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Why ‘Hangover’ Director Todd Phillips Keeps Coming Back to His Favorite DP, Lawrence Sher

“That’s my guy Larry,” says director Todd Phillips upon learning that Variety has selected his favorite DP, Lawrence Sher, as a billion-dollar cinematographer.

The duo have worked together on a half dozen films, including all three installments of the “Hangover” franchise, “Due Date,” “War Dogs” and the upcoming “Joker,” with Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro, due out from Warner Bros. in October.

“Larry has the most fantastic eye and instinct, and he works harder than anyone I’ve ever met,” says Phillips. “He’s pretty much become my filmmaking partner. I talk to him about the making of the movie, not just the look. I run casting by him, he looks at cuts with me — Larry is pretty much my most consistent partner.”

On their first project, 2009’s “The Hangover,” “we were like brothers on the set,” says Phillips. “We clicked, and that was it. Since then, I’ve only gone to him. I let him know way in advance about when we’re shooting so he’ll be available.”

The director and DP begin their collaboration way before shooting starts. “We break down the script, go through it page by page, talk how we’re going to shoot each scene,” says Phillips.

The duo go together on location scouts and discuss all the setups in advance. “We do so much prep that we don’t have to speak so much on set,” say Phillips. “I’m dealing with actors, so we just trust each other and have a shorthand.”

Phillips adds: “We’ve flown the world together. I’ve traveled more with Larry than my wife or anyone else.”

On the R-rated “Hangover” franchise the pair have tried to make the films look less like comedies, “which tend to be bright, because, I guess, bright is funny. We tried to give them a more cinematic look.”

Phillips and Sher prefer to avoid second-unit work, though they’ve used it occasionally, especially on “The Hangover Part II,” which was shot in Thailand.

That experience was memorable. “It was hot and packed and crowded — and they don’t give a shit. If you’re shooting on the street in New York there are cops and traffic cones. In Bangkok it’s like a war zone. They don’t shut anything. They just let you do it. It’s liberating. All those people in the movie, they’re not extras.”

As Sher’s career advances, Phillips acknowledges that it’s getting harder to book him. “He’s more and more in demand, which is great, but I just can’t imagine doing a movie without Larry.”

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