The Hangover's Bradley Cooper: You've got to go too far in comedy

Sentinel movie critic

Bradley Cooper has spent his Hollywood career being the best friend to the leading man (Failure to Launch) or the pretty-boy bully (Wedding Crashers). "Well, at least they're all alpha males," he says. But Cooper is graduating from those roles. His romantic turn in He's Just Not that Into You (a married man tempted by Scarlett Johansson) started the process. In playing the sanest member of a quartet of pals who hit Vegas and don't remember what they did in The Hangover, Cooper may leave "best friend/bully" roles behind.

"This guy, Phil, is nothing like Sack Lodge from Wedding Crashers, or anybody else I've played," says the 34 year-old Cooper. "Phil is a guy you want on your team. He's a guy who holds the group together, pieces the puzzle of their lost night together, and you can even see him as a family man, by the end. His bark's bigger than his bite. His life consists of Little League and Sundays at the playground when he used to be a wild man -- women, booze, gambling in Vegas."

Hangover has "sleeper of the summer" in its DNA. It's a comeback film from the director of Old School, with a "boundary-testing script" (Hollywood Reporter) that is "unapologetically raunchy" (Variety), a film that could launch its "defacto leading man" (Hollywood Reporter).

"It seemed right on a par with Wedding Crashers, at least in terms of being 'out there,'ƒ|" Cooper laughs.

A maniacally politically incorrect farce, Hangover takes four pals to Vegas for a weekend bachelor's party. They check into the hotel. And they wake up the next day so hungover they can't recall how one of them lost a tooth, how a tiger and a baby got into their room and where they left the groom. They spend a frantic day searching for the missing groom, reconstructing their wild night as they do.

The weirdest things in the movie might be snorting coke with the comic Carrot Top in the closing credits, or listening to boxer Mike Tyson warbling Phil Collins. But not in this film.

"Oh, having [co-star] Ken Jeong's testicles and penis on my neck was the weirdest," Cooper laughs, recalling a scene in which a mobster threatens Phil. "Not even close."

Having been a part of a few "boundary-testing" comedies, Cooper has a good sense as to where that comic cutting edge is.

"You've got to go too far in comedy, and I think this movie comes at that edge two ways, verbally and physically. If it works, people are shocked and amazed as well as amused. Todd Philips [the director] has an ability to create a tone in which all this stuff works, and the key to that tone is the lurid backdrop of Vegas."

They spent a month and a half filming in America's sin capital, Las Vegas, for The Hangover. And as wild as things got on the set, "nothing fazed that town, nothing.ƒ|.ƒ|. We'd get in the elevators at Caesar's after a long day of being out in the sun, getting mauled by a tiger, bloody makeup on, looking like we'd just had the [tar] kicked out of us, and nobody gave us a second look. Didn't care at all. I found that hilarious. You couldn't impress them."

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