After it took the top spot at the box office this weekend and enjoyed relatively good reviews to boot, everyone wants to talk about The Hangover. (The reviews are justified. We didn’t run one, for which I blame E3, but it’s a great comedy.) Some folks are persistently calling it a sleeper hit, which is absurd; as Jeff Wells points, out, it’s just a hit. Period. Todd Phillips took a mediocre script, seriously reworked it and worked with his producers to secure a solid, cheap trio to headline the project. The result is gold. But is it also true? Nikki Finke claims to have the scoop on the ‘real’ Hangover story. But that’s not even as interesting as what happened between script and screen.
Finke’s story is that a producer on went missing during his own bachelor party, and woke up with a massive unexplained tab at a strip club. A friend, producer Chris Bender, thought it made a good story and started knocking ideas around with Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. The idea was to sell the spec script to New Line, which passed, and other studios also passed based on price and a sudden prevalence of bachelor party scripts, until CAA attached Todd Phillips and got Warner Brothers to bite. That led to wrangling that caused the original script ending up on screen in significantly different fashion. (Which happens all the time, but still.) Finke suggests that Todd Phillips and Jeremy Gerelick did such a huge rewrite on the script that they were essentially robbed by the WGA when it came time to attribute credit. That jibes with what my sources have told me.
According to Finke, the rewrite involved “inserting the the baby, the tiger, Mike Tyson, the gangster, the cop car, and more.” That ‘more’ is considerable: drastically changing Zach Galifianakis’ character, who wasn’t originally the bride’s brother, and making Bradley Cooper’s character more nuanced; originally he was basically a copy of the Vince Vaughn character from Old School. (As is still the case to some observers such as Vanity Fair.) There were other differences, too, like the plot point that had Cooper’s character borrowing money from the asian gangster, leading to some of the film’s conflict. So yeah, the original script is vastly different from what ended up on screen. And what we see now is likely significantly better than what we’d see if Phillips had stuck to the early pages.