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The Hangover 2: Screenwriter Craig Mazin Lists His Favorite Hangover Games

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Posted May 27, 2011 - By Kevin Kelly







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Hangover 2: Screenwriter Craig Mazin Lists His Favorite Hangover Games

The Hangover Part 2 opens in theaters today, and I'm going to encourage you to just go out and see this right now. Don't read any reviews, because you know what? Haters gonna hate. I'm not sure why The New York Times is expecting Citizen Kane out of this sequel, but it's exactly what you expect from a followup to 2009's The Hangover sleeper hit. We went to screenwriter Crag Mazin, who not only sat down for a full interview, but also listed his five favorite games to play when you have a hangover. First up, Grand Theft Auto 4:

When you’re hung over and you’re just looking for some brainless fun, one of the most fun things to do…because when you’re hung over you just hate the world. You just regret everything and you just hate life. When the hangover is really bad, and you find yourself saying, "I wish I were dead" in between dry heaves, go ahead and load up a save where Niko has loads of weapons. Zip on body armor, find a great corner of a building or storage container to defend, then start killing people. When the cops come, unleash all of your self-loathing on them as well. When you finally can't take the amorality and head-pounding, rush out and get blown to shit by a hundred NOOSE guys. Oddly comforting. That’s fun. That’s a great way to just work through a miserable headache. 

Keep reading for the rest of Craig's Hangover game picks, and a full interview where he talks about Billy Joel, Ed Helms' singing ability, more video games, a possible Hangover 3, Rocketman, Game Boys, and more.

Elder Scrolls IV: OblivionSometimes all you want to do the morning after is zen out. Hop on a horse and just stroll around Tamriel. Look at the pretty colors. Listen to the lovely score. Try and forget the permanent damage you just did to your liver.

Braid: When you wake up with a pounding headache and gut full of regret, what's better than a game that literally lets you undo your mistakes? There's something really soothing about screwing up, hitting a button, and going backwards in time so everything will be okay.

Call of Duty: Any Russian chapter - because let's face it ... Russians fight drunk and hungover. When you've got the spins and vodka-mouth, grab an AK and live the authentic WWII experience with the rest of your besotted comrades.

Infinity Blade: If there were ever a game that captured the essence of a hangover, this one's it. You get hacked and slashed and pushed around and beaten ... and then you stupidly decide to make the same damn mistakes and do it all over again. Hangovers happen because we are weak and stupid. So does Infinity Blade.

Craig Mazin: Hey Kevin.

Kevin Kelly, G4: Hello Craig. How’s it going?

Oh, great, great. I’ve been looking forward to this one!

I’m sure you probably didn’t sleep last night because you were probably so excited.

I didn’t sleep last night because I was playing L.A Noire. So there you go. Now you understand why I didn’t sleep…

Oh, I totally understand. It’s very addicting. But you also don’t want to finish it because it’s so cool to be in 1940s LA. You kinda want to draw it out.

Yeah. Well my guess is that the DLC on that one will go on, and on, and on forever, so you never really will finish it.

That’s true. I guess we can also blame L.A. Noire on the fact that you still haven’t updated your blog. I just noticed this morning.

God, I am getting beaten up on this all day! It’s so bad! And unfortunately, now I’m in a place where it’s so long that I may just need to let it croak. But then people are like, “Nooo!” So I promise I’m getting ready to do it.

It’s kind of a two-edged sword, because once you start writing a lot, people start to expect updates. Then you get busy and you don’t have time to do it and you suffer for it.

I’ve been doing that for years, and at some point I’m going, “I’m not really sure I have anything left to say.” I’m going to have to really think about what the hell else I have to say that’s interesting.

Some people just link them to their Twitter feeds, so maybe that’s an option there.

Yeah, there you go.

Hangover 2: Screenwriter Craig Mazin Lists His Favorite Hangover Games

Well let’s jump in to about you and Hangover 2 and everything. First of all, how did you get involved with the film? Did you know Todd? How did that happen?

Yeah, I’ve known Todd for many years. We were both hanging around Miramax back in the old Weinstein days at Miramax working on a movie, so we got to know each other. We’re kind of … you know, he sorta described us as dark twins. We were born three months apart at the same hospital, and we have a very similar weird outlook on everything. So we’ve always gotten along. And he was in a bit of a bind on this movie because had done The Hangover and then he immediately went into production on Due Date. And then coming out of that, had a release date set in stone for Hangover Part 2. He wasn’t going to be able to get the script done the way he would need to with just one other writer, so he brought me in to work with Scott Armstrong and himself. That’s how it all happened.

How does it work when it’s more than one writer on a film like that? Do you guys work together? Are you turning in separate drafts and working off the other person’s work? 

We basically sat together and broke the story. So we didn’t really leave each other alone until we knew what the story was from start to finish, what every scene was going to be, and sort of then unraveled the mystery and came up with the big sequences. Then Scott and I would usually go away separately and kind of take sequences that we already kind of sketched out and figured out what would be in them, and then do the first half. Then we would bring everyone into the room together and the three of us would sit and just literally perform them for each other.

We would just read them out loud and kind of work them together as a threesome and run it through Todd’s typewriter to kind of get to the final version. I say “final version” and kinda giggle, because there was never a final version. He never stopped working. I mean I was on set in Bangkok in January rewriting pages. You know, in the waning days of the shoot, because you just keep refining it. There’s no reason to ever stop as far as I’m concerned. You stop when they take your computer away.

Without kind of giving away anything, there’s a lot of Billy Joel in this movie. What brought that about and what was it like adopting one of his songs into "Alantown"?

It started with Todd discussing it with our production designer Bill Brevsky about what Alan Garner’s bedroom would look like. And that, in and of itself, is a fascinating invite into the bizarre mind of Alan. In that discussion Todd had asked if there’d be a big Glass Houses poster, because Todd’s point of view on that character is he really is kind of struggling as a 12 year old. Todd grew up on Long Island. I grew up on Staten Island. For a couple of kids in New York growing up at that time, every kid like us was sort of a slightly nerdy but not nerdy kid. We all loved Billy Joel. It was the thing. It was part of our time. And Alan, it’s still part of his time. He will never let Billy Joel go. He shouldn’t. Billy Joel is awesome.

Hangover 2: Screenwriter Craig Mazin Lists His Favorite Hangover Games

So that sort of just became a thing of his. Then the guys had been talking about how funny it would be that, at some point…because Ed is an amazing musician; very talented guy. He did that terrific song in the first movie. He wanted to do another song, but Alan had this funny idea. So Todd and I were sitting on a street called Soy Cowboy in Bangkok, which is one of their nightlife strip club streets. And, of course, it’s The Hangover, so everything we shoot is really the day after. So it’s during the day, noon, blinding sunlight. The strip club street is not really open for business, it’s just more people mopping up from the night before. And you’re just trying to not bump up against sticky railings and things. We sort of sat there and noodle out this version of Allentown. You try to sort of listen to it to sort of match the rhythm. But Alantown is a song I could probably sing from start to finish from memory easily. So it was a fun thing to kind of come full circle for me. I’ve been listening to Billy Joel for a long time.

It’s very cathartic. Is that on the soundtrack?

I believe it is, yes.

(Warning, the song is NSFW, contains spoilers, and is hilarious)

Yeah, I saw it listed in the credits. I wasn’t sure if they put it on there. That’s great.

I think it is.

A lot of parody songs take kind of the easy route with lame rhymes, but that was really appropriate. With guys like Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis, they come from this comic background. I don’t know about Bradley Cooper, but how do you write for these guys? And does that sort of get changed by them on the set when they’re actually filming?

Well, all three of them are extraordinarily writer / actors. What I mean by that is that they … when they approach the material, they don’t approach it from a kind of movie star perspective of, “How can I make myself bigger, more central?” They approach it from the position of, “What will make a better scene in this movie?” And sometimes they will sit and come up with stuff for each other. They are extraordinarily generous with each other. And Zack, in particular, Zach would often be typing on set and he’d walk over and say, “Just so you know, with me, less is more. Please take lines out. I don’t need more.”

He’s smart enough to realize that when he scores with these scenes it is kind of a less is more thing. He’s quiet for runs of scenes and then suddenly he has one line that’s a killer. I think the entire cast was extraordinarily respectful to the script. The script was an extension not just of what I thought or what Scott Armstrong thought, but also what Todd Phillips thought. He’s the creative authority of the movie. And every change that was made was made to sort of exist to enhance whatever the intention was of those moments. So it was the best of both worlds. They were respectful of the script but also understood how to make it better, and they did.

Hangover 2: Screenwriter Craig Mazin Lists His Favorite Hangover Games

I think this current issue of Entertainment Weekly has those three guys on the cover, and there’s a story inside, sort of a roundtable. And Ed Helms jokingly says, “We’re just going to keep churning out Hangover sequels for the next three decades.” Obviously he’s kidding about that. But, it has this sequel, it’s big, they’re promoting it everywhere. Do you think this could be continued again in another film?

I would say this. I don’t think the word continued is correct. I would say it needs to be ended. Not ended here. I think that there’s one more movie to end it, to bring it full circle and to kind of resolve … It’s interesting that there are these three guys, two who are okay friends and one who is really not their friend. And each time they intersect for an event it’s disastrous. And yet, it’s necessary. It’s sort of necessary, particularly for the character of Stu, to sort of move ahead in life. He needs to go through these something with these guys. And I think there’s room for one more. But no, no, Ed as much as anybody I think would run screaming from Hangover 12.

Is Justin kind of a good sport? I mean he gets so little to do. To be such a great actor, I loved him in the National Treasure films, but then he gets so little to do in these films, unfortunately. But he came back. 

Justin’s awesome. And he really was such a humble guy about his role. I think a lot of actors would have been thinking more about themselves and less about what would make a good movie or be a good story. But he’s a guy that absolutely has always crushed it. He crushed it in the first one and he’s so important to that movie. He’s great in this one too. He’s a very necessary part. And I would think if there would be one final blow to finish this thing off that he would be certainly a part of it. If I knew exactly what that movie would be, believe me, I would have it written by now.

Talking about your history, you’ve kind of got a lot of geek credit yourself. You wrote and directed the specials. You’ve been involved in some of the Scary Movies. And Rocketman was a cult favorite to so many people. What has been your background? When did you start writing and how quickly or not quickly did that sort of track happen for you?

Hangover 2: Screenwriter Craig Mazin Lists His Favorite Hangover Games

It was very quick. And maybe it was quick because it wasn’t really my intention. I went to college to be a doctor. I was essentially pre-med. I was studying to be a doctor, neurology specifically. And sort of along the end of my time at school I realized I didn’t like sick people very much and I didn’t like the idea of constantly having people die. I thought entertaining people was more fun. I come from a very middle class background. My parents were public school teachers. And pursuing dreams like screenwriting was something that dummies did. So when I came to out to Los Angeles, I was trying to find any gig as like executive. Just the business side of it is so much safer. I was really just writing for fun more than anything else.

I actually ended up as a marketing executive at Disney. I was very young. I was only 23. And while I was there I had a writing partner then. We actually went to go see the documentary Crumb and it was sold out. Only in Los Angeles would that be sold out but Apollo 13 was playing and no one was there. So we went to go see Apollo 13. We walked out of the theater and went, “Man, that would have been so much funnier if Tom Hanks’ character was an idiot!” And so we pitched Rocketman to Disney. This was so different and they made so many more movies, so a couple of guys in their 20’s pitching a silly idea, and they’re like, “Yeah, here’s some money. Go write that.” And we did and they made it. That was it! That was the beginning. I haven’t done anything else since.

Wow. That’s very fortuitous. In doing a little reading about you about current products, there’s all these rumors about this Jerry Bruckheimer’s Alien Wars or Game Boys. Are you still involved with that? I heard you were brought in for a rewrite. I don’t know if that’s still happening.

Yeah. I did a lot of work on that. I worked on that for almost a year. And I love that script. It’s so close to my heart. It’s kind of my chance to do the modern version of The Last Starfighter and to use, really, every ounce of the time that I’ve wasted playing Halo and playing Modern Warfare and to put it to use in a screenplay. I think right now what’s going on with that one is they are trying to figure out where it fits in the new Disney situation. Disney has changed dramatically as a studio in terms of who’s running it and what kind of movies they want. But I talked to…Mike Stenson is the guy who developed that over there at Bruckheimer’s. I talk to him all the time and we’re both hopeful that one day that can emerge somewhere.

Yeah, as a 30-something gamer who knows a lot of 30-something gamers, I hope that as well. The Last Starfighter was one of my favorite movies as a kid. My mom used to buy those movie novelizations sometimes when we couldn’t go to the movies. So I’d read that and have this version in my head, then finally get to see the film a month later.

That’s funny. I read those too as a kid. That’s something our generation has that this new generation doesn’t.

Yeah, they don’t read those. They can see the movie on every device they own.

Exactly.

Talking about video games, do you avidly play? And, if so, what are you playing and what systems do you have?

I just started L.A. Noire. I tend to mostly play on the Xbox, but I do have a Playstation 3 because they have the best baseball game and I’m a huge baseball nerd. The Show is so much better than MLB 2K11. Oh, God! When Major League Baseball signed that deal, my heart broke. I was like, “It’s just the worst.” And The Show is great. So I literally bought a Playstation just so I could play The Show. But I’m a big Rockstar fan. Pretty much anything they put out I play until the CD wears out. Also a big fan of Bethesda. Bethesda puts out something, I play it. I played Oblivion till my fingers bled. I played Fallout 3 and I played New Vegas. Then I get all the downloads, even the ones that suck, I’ll play through those. And then, like everybody else, I play … you know, any Call of Duty I play it.

Well with your love of games, I mean I guess a lot of sort of newer, younger Hollywood does play these games. But would you ever work in that space, like develop a story or work with the publisher to create some sort of a property?

I would. I was talking to a couple guys who are developing games over at Bruckheimer and we set down and had some terrific conversations. The problem is the video game development world is, in all honesty, so aggressively sweatshoppy, and it’s a bummer, because there are some guys out there who do incredible work. You know, the Rockstar brothers and the BioShock guy, Ken Levine. There are some great writers. The Bethesda guys are really good writers.

Hangover 2: Screenwriter Craig Mazin Lists His Favorite Hangover Games 

But it’s this kind of sweatshoppy vibe where they just don’t pay the way that Hollywood pays, and the hours are brutal, and a lot of the companies are not American companies. They’re foreign one way or the other. So it’s just hard for me, when I look at my family, my career, and my obligations, to say, “Look, I’m going to go slave away 16 hours a day for a lot less money just because I really like video games.” I mean in truth, I could just play them. I’m already donating so many hours of playing time to them. So I mean I would love to on the one hand. But on the other, it’s probably just never going to fit in.

Yeah, it is two different worlds and they often try to marry them together, but it doesn’t always work. So what’s next? What are you working on now?

Well right now I’m writing and producing an animated movie, a big animated feature, called Turkeys with Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, and Steve Martin. That’s just an amazing thing to be writing for those guys. They’re such a treat. Steve Martin in particular is such a legend, so it’s very exciting for me. And I’ve written an original screenplay that is going to be going out pretty soon. It’s my first dramatic effort, so we’ll see if anybody is interested in that. But I’d expect that Todd Phillips and I … right now I love working with Todd so much that I have a feeling that whatever he does next I’ll probably be a part of that. That’s my primary focus right now.

That sounds great. Yeah, we’d love to see a dramatic turn as well. I like it when more comic writers go the other direction. Sometimes you get some surprising results.

Yeah, well I’m hoping this will be one of them. That would be good.

Awesome. Well I wish you mush success. I really enjoyed the film. You know, you go in with high expectations and it was great. It was really funny.

That’s awesome. I love hearing that and I’m glad you enjoyed it. That’s what it’s all about. Thank you so much.

No problem, take care.

The Hangover 2: Screenwriter Craig Mazin Lists His Favorite Hangover Games
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