Even though it's been two years since he starred in "The Hangover," Ed Helms says he's still hasn't quite adjusted to the whirlwind of attention and praise the blockbuster comedy has earned worldwide.
In a way, Helms described, trying to wrap your head around the success of the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time is like, well, waking up with a hangover (minus the blackout, of course).
"My head is spinning for sure -- and it may never stop for the rest of my life," Helms said with a laugh during a recent interview.
Lucky for Helms, he got the opportunity to party on with his fellow cast mates and crew members for "The Hangover Part II," the hotly-anticipated sequel to the 2009 blockbuster that opens in theaters Thursday. Helms admits that he and the other members of the original movie's so-called "Wolfpack" -- Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and by proxy, director Todd Phillips -- approached the idea of a sequel gingerly, knowing that if they were going to wake up with another "Hangover," it had to be unique.
"When we were considering on doing a sequel, it came down to a couple things. We all loved each other and we wanted to work together again -- that we knew for sure," Helms said. "But we were also proud of the original 'Hangover' and didn't want to tarnish it with some kind of half-witted effort of a sequel just to put a few more dollars in everyone's pockets. We agreed to do it only if the material was there and actually delivered something worth doing that we could all be proud of as actors and creatives."
Helms said that it didn't take long for the team to realize that moving forward with a sequel was the right thing to do.
"When the first draft of the script came in, everyone was just electrified," Helms recalled. "The feeling was just, 'Hell, yes! Let's do this.'"
A change in locale
Helms said the biggest change that had to be made was in location, which is why "The Hangover Part II" relocates from Las Vegas to Thailand. It's there were Stu (Helms) is supposed to marry his fiancé, Lauren (Jamie Chung), and where he, Phil (Cooper), Alan (Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha) are supposed to avoid having a bachelor party.
But the decision to have just one beer (and in sealed bottles, no less) finds the wolfpack waking up in the seedy underbelly of Bangkok with no memory of the night before -- and this blackout has bigger implications than any of them could ever have imagined.
Helms said Bangkok was the perfect locale for "The Hangover Part II," mainly because there's something that feels dangerous about the city.
"It provides one of the few options where you can go and heighten the world that these characters are in," Helms explained. "'The Hangover' goes far pretty far in Las Vegas. It's a pretty bawdy, out-there movie, but with the sequel, Todd wanted to really find a location with as much if not more personality that Las Vegas. He sure found that in Bangkok."
Upping the action
Helms is also thrilled that "The Hangover Part II" distinguishes itself from the first film by virtue of having much more action.
"In every way the action is ramped up," said Helms. "The stakes of the story are a lot higher. In fact, it's much more intense in terms of the action and the comedy -- they're both out there farther than anything seen in the first movie. "
Helms, who also stars on the hit NBC sitcom "The Office," is also jazzed that there's more character development in "The Hangover Part II" -- one of the big benefits for an actor doing a sequel.
"The character arcs are more extreme. It's a lot of fun, but it's also kind of a 'Holy s---' experience," Helms said, laughing.
Stu gets his
In the first film, Stu, of course, took a huge amount of abuse -- verbally from his fiancé, Melissa (Rachael Harris), and physically by getting a tooth knocked out (a painful irony, given that his character is a dentist). The parade of misfortune unfortunately continues for him in "The Hangover Part II," including a new face tattoo -- and that's the least troublesome incident he experienced during the disastrous night.
"Poor Stu, he just has no say in the matter," Helms said with a laugh. "He gets beat up worse than anybody."
But then again, there is an upside to being the character. After all, Stu attracts Heather Graham in the first "Hangover" and Jamie Chung in the sequel -- and there's no arguing that both of them are drop-dead gorgeous.
"I actually really like the idea (of Stu marrying Chung's character) because as much abuse as he gets heaped on him during the course of the movie, it's clear that he's a good guy and there's something winning about him," Helms said.
Beautiful women notwithstanding, making "The Hangover Part II" complete for Helms -- if not for everybody -- is the return of Ken Jeong, who reprises his role of whacked-out mobster Mr. Chow. Watching Jeong transform from a person into the character during filming is a sight to behold, Helms said.
"Ken is so out of control in the best way," Helms said. "He's the most sweet, benevolent and wonderful guy, but then when you set him loose in front of a camera, he just goes berserk. Absolutely nothing is off-limits for him. He is absolutely a true champion of an actor."