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Bangkok rouses ‘Hangover’ with Thai-in

Filmmakers shoot hard-R comedy in Thailand

During the production of many films, there comes an “aha” moment — preferably early on — when the personality of the project comes into focus and sets the tone for everything that follows.

For “The Hangover Part II,” that watershed occurred only a few days into the 56-day shoot, said cinematographer Lawrence Sher, in the scene where three of the R-rated ensemble comedy’s leads — Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper and Zack Galifianakis — wake up in a sweltering Bangkok hotel room, wasted and clueless about how they got there.

That scene, almost a carbon copy of the Las Vegas-set hotel-room opening of 2008’s “The Hangover,” made the filmmakers “feel totally like we had gotten right back to where we left off, but in a place that was even more interesting,” Sher says. “I remember thinking that day, Oh my god, we’re back.”

That room was created by production designer Bill Brzeski on an L.A. soundstage, but about two-thirds of the “Hangover” sequel, which grossed a hefty $137.4 million this weekend, was filmed on location in Thailand.

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Helmer Todd Phillips had always intended to make “Part II” physically and emotionally darker than the first film and set it in an exotic location, according to Sher. Thailand was the first choice. The only problem: The country was undergoing antigovernment riots when the filmmakers were finalizing their plans.

“We also scouted Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong and thought about doing them for Thailand,” Brzeski says, “but it worked out in the end. The unrest subsided, and the country was interested in getting (foreign productions back in), so they really opened up nicely to us.”

By the time they got to Thailand, Phillips, Sher and Brzeski had shot “The Hangover” and “Due Date” back-to-back and were excited to embark on a sequel that would set the bar even higher for R-rated comedies.

Not everything went smoothly. Both Sher and Brzeski admitted that the language barrier made communication with the otherwise professional Thai crews difficult at times. Plus, a collision of two vehicles during a car-chase sequence left a stuntman severely injured.

“Car chases are difficult in a city like Bangkok,” Brzeski says. “Thousands of people can get in the way. In America we’re used to locking up locations, but Bangkok was crazy.”

But the city’s energy and texture definitely worked to the movie’s advantage. The filmmakers even decided to reshoot inside a strip club one scene they had already filmed on a stage in L.A.

“As good as I like to think I am at designing sets, real locations are a better way to go, especially with Todd,” Brzeski says. “For him, there’s always something about the real place that makes the humor come out.”

That strip club scene, with its “Crying Game” moment, was just one example of the film’s goal “to be even more hardcore in Bangkok than in Vegas,” said Sher.

Bookings & Signings

Innovative Artists has signed producer Pieter Jan Brugge (“Love and Other Drugs”) and costume designer Roemehl Hawkins (“Charlie’s Angels”). Agency has booked line producers Bob Simon on ABC’s “The River” and Steven Brown on “American Girl,” with helmer TBD; UPM Samson Mucke on Josh Schwartz’s “Fun Size”; and line producers David Grace on Lee Toland Krieger’s “Celeste and Jesse Forever” and Elaine Dysinger on Rudolf Butendach’s “Dark Hearts”;

IA has also booked d.p.’s Phedon Papamichael on Judd Apatow’s “This Is Forty,” David Geddes on FX’s “Fringe,” James L. Carter on CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0,” Dennis S. Hall on USA’s “Burn Notice,” Michael Negrin on CW’s “The Vampire Diaries,” Darren Genet on Stephen Elliott’s “Cherry,” Nicola Marsh on Steven Monroe’s “Hole in the Desert,” Tim Suhrstedt on Max Mayer’s “As Cool as I Am” and Matthew Irving on Eduardo Rodriguez’s “Stash House”; second unit d.p. Patrick Loungway on Gary Ross’ “Hunger Games”; art director Zack Grobler on Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises”; production designer Graham Walker on P.J. Hogan’s “Mental”; editors Timothy Good on FX’s “Fringe,” Dorian Harris on Starz’s “Boss” and Zene Baker on Lorene Scafaria’s “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”; and costume designers Alysia Raycraft on “As Cool as I Am” and Tish Monaghan on David Rosenthal’s “A Single Shot.”

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