Something befalls Justin Bartha in The Hangover Part III


"Justin Bartha (National Treasure films, TV’s The New Normal) is back as Doug, the accident-prone member of the Wolfpack in Warner Bros.' male-oriented comedy The Hangover Part III. This time, there's no wedding. No bachelor party. What could go wrong, right? But when the Wolfpack hits the road, all bets are off.

"Reuniting with the original cast led by Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis, Justin talks about The Hangover Part III in the following interview:

Question: What was your reaction when you first got the call or when you first heard there was going to be a third film?

Justin Bartha: Well, not surprised, but pleasantly pleased that it all worked out, for all the components to get together, because for a while there, it was kind of difficult. The thing that really surprised and pleased me is when I read the script and I saw how funny it was. We weren’t going to do it unless it was good, but it was really funny and somehow fresh and new. So, yeah, I was excited.

Q: Since it’s a Hangover movie, we know something will befall Doug, your character. How did you feel about what happens to him in this movie?

Bartha: I was excited. It seemed great. I mean, it felt like the right device to have in the closing of this trilogy that everyone has kind of grown to love. I think that people seemed to really responded to the first movie in the way that the stakes seem high when they are looking for a friend. And that’s what the movies are about—the lengths you go to for friends. So I think that for the stakes to be high, it kind of had to be one of the Wolfpack that they were looking for.

Q: You’ve inhabited this character for three movies. Do you feel like it’s a character that you find or is it a character that lives within you?

Bartha: I feel like it’s a guy who we still quite haven’t figure out yet. I could probably use a few more movies to flesh him out. I’ve always approached the guy where he’s the grounding element of the group. He has his feet firmly planted on the ground. And if he was around when anything happened, he’d be the guy that would know what to do. So there wouldn’t be that much drama. You have to take the grounding element off to get electrocuted. So I think that’s the service the character plays. As a human being, I’d miss out on some of the fun, but I’m so thrilled to just be a part of this amazing thing.

Q: What was it like when you got back together with the guys [Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis]? Was the chemistry instant?

Bartha: Yeah. Everyone stayed friendly and I think one of the main reasons for the success of the franchise is the chemistry between the actors, while being directed by Todd [Phillips]. I think those are the two elements that are very hard to achieve. I think the reason why that chemistry is so palpable is that for some reason, all of these actors—because of Todd’s casting—fill a void in the other actors. So it’s impossible not to pick up where you left off because it’s instinctual. Where Ed drops something, Bradley will pick it up and vice versa with everybody else.

Q: Looking across the three films and this being like very much the conclusion, do you see any recurring themes or an overarching theme to the Hangover films?

Bartha: I would say friendship and the lengths we go to for our friends, and also just the cause and effect of bad decisions, and how the choices we make with the people that we love can really set off a chain reaction of craziness.

Q: Can you talk about working with Todd over these three movies? Have you observed his development as a director?

Bartha: He’s a really amazing guy to watch. He very much is. Because for the most part, directors—whether it’s comedy or drama—have a point of view. The good ones have a point of view that they want to share with the world, how they view the world through the lens of a story.

But Todd, I think one of the reasons why people love his movies, if they realize it or not, is that he has created a world that he wants to live in. It’s like he creates these fantasy worlds and assembles a group of people that he wants to be with. It’s the way he directs. He puts himself in the scene.

Every character has a piece of Todd, which happens a lot in movies, but he also really sits on the edge of every frame. It’s almost like he is in the scene when he directs, and he laughs throughout the scene, then he takes it out later. It’s alive.

So I think his point of view has just gotten more specific as he’s made these movies. The way I see it is that when you’re dreaming, you’re sometimes like, ‘Oh, I want to hold onto that dream and try to control it.’ As he’s gotten more implanted in this world, he’s able to control it even more, so he can hold onto his dream and really steer it very specifically, and, I think, a lot of directors don’t get to that point.

Q: A lot of people have mentioned that everybody on set is always trying to make each other laugh, and sometimes ruining takes because it’s so funny. What is that like for you?

Bartha: For me, it’s hard, because a lot of people think that I’m not in these movies just because I’m not as funny as everybody else. But the real reason is that they can’t use the footage of me because I just can’t keep a straight face. I’m just laughing throughout, so they frame me out. It’s very hard. I mean, Zach has been one of my favorite comedians since I was in high school and all of it I find so funny. So it’s hard to keep a straight face, which is a double-edged sword, because I want to be perceived as a good actor, but I also want the thing to really be funny. And if I’m laughing, I really think other people are laughing too.

Q: Was there any particular sequence or moment during production on this movie that was particularly memorable for you?

Bartha: There was. We shot this funeral scene, and when we were shooting, there was a feeling like I had when we were shooting the first movie, when there was like a, ‘Oh, this is going to be very funny’ moment.

The second movie is a very funny movie, but it’s tonally different and Bangkok is this overwhelming presence. But with this movie, when we shot that funeral scene, the way the tone was—with Zach and all of the other actors and Todd—it very much felt like an extension of the first movie. There was this freshness to it that I think people responded to with the first movie in that you don’t know what to expect, and the comedy seems very specific and new. That was back and then it continued. I think this movie is a fitting tribute to the whole series.

Q: In broad strokes, because I know you don’t want to give the movie away, how would you describe The Hangover Part III?

Bartha: Well, I will say this: it is about the characters of the Wolfpack, as you say, that everyone has grown to love. Now, everyone that likes theHangover movies always asks me what this one is about, what’s the story, is it different than this, different than that? But I started to realize that no one really wants to know. No one really cares. It’s not about the story; it’s about the characters that everyone loves. And one of the reasons why everybody loved that first movie so much is that element of surprise and discovery and freshness. If you know what’s going to happen, it doesn’t have that.

So, one of the reasons everyone is trying to keep it under wraps is so that people can really find out when they go to the movies and have a little bit of that experience again, and have it be this great comedy but yet bittersweet, because it is the ending of what will, I think, go down as one of the great comedy franchises.

Q: Did you have any kind of martini shot or celebratory moment at the end?

Bartha: Not really. There was a franchise wrap. People were like, ‘Is this my last shot?’ And I’m not good in situations like that, so it’s kind of like people shake your hand or give you a hug. But then I looked over at Todd who’s, as he should be, very focused and serious on a set, and he was taking pictures with his personal camera of the moment. And I don’t know if I’d ever really seen that. I mean, I’d seen him taking pictures sometimes, but he had a smile on his face like a family member. He was just taking pictures of the moment. And that was the icing on the cake for me, because he doesn’t let his guard down often for moments like that, and he let it down and you really felt this sense of family that everyone created for these great movies.

"A presentation of Warner Bros. Pictures, in association with Legendary Pictures, The Hangover Part III opens in Philippine theaters on May 29, 2013."

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