THE HANGOVER: THE ROAD TO A HIT COMEDY

A month or two ago I went to see Observe and Report, the Seth Rogan movie that was written and directed by Eastbound and Down creator Jody Hill. I absolutely hated it. It was dark, but not in a clever dark way, it was disgusting and trouble, and none of the actors could really pull off the morbid, creepy roles, or make the troubled feelings you get when watching the movie worth it. Seth Rogen said somewhere that he was trying to channel Taxi Driver for this role. Seth Rogan will never been confused for Robert DeNiro, and this movie cemented that. He’s a good dude and a talented writer, but he’s really limited as an actor.

The best part of seeing Observe and Report was the trailer for The Hangover, another no-brainer comedy that succeeds because you immediately say, “F, I should’ve thought of that…”

The Hangover was “written by” Jon Lucas & Scott Moore, the same guys who brought us the absolutely horrible Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and Four Christmases. How could these two guys, who wrote such mediocre, stock stuff come up with some of the jokes that we saw in this preview? (I’m not going to spoil the movie for people who haven’t read it, but I’ll just work off the trailer, which pretty much anyone who wants to see this movie has obviously seen.)

After a little digging, I uncovered the script for the movie and read it. (Click the link to read it) Many of the jokes that I enjoyed in the preview — Mike Tyson, the Baby, the Lion, a missing tooth — they weren’t in the script at all. Now, after reading Nikki Finke’s blog about how The Hangover came together, it all makes sense.

It all started with Chris Bender who heard the story of how his Hollywood friend went mysteriously missing from his bachelor party in Las Vegas. The pal was film producer Tripp Vinson (The Guardian, The Number 23, and now the Red Dawn remake) who in 2002 was engaged to marry Endeavor motion picture lit agent Adriana Alberghetti. Like always happens, the real facts don’t quite match up with the movie. There was no wedding scheduled that same weekend. Instead, the bachelor party was held months earlier. It consisted of 30 guys booked into the Hard Rock Hotel for a wild night of partying at a succession of Vegas restaurants, clubs and strip joints.”I remember being a drunken fool, as you’re supposed to do at your bachelor party, and having a really good time with all my friends,” Vinson told me. “But then I remember being a mess. And when people are fucked up, crazy shit happens.” That’s when Tripp went missing from his bash. Even now, all Vinson knows is, “I got separated from my friends, and I blacked out. And when I was revived, I was in a strip club being threatened with a very, very large bill I was supposed to pay. It was not a fun experience at the time, but it made for a funny story.”

From there, Finke recounts how the idea got to Lucas and Moore, who had the movie lined up and ready to go at New Line, and were ready to sell the pitch for $750,000. Then (because he’s probably a moron) New Line boss Bob Shaye only wanted the movie if it could be called What Happens In Vegas. (That movie was since made by Fox with Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutchar, and was terrible.) So no deal. Instead of dropping the idea, Lucas and Moore went off and wrote a script, sent it to their managers/producers BenderSpink, and sold the script to Warner Bros, where Todd Phillips was attached as director because he had a contract from his Old School success.

More from Finke:

Phillips and Jeremy Gerelick (The Break Up) did a rewrite described to me as vast of The Hangover inserting the the baby, the tiger, Mike Tyson, the gangster, the cop car, and more. (Some say the duo was “robbed” of a credit by the WGA arbitration.) Bender after his armtwisting got a fee and an executive producer credit as a “make-good”. New Line was left holding its dick. And now Phillips has the sequel underway.

Every single joke and gag that we laugh at in the preview was most likely written by someone other than Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, yet they’ll forever be known as the writers of The Hangover. (I’m assuming this because I read the draft written by them, and the jokes were no where in the script.) Similarly, it’s interesting to see how characters change, and most likely because actors become attached to roles. (Ed Helms character, the tight-ass dentist Stu, was originally supposed to be a former high school linebacker, and never had a musical interlude in the original story. The character that Zach Galifianakis played, was almost completely created after the draft from Lucas & Moore, and was most likely tailored around the bearded comedians style.)

For people who are interested in how movies get made, and even more interested in seeing how a script turns into a movie, you might want to give this a read. For a guy like Jeremy Gerelick, who definitely got paid big money to write on this money, yet gets no credit for the movie in theaters, it’s a good illustration about how the Writers Guild of America decides screen credit. Even for producers in the know, its hard to decide who brought what t0 the table.

And in a movie like The Hangover, that’s an incredibly important part of a comedy.

One Response

  1. All the things you listed that Phillips and Jeremy Gerelick added to the movie ARE what made the movie so unique! What a ripoff credit wise.

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