When a group of journalists visited the set of The Hangover Part III late last year, we half expected Ken Jeong to leap naked out of the trunk of a car or hurl himself out of an ice machine. No such luck; he only leapt on the bed of a Tijuana hotel and started shooting (blanks) at (animatronic) roosters. After he had his fun, Jeong participated in a roundtable interview in which he talked about his skyrocketing career, his character’s relationship to the Wolfpack, doing more action and stunts in this film and wrapping up the concluding chapter of The Hangover trilogy.
The film stars Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, 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 Jeong
KEN JEONG: No comment.
Can you tell us about Mr. Chow? We heard already that it’s more of a chase involving trying to find Mr. Chow.
JEONG: Yeah, it’s different from the previous Hangover films, and so it doesn’t follow the formula of a forgotten night or a bachelor party. I think it deals with the consequences of actions in general, and I love it a lot. I think the fans are going to be really happy with the story. And for me, personally, it’s just another excuse to be with my friends and be with the people who basically put my career on the map. It’s the same team. It’s Todd Phillips and Bradley, Ed and Zach, and it’s my favorite film crew to work with. So for me it’s just– I just love the secondhand that we have. We just have a shorthand. We just know each other so well now. It’s wonderful, yeah. It’s been really enjoyable.
There’s a great escalation in your character between the first and second movies. Is that something we see continuing in this one as well?
JEONG: Yeah, it does continue in this movie. As an actor, I’m just very grateful to work at all, much less have a bigger part. So, for me it’s an embarrassment of riches at this point because– Yeah, in the first Hangover, I think I was only on set for maybe, like, four days. To say that it changed my life is an understatement. I think Keith Richards said the turning point for him in his life came when his life changed from black and white to Technicolor, and that’s what the first Hangover did for me. It just changed my whole career, and–
How much are you spending on this movie?
JEONG: I’m here a lot. So, yeah, it’s quite a big amount. And it’s just been great, man. I just can’t say enough great things about being on this project. And when you’re with people like Bradley, Ed and Zach, and Todd, you raise your game as an actor. So I’m constantly being stimulated just to improve and to really do the best I can every single frame, every single take. And that’s all you can ask for as an actor, is just people who you trust and who you love, and they’re pushing you to be the best you can be. That is all I want in this career. Yeah.
Can you talk about the scene that you’re about to shoot here? Set it up a little bit?
JEONG: I don’t think so. I don’t think I can really reveal much. Just expect a lot of mayhem. I think that’s about the way to describe it.
JEONG: I think that pretty much says it all. It’s like, “Chow” and “cockfighting.” I think that pretty much– You go from point A to B, and what you see will be– You know, it’s Chow and cockfighting.
Do you get a sense of how he got to this point, though? Because you see him, he’s involved in all sorts of different things. Do you get a sense of how Chow became involved in all these kind of things in this movie?
JEONG: He definitely– That’s a great … I think Chow’s evolution has become from kind of an antagonist or villain in the first one into maybe a friend in the second one. I just love– In this movie you’re going to see different layers of Chow. And it’s become a fully realized and layered character. And Todd Phillips and Craig Mazin, the writers of the movie, have just taken great lengths to give it a lot of depth, and it’s really been wonderful. I just can’t even believe they’re giving Chow so much depth, and I love it. Honestly, this is everything I ever wanted. Everything I ever wanted is in this movie. That’s about as blunt as I can put it. This is just one of the happiest moments of my career.
How does it feel to be back in his shoes? Did you slip right in?
JEONG: Yeah, I slipped right into these boots. And that’s a good point, because I’ve got to give a lot of props to Louise [Mingenbach], our costume designer. She’s been the costume designer for all three movies and she’s done an amazing job. In fact, the whole outfit that I have right now, it’s part of it, but the full outfit that you’ll see in the movie is perhaps my favorite outfit of all the Chow outfits. She really outdid herself for this one.
Because he does like to dress up, look fancy.
JEONG: He does have a sense of style that I don’t have as an actor in real life. I’m more like same-clothes-every-day guy if you ask my wife, but Chow is definitely the opposite of that. So my wife, Tran, loves to see me in different clothes. She loves to see the Chow clothes. I don’t wear jewelry, I don’t wear any of this, so–
But kind of on the opposite, do you get to keep your clothes on throughout this whole movie?
JEONG: You’ll have to wait and see.
JEONG: You know, there is a lot more– There is a lot of action for Chow in this movie and things that I have never done before, and working with Jack Gill, the stunt coordinator, has been absolutely amazing. He’s done Mission: Impossible, the last one. And working with Jack I’ve learned so much just in terms of the whole process and art of what he does. I’ve definitely got to give a shout-out to my stuntman, Phil Tan. He’s my main stunt double. He’s been with me ever since the first movie. He jumped out of the trunk, he jumped out of the ice machine. In fact, it’s his body, you see him jump out of the trunk, the very initial body. So his butt is first, I believe, in the first frame of Hangover One. And it’s just so great to be working with him again and learning from him. Every project you do, you hope you learn something more as an actor and learn how to– And I definitely developed a deeper appreciation for what everyone does. Yeah.
When you read the last script, the part of your early demise, did you stop reading?
JEONG: Actually, that’s a great question, because I didn’t know where the twists or turns were in that script, and I loved that script. So I was laughing my ass off when I read it. It actually made me laugh out loud. My wife was hearing me read both Hangover Two and Hangover Three’s scripts. I was in my office reading it and she’s just hearing me going– <mock laughs> Just laughing my ass off in both of them. That’s the beauty of Todd Phillips. His movies are roller coaster rides, and he’s so great and adept at really keeping everything grounded in reality at the beginning and then– I look at it like when you’re going up a rollercoaster, you’re looking at the trees, you’re looking at everything that’s normal and naturalistic, and then boom! Descent into madness. And all three of these movies just really encapsulate that for me, so it’s just great.
You mentioned in the second film that you almost became more of a friend. And you were Alan’s plus-one to the wedding.
JEONG: You definitely see more relationships in general with Chow and the gang in the movie, and that’s a lot of fun. And so getting to do scenes with the Wolfpack, or even just with some of the actors that I either am now doing more scenes with or different combinations of, it’s a lot of fun. And again, you can’t get a better stellar principal cast than– I mean, you got Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis. They complement each other so well. I give all the credit to them because they’re so grounded and so brilliant at what they do, and they occupy different spaces of comedy. They make it so much fun to play with– It’s so easy to play with them. It’s always been easy, but I really appreciate that even more this time around. Because the more I work with them, the more I appreciate their skill level, and it just inspires me to give it my all. Yeah.
One of the reasons people like the character so much is because you push in this incredible intensity. Is that something that you need to ease into when you’re performing, or does it just click?
JEONG: You know, just like anything else, some elements are easy to click into easily, but I have to say that there are some elements here that I really have to– I’m doing some new stuff and I’m really having to push myself. And that’s a great . So I’m not just doing the familiar Chow moves. It’s not just like a “greatest hits.” It’s like, (imitating Eagles fan) “Do Hotel California.” Something like that, you know? I’m not doing– I’m doing a lot of stuff that I as an actor have never done. And that’s been exhilarating. We’ve all pushed each other to do stuff I’ve never done as an actor, and that to me is– It gives me chills just thinking about it. Yeah, I’ve learned so much. And there’s so many things I’ve learned that I could apply to future projects, too. This is the most I’ve ever learned, I think, in a long time on anything.
It’s such an expanded role now in the films. How much input did you have, if any, in the scripting process, or later, while you’re on the set? How much input have you been given on top of–
JEONG: I think that’s the beauty of working with Todd, is that he’s such a great purveyor of tone in all of the movies that we all defer to him in terms of the specificity of tone that he has. And then, having said that, he’s been very open to collaboration and open to ideas, but he always has been in the first two movies as well. The jumping out naked in the trunk was my idea, that was him green-lighting that, which he happily did. For me, just as a fan of Todd and also the main actors, watching them collaborate and shape a scene is a thing of beauty. And there’s a lot of dialogue that goes back and forth in some of these scenes, in terms of trying to shape it. And everyone has a say. But also, we all know none of this would be possible if it wasn’t for Todd Phillips. No one ever– Everyone knows their role in this, but everyone’s also allowed to speak. We just know our roles. It’s just a great– Sometimes when you’re working on other movies or projects, you’re, “Oh, can I speak up here? Can I say–” <stammers> We never have that. It’s more like, “Okay, how about this? How about that?” You know? There’s a lot of that going on. And it’s definitely a collaboration, but it’s Todd’s movie. You know what I mean? That’s what great teams do. Like in athletics, in sports. Great teams are like that. People have creative input, but we all defer to The Man. You know? Yeah.
You were talking about how the first Hangover changed your career. What’s it like now to walk down the street when Hangover fans recognize you? What do they run up and say?
JEONG: They just do a lot of Chow quotes from the first two movies. I think my favorite ever was I was at an ATM and there was a middle-aged man in a convertible staring at me for the longest time. And as he drives away, he says, (imitating Chow) “Toodle-oo, motherfucker!” Like that. That is probably the best. Nothing has topped that. That was a year ago, I think. Like this is nothing. He just stood there deadpan throughout, like, “Toodle-oo, motherfucker.”
That’s a hard one to top.
JEONG: That’s a hard one, yeah. That’s a hard one to top.
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
- Zach Galifianakis Talks THE HANGOVER PART III, Alan’s Character Arc, Revisiting Alan’s Family, Wolfpack Character Relationships & More from Our Set Visit
- Ed Helms Talks THE HANGOVER PART III, Character Relationships, Location Shoots, Returning Characters, Concluding the Trilogy & 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.