In our continuing coverage from the set of “The Hangover Part III”, we speak to Ed Helms, who plays Stuart Price in the “epic” trilogy.
For my mic, can you say your name?
My name is Edward Parker Helms. I play Stuart Price, the dentist character, member of the Wolf Pack… and I wear a size nine-and-a-half shoe.
Nice! Okay, so tell us what is happening with Stu. Because he, I think, is the luckiest guy in the movie. In the first one he got the stripper, in the second one, he got married again–
The luckiest? God, you must have been watching Cedar Rapids or something. What’s happening with Stu… Well, I think Stu’s been kind of a punching bag the last couple of movies, but he did marry a beautiful woman at the end of the second one. And what’s sort of fun about this time around is that Stu, he’s now married to a woman who is much cooler and sexier than he is, and she’s sort of made him a little cooler. So we start with Stu being just a little– He dresses a little sharper, he’s got a little bit better fashion sense, maybe a little more confidence than he’s had before. And that’s fun, because it’s a slightly unfamiliar place for the audience to kind of start up with Stu. But then good old neurotic Stu comes roaring back pretty early on.
Obviously with what you guys had gone through in the first two, what’s the biggest challenge in approaching what you guys are doing?
Probably like, what else could we possibly go through? Do you know? Like just how do you… From an imagination standpoint, what do we come up with that’s remarkably different and exciting and stimulating for our fans and for the audience? I think that was a big challenge going in. And the solution to that was a really nice departure from our formula for One and Two, and getting into something that’s kind of darkly grounded. There’s a joy in the first two, because we’re finding out how much fun we had the night before. Even though we caused all this havoc, we’re still sort of finding out happy things that happened the night before. This movie has less of that kind of happiness, and a sort of– Let’s not say– It’s still extremely funny, but it has a little bit of a darker energy to it, which is kind of a fun change of pace, a little bit of a shift.
You shot Hangover more or less under the radar, you can’t shoot Hangover 3 under the radar. So how different are those two shoots in Las Vegas, now you’re the talk of the town?
Well, the big difference for us is that I can’t play a quiet game of blackjack in the casino after work. And when we’re shooting, occasionally– Like where we were earlier today, we’d been there for a couple of days, and occasionally someone will just drive by and be like, “Hangover!”, or “Wolf Pack!” And so we have to redo a few takes. So yeah, it’s a little more chaotic this time around, but in a fun way, because we have a lot of fans here. And the hotels treat us really nice, so…
How do you come up with the songs of the films? Are they already in the script?
No, neither of those songs from One and Two were scripted– Not only were they not scripted, they weren’t even supposed to– They didn’t even exist in the script as an idea. So in both cases, we sort of got to a point in the movie where I was like, “Oh! It’d be fun to put a song here!” And that’s how both of those songs came about… Yeah.
Are you going to write another one for the third movie?
What kind of creatures did you find in this movie?
Something with– There’s something sharp involved. And that’s about as much as I should tell you I think.
Since you’re a married man again, and you’re returning to Vegas, I mean your personage, will there be a contradiction between your new wife and the girl who was, in the first part, involved with you?
Interesting. Interesting question. There might be some circumstances that could get a little wily. But one of the fun things about Stu’s character in the last two movies is that he’s such a well-meaning, good guy, and there’s that conflict with his own horrible behavior and some self-loathing that comes out of that, and some anger issues that come out of that. So I would say that that’s one of the fun things about Stu, that is certainly– we’re having fun with in this one too.
What happened with the tattoo?
Can you see it? I have a scar! I have a ta– A laser-removal scar, which means I have to spend an extra thirty minutes in the make-up chair. I have to get here thirty minutes before Zach and Bradley every day.
Can you talk about how the difference in the relationships with the other members of the Wolf Pack have evolved? Whether it be Bradley’s character, Zach’s, or even Justin’s character. Could you talk about how that’s evolved over the films? Because they’ve gone through so much, into this one.
Well, that’s interesting. I think one of the things that’s so grounding and comforting about this crew, is that their friendship stays intact, and that some of those dynamics– I mean, we’re really kind of archetypes. We’ve got the cool guy, a nerd, and a weirdo, and then Justin is kind of like the normal guy. And then you throw Ken Jeong in the mix, as just this wildcard. So that’s actually a constant. I think that’s something that, through everything we’ve seen in both movies, through these just incredible circumstances, their friendship and their roles in that group dynamic are pretty steady. Now it gets tested, it gets pushed, it gets tried a bunch, and that’s where the fun comes in, and the conflict. And sometimes we ramp up our stereotypes or our archetypes. Like sometimes Stu is more neurotic than he usually is. But the circumstances in the narrative, I think, just bring that out.
What about you guys as actors? How’s the dynamics? Who is the cool guy, who is the…
Weirdly, I am the cool guy in this group. You know, we’re all sort of versions of ourselves. I think most actors don’t stray too far from who they are as characters, so there’s something to that Wolf Pack. And we were cast because of who we are, because of our energy, and– That was Todd’s vision from early on. So it’s a much more sort of laid back, calmer version, maybe, of the group dynamic in the movie.
How do you feel about this going to be maybe the last time that the Wolf Pack is gonna be together?
How do you guys feel?
Sad? I think it’s just an awesome piece of closure, you know? It’s sad when things fizzle out, or don’t get handled well. But this feels like a nice, big celebratory send-off for The Hangover, and I’m thrilled about it. It’s funny, ’cause it’s also coinciding with the last season of The Office for me. So these two major career tent poles or whatever you want to call it, are winding down, and I’ve got my eye on the next phase of my career, which I’m extremely excited about. I feel like in both cases, The Hangover and The Office, it’s like a good, smart– It’s a good place to wrap up, you know? And it’s in a good way and it’s being handled well, so I feel pretty great about it. I’m sad, of course I’m sad. ‘Cause I could do these movies for another forty years, but– What’s the movie they’re making right now with Robert De Niro, and–
Last Vegas, right? Maybe we’ll all do the sequel to that in twenty years. Yeah, so mixed emotions, but I feel great about it.
Can you talk about coming around full circle, and going back and shooting in Vegas? Since you guys went to such extremes in Bangkok, can you talk about that? And how the different locations sort of imbued you guys as characters? ‘Cause they always affect what you literally become in the movie.
Sure. Well, I think this– You’ll find that this movie has a very different premise and context than the other two. So it’s not quite as– The other two, the location, Vegas and Bangkok, was such an important character in the movie, we all responded to that character in different ways, we all were influenced by those locations in powerful ways. This movie is very different, and it sort of has– It doesn’t rely on a location to stimulate– It doesn’t rely on your preconceived ideas about what a location is, and what and how it will affect you. So in this movie, Vegas serves as a really cool kind of connection to the original narrative. And I love how this movie, actually really smartly weaves in through lines and narratives from the whole trilogy. And it’s a cool– Like things that you didn’t– may not have stuck out to you in the first movie or the second movie, suddenly have meaning and relevance to what’s happening in this version. And it’s a really cool story. The locations actually are the result– We’re here because of this cool story. We’re not here– Like in the first one, we came here ’cause it was a great place to tell that story. Here, the story has brought us here, in a cool way.
How your relationship with him has changed since the first one?
You know, in the first one, we were all very fresh and eager, and relatively green. None of us had done a big movie like this. And the second one, we were all psyched to get back and just work. And Bangkok was a really tough work environment, it really put us through the wringer. This one, we’ve all come back and we’re really arrogant and entitled… No, Todd is just– He’s a boss. He keeps you in line, in a good way. He’s really decisive, he’s a good leader, and we’re eager soldiers. And I think the cool thing about this work environment is that we all really appreciate what this movie has done for us. And not just for our careers, but also just in our lives, the friendships we’ve made, and Todd really is the center of that. And so, we don’t allow each other to spin out too much, we kind of keep each other in line. So now, to answer your question how has our relationship changed with Todd, I think there’s a maturity now. We’re five, six years later, we’re older, we’re more experienced. We’ve all done other projects, we’ve all been– So there’s now a little bit more… yeah, I guess maturity is the word. Don’t make– I should be clear, the movie is not mature, at all. Yeah.
Could that also– The humor and rawness of these films has always pushed the limit. You guys are always pushing the boundary. Can you talk about where you look out, when you get to that line, like, how far you would go?
Yeah, usually– I learned that my line falls before the line of the movie, or the script or whatever, or even the sort of group comedic dynamic. So I have learned to just trust that the process is bigger than me, and I actually loved the results. Sometimes I’m mortified while we’re doing something, but then I just– Later on, I’ll see it and I love it.
But in the end, you suffered more than others, yes?
I suppose. It’s worth it.
When I said lucky, I meant lucky with women, not in the movie.
Oh, oh, oh.
What about the Tijuana scene? I’m from Mexico, everybody wants to know about it. When they heard about that film’s gonna be in Tijuana, they were so excited.
Yeah, I don’t know what I can tell you about that, but it’s– I don’t know what I can say. It’s cool. I mean, this movie takes us more places than the other movies, so it’s not like this is the ‘Tijuana Hangover’, but Tijuana is a cool player in the narrative. It was cool.
How would you define the true nature of what the franchise is? What it means in terms of overall– Is there a meaning to it for you? Or is it just going through their lives?
This franchise is the heart and soul of America. No, God help us if it is. I just love– I think that this movie is ultimately about friendship, and sort of fraternal love and support. And as much as we just fight with each other in the movie, there’s this underlying connection that we have. And I think that’s why everyone from frat brothers to grandmothers love these guys. Because they stick with each other, they hold each other accountable, and they power through these really tough situations together, like as a unit.
But in the end of this movie, it seems that Alan would get apart from the group, so…?
Well, I don’t know if that’s how I would characterize it. I don’t know how much you guys know about it, or are inferring, but I don’t know that that’s a– I wouldn’t really characterize anyone as being– breaking off from– This movie’s about friends that stick together. I say this movie, I mean this franchise, this world is about these guys.
He’s the only one who bears the signs of what happens to them.
Well, I don’t think we ever looked at this as– It’s not a matter of trying to beat what we’ve done before, or take the same thing, the same idea, and “What’s the new version of it?” This is a new movie, and it’s a new story, and I think people would be pretty psyched about and surprised by some of the new directions. Spooky is hovering.
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