics were wrong. In the sense that– They’re right in that they didn’t like it, they’re wrong in that their opinion was applicable to reality. And the only reality I care about is the audience. And I will go to my grave saying that. So, no, I don’t– That was not part of our calculus. It’s never part of our calculus. Frankly, there’s– I mean, you know the old Wayne Gretzky saying, “Skate where the puck’s going to be, not where it is.” We don’t go where critics want us to go, we don’t care where they think we should be. Todd, in particular– I think Todd Phillips is the most fearless filmmaker I’ve ever encountered in almost eighteen years of doing this now. He really doesn’t care. And that’s very emboldening to me. In the last movie, and in this movie, certainly, we’ve written things where we thought no one else would let us do this but Warner Bros. And they have an enormous amount of faith in Todd. We are always doing things we shouldn’t, and I love that. And I think that he– When he made the second movie and he came to me about writing the second movie, he already knew, roughly, that he wanted to make another episode of this kind of story the way that, again, James Bond has episodes. And I thought he had the right idea, and it obviously worked. I guess if you look at critics like CinemaScore– I look at CinemaScore, I worry about that. I want them– And we did very well. So, critics, sorry, guys. I mean, love you, but, you know–

the-hangover-3-bradley-cooper-ed-helms-zach-galifianakisWell, in the discussion of tone, in the second film, it is considerably darker than the first one. Does that pattern continue? Do we see a change with the third one?

MAZIN: To an extent. We love that dark tone, and we think that’s one of the things that sets this apart from just turning into another wacky comedy series. I think the third movie at times is darker but real-er, and ultimately more uplifting. I think you have to go dark to go light, otherwise it just all plays on a surface. And Todd’s tone is very much one of being real. And again, I’ll just keep saying, Alan is sick. And we want to be real about that.

The first one had a tiger and the second one had a monkey. Is there an animal we’re going to be associating with the third one?

MAZIN: Uh-huh. Yeah. Won’t see much of him, though. Just wait.

And roosters?

MAZIN: Oh, yeah, we do have– This scene actually has some fighting roosters in it, but that’s small potatoes compared to the– Yeah, you’ll see. You’ll see.

As far as the travel aspect, how much research is involved in portraying towns? Do you go to Tijuana and–

MAZIN: Yeah, a lot– Unfortunately, you can’t really go there anymore. Warner Bros., a lot of the studios won’t really let you shoot there anymore because it’s gotten dangerous. And we are walking around with world-class, famous Bradley Cooper types, who I guess would be worth a lot if you were to kidnap them. I’ve been thinking about it, but it’s harder than it looks. But we do a ton of research. We did a ton of research with Bangkok prior to going there. And then, of course, we went there, scouted, and rewrote based on what we saw. And so, yes, we go to the places before we shoot them. To recreate Tijuana where we did, in Nogales, Arizona, it took quite a bit of research and a lot of effort from our great crew and staff to convert a border town to Tijuana, and it worked great. Yeah.

hangover-3-ed-helms-bradley-cooper-justin-barthaDo you think this will do for Tijuana tourism what this did for Las Vegas, the first one?

MAZIN: Tijuana tourism, I think, needs more help than we can give it right now. They need to stop shooting at each other. But we’re all pulling for it. I mean, they’re our neighbor. Hopefully, they stop killing people.

Can you talk about how involved Justin Bartha’s character is in this one? The last movie, he kind of sat poolside and did some work over the phone.

MAZIN: Yeah. Yeah, so the first one, he was parked on a roof. The second one, he was poolside. This one, he’s more involved, and tragically so. Poor Justin. He’s just one of those guys. Poor guy’s snakebit. You’ll see. He’s got an interesting encounter with John Goodman, who’s in the movie, who’s terrific. And that was a real joy. I mean, to work with John Goodman was–

Can you give us any more on his character?

MAZIN: I can tell you that John Goodman’s a dangerous man, and that John Goodman, in a way, has always been in the movies. And when you see the movie, you’ll see what I mean. Put that in Collider! 

So he’s like the Jabba the Hutt?

MAZIN: Very much so, but not that way. I mean, I don’t want to be insulting. It’s a presence, a dark presence that’s been lingering. Look, Spooky’s like, “You’ve told them too much!”

No. I was thinking it’s probably time for you to end.

Be sure to get caught up on all of our other coverage from the set visit of The Hangover Part III via the following links:

The Hangover Part III opens May 24th.

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