Just before Thanksgiving of last year, I watched Ed Helms get attacked by four chickens in a Tijuana flophouse. He was fine and so were the chickens since it was part of our set visit to Warner Bros.’ The Hangover Part III. Helms, who is reprising his role of Stu the newly-married dentist in the concluding chapter of The Hangover trilogy, kindly sat down with a group of visiting journalists for a roundtable interview. He talked at length about the evolving character relationships within the Wolfpack, traveling to exotic locales, working with returning characters and the ever-expanding cast of animal stars featured in their movies.
The film also stars Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Heather Graham, Mike 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 Helms.
Nice trailers. They’re awesome.
HELMS: Yeah, I have to say, it’s the nicest one I’ve ever had.
This is actually a lot nicer than Zach’s.
HELMS: Well, there’s less vomit.
Actually, on the subject of Zach– In the second film, we do see that Stu has no trust in hanging out with Alan, or in him, just being around him in general. I’m curious, what’s the relationship like between those two in this film?
HELMS: First of all, great transition into the interview. “On the subject of Zach.” So, how are Stu and Alan– You know, they have a complicated friendship that I think is characterized by tolerance for one another and some mutual lack of understanding for the other’s thought process, mindset, intelligence, world view. But there’s some– Whereas Phil and Alan have this kind of overt bromance, particularly coming from Alan towards Phil, I think that Stu and Alan have more of an Odd Couple sort of thing going on, where if you really put a gun to their head, they’d kind of love each other and would go to the mat for each other. But you’d never know it if you spent five minutes with them. And that is just an important part of their history in the first two, and I think we have some fun in– Their relationship gets challenged in some new, exciting ways in Hangover Three. That’s what we’re talking about, right? Okay.
Stu gets pretty tortured in the last two, with the tooth and the tattoo. Anything like that in number three, or does he get a bit of a break?
HELMS: Well, I do have a nice little memory of the first one here in the form of a scar, which no one seems to notice but adds an hour of makeup to my day. And as far as the– Stu is something of a punching bag, kind of like the way Meredith is on The Office. Just, bad things happen. And there’s not so much the big, obvious thing, but that’s certainly a persistent theme that we ride out in Hangover Three. Boy, this is tough.
What are your feelings on having things wind down, just saying goodbye to this character?
HELMS: Oh, thank God. [Laughs] You know, this is actually a really interesting and exciting year for me, because both The Office and The Hangover are wrapping up. And I actually feel an incredible amount of pride in both of those things, and also in the way that they’re ending. I think they’re both– I don’t know, we’re kind of going out with a bang, and in a way that is, I think, exciting for fans, but also exciting for us and respectful of the franchise. I don’t feel like we’re cheapening it in any way, or taking the easy way out. It’s actually a really fun and elegant ending, in a way. And I feel the same way about The Office. But it is obviously fraught with a lot of emotion because it’s been such a defining thing for me, obviously in my career, which is what you guys see, but also in my life. I mean, I’ve spent– Like, by the time this movie ends, we will have spent– This crew, and by crew I mean not just Zach and Bradley and Todd and Ken and Justin, but the actual crew of the movie, we will have spent the better part of a year of our lives working fourteen hour days together. And that’s hard, but it also just forges some really intense and great bonds and friendships. And we won’t have that excuse to be in each other’s company as easily moving forward. And that’s a poignant, kind of sad part. And that applies to The Office and The Hangover. But I couldn’t be happier with– I do feel like both of them, actually, are ending in a timely, responsible way, and I couldn’t be happier about how it’s happening.
It’s like Alan was saying about– Or, Zach was saying how Stu almost needs to hang out with these guys because he’s a dentist and he has a sort of semi-boring life, I guess. Would you say that’s true in response to Stu?
HELMS: I don’t know that Stu needs any of it. He would be so happy to have a boring life. If Alan would just let him have a boring life. But I always see Stu as the reluctant guy that just gets sucked in. He’s sort of like Pacino in the last Godfather. He’s just trying to get out, but gets sucked back in. And it makes him a richer, more complex person, because he probably would be pretty boring otherwise. That said, I think Stu would be perfectly happy to be boring. But it wouldn’t make a very good movie.
There’s a sense in the second one that, throughout the film, Stu has become a little more laid-back, and he’s singing in the boat with Alan at the end.
HELMS: Well, this iteration, I think, heightens some of the things in all of us as characters. And there are– Stu has moments of calm, reflective acceptance, and then he has moments that I think he doesn’t control very well, of just sheer, abject panic and terror. And so he’s a little– He just sort of rides that sine curve more. I feel like Alan and Phil might be a little more consistent and Stu is a little bit more of a roller coaster. So you get both sides. The nice thing, what you just referenced in Two, he does marry this woman who is– He clearly marries up. She’s a beautiful, intelligent woman and, as a result, in Three, we pick Stu up into that marriage and having clearly absorbed a little bit more responsibility for– He’s a little bit cooler of a guy. Do you know what I mean? He was more– He was happier in the first two, I think, to just be a nerdy dentist. Now I think his wife has dressed him a little bit cooler, has– Where are my glasses? I took them off. But he has different glasses this time, they’re a little bit cooler. And he wears these cool socks. Like, he never would’ve done that in the first two. But the wife has sort of, hopefully, made him look cool at the beginning, but then, of course, good old Stu comes out. Huge, huge nerd.
Obviously, you might have to be a little political about this, but in the second film we also discover that Stu really does have this darkness within him that comes out. And I know that you guys aren’t having the big drinking and passing out, forgetting whole thing. But do we still get a taste of that from your character in this one?
HELMS: Yeah, I’ll plead Fifth Amendment there. What I can say is that the movie as a whole, I think, has a little bit darker timbre to it. I think that– It’s been really cool to see Todd’s evolution as a director. He’s obviously directed a lot of movies before Hangover, but just in these three movies, in the time that I’ve known him, you see his priorities focus in different areas sometimes. And this movie feels very– The first two– Well, the first one in particular stood out, I think, as a comedy because of how cinematic it felt. And Larry’s photography is so incredible. But, also, Todd’s direction is informed by more Martin Scorsese than Mel Brooks. And so I feel like a lot of that stuff, a lot of it, is really coming to bear in this movie. And as I watched playback, as I watched little pieces that we’ve shot– Sometimes we’ll watch a scene from a few days ago just to make sure we’re doing today’s work right, and it’s just like, “Holy shit, this looks incre–” It just looks like a fuckin’ movie, you know? It doesn’t feel like– It’s not like– It’s just not another comedy off the shelf. It feels like a real cinematic experience. And in keeping with that, the way the movie feels, it has gravitas, and so the story does, too, in a way. And our paths in the story have a little more gravitas.
HELMS: Some old cast members are revisited. The demons are always there. The demons just sort of come out in surprising and fun different ways. I can’t wait– We haven’t shot that stuff with Heather yet. I can’t wait to. She’s a dream.
It must be nice, also, to come full circle from the first. Satisfying in terms of the script?
HELMS: Yeah, well, that is a really cool thing about this movie, is that there are ways that both of the first two movies weave into a narrative that you didn’t see coming. And I don’t think– I loved the show Lost, in part because the writers were so nimble in how they would take things from previous episodes, that probably weren’t created with any intent towards a larger narrative, and they would get woven into narratives in a really elegant and exciting way. And that’s what this story is, Hangover Three. It pulls things from One and Two that you didn’t know may have been part of a larger narrative, but actually, in Three, it is, and it’s really cool and surprising.
Shooting today’s scene with the chickens, I was wondering if you felt like Tippi Hedren in The Birds?
HELMS: Did you see that stuff?
HELMS: There was one, that third take, I think, where there were four chickens descending on me. And I watched playback and I definitely had a little Hitchcock recollection there. But yeah, that’s fine. I’m a little scratched up, too, but that’s all right.
Any other animal moments in this one? We’ve had the tigers, we’ve had the monkey. We saw the chickens.
HELMS: There is an emu, and a wombat later.
You’re opening a zoo?
HELMS: What’s that?
Are you opening a zoo? You guys going to rent them?
Going to Australia?
HELMS: Yeah. Yeah, those are both Australian, right?
I noticed you got the axe over there. Are you practicing for a little mid-movie medley?
HELMS: These go with me everywhere, banjo and guitar. So, no spoilers to answer that . But yeah, these are just everywhere. These go with me. Always practicing.
I know when you were in Bangkok you got quite sick. Were you relieved not to actually have to go to Tijuana this time to stay close by?
HELMS: Actually, I love travel. I love to go spend time in new places. And even though I got horribly sick in Thailand, and it was the sickest I may have ever been in my life, I still loved the trip. We were there for nine weeks and just experienced some insane, insane, crazy shit that no tourist would ever get to do. We had to take that speedboat down the Chao Phraya River from downtown Bangkok to the mouth of the Bay of Thailand, or whatever you call it. Is that the Bay of Bengal? I think. Anyway, it’s like an hour-long speedboat ride at sixty miles an hour through the whole– I don’t know, it was just incredible. So I would never trade that stuff. I love to travel. That said, this has been a much more comfortable and civilized production for those reasons.
With all these elements coming together and the story wrapping up, would you say that this was– As far as the script goes and the storyline goes, as for run time, I guess, would this be one of the more longer in the franchise, or would you say it still would keep in time with the first two?
HELMS: I don’t know. That’s a good question. I have no idea. I don’t think the run time– You know, you just– Before you shoot a movie, you kind of go off page count for that, and I’d say we’re in the same ballpark. But I don’t know, it could– You also overshoot a movie and cut things out. If everything works, it could be a longer movie. You know, if every little piece stays in. I’m not sure.
This project has been– I mean, they were talking about a Part Three even before Part Two came out, and I’m curious how much contribution you had to where you wanted to see Stu going and adding to your character from the script.
HELMS: Much more in the actual production phase than in the conception phase. That’s really something that Todd and Craig Mazin spearheaded. That said, they are, of course, always open to suggestions, and I always feel like we’re listened to. But our collaborative process really kicks in once we’re in production, much more. Yeah.
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:
- 45 Things to Know About THE HANGOVER PART III from Our Set Visit
- Ken Jeong Talks THE HANGOVER PART III, His Evolving Career, Chow’s Relationship with the Wolfpack, Getting to Do More Action & More from Our Set Visit
- Zach Galifianakis Talks THE HANGOVER PART III, Alan’s Character Arc, Revisiting Alan’s Family, Wolfpack Character Relationships & More from Our Set Visit
- Bradley Cooper Talks THE HANGOVER PART III, Character Relationships, Concluding the Trilogy, Going Back to Vegas, Oscar Buzz & More from Our Set Visit
- Writer Craig Mazin Talks THE HANGOVER PART III, Concluding the Trilogy, Where the Film Takes Place, Returning Characters & More from Our Set Visit
- Director Todd Phillips Talks THE HANGOVER PART III, How It’s Alan’s Story, Keeping a Dark But Realistic Tone, Shooting on Location & More from Our Set Visit
The Hangover Part III opens May 24th.