Studio, helmer poured seconds before original debuted

One of the more prescient moves by a studio came two months before “The Hangover” opened last year, with Warner Bros. deciding then that it would make the early committment to a sequel, “The Hangover 2.”

At that point, the studio made a deal with director Todd Phillips to write a second film with Scot Armstrong. It signed Phillips to direct and produce the sequel through his Green Hat Films banner and inked deals to reunite stars Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms. The sequel is slated to be released over Memorial Day weekend 2011.

Phillips famously wound up earning more than $35 million on “The Hangover” after he gave back his salary and gross position to become an equity investment partner in the pic along with Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures.

He also committed then to directing “Due Date,” a comedy starring Galifianakis and Robert Downey Jr., about an expectant dad (Downey) who races across the country to make it home in time for the birth of his first child with an unlikely travel companion (Galifianakis) in tow. Phillips seems to have become something of a road trip comedy specialist. “There’s something about just being without a net. To me, not having a net in comedy sometimes equals recklessness and danger, and thus comedy,” he says.

Due Date” will be released Nov. 10 — just around the time cameras roll on “The Hangover 2.”

Warners and Legendary have been mum regarding the logline of “The Hangover 2.” Phillips has told interviewers that though the first pic may have been “catching lightning in a bottle,” the response shows there’s a lot of affection among the public for the film’s main characters. Legendary chief Thomas Tull said recently that he was confident that Phillips will deliver the film in time.

The Hangover” is the top-grossing R-rated comedy ever at $277 million domestic, topping the 16-year-old record set by “Beverly Hills Cop” ($234 million) and adding another $190 million internationally. And at a time when studio spending has been tightened, its success also sparked development of a wide variety of R-rated comedies.

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