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Q&A: 'The Hangover: Part III' star Justin Bartha

May 21, 2013|Matt Pais, @mattpais | RedEye movie critic

In “The Hangover: Part III,” Justin Bartha’s Doug isn’t just lost or sidelined while his pals and brother-in-law deal with constant mayhem. He’s kidnapped and an organized crime boss threatens his life.

“I think Doug is probably looking for new friends at this point,” says Bartha, who grew up in Michigan and remembers going to Dick’s Last Resort as a kid when his family came to Chicago. “His life and his family have been in danger too often. He’s too normal and grounded to be in this situation anymore.”

Fortunately for Doug, he won’t have to be. “The Hangover: Part III” wraps up the trilogy with plenty of laughs and a different storyline than usual: There’s no wedding or hazy detective work in the wake of a blackout night. Rather, Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) search for the gold Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) swiped from Marshall (John Goodman), the crime boss.

If they fail, goodbye Doug.

By phone from Las Vegas (where else?), 34-year-old Bartha talked about Doug’s role in the Wolf Pack, brawling with Vin Diesel and his recently canceled sitcom “The New Normal.”

“The Hangover: Part III” opens the same weekend as “Fast and Furious 6.” How would the Wolf Pack fare in a brawl with those guys?
I’m always for brains over brawn. In a physical fight, I still think we’d win. We have a deeper bench than “The Fast and the Furious.” I do think that this third movie is absolutely more of an action-adventure movie, so I’d like to say that we’re the “Fast and Furious” of comedies. So you might as well see us because you’re going to get a two-fer.

As the brawl gets going, who would Doug spar with?
Doug would probably get a few really great punches in early on, and then he’d disappear and he’d come back at the end and save the day.

Just poke Vin Diesel a couple times and run?
In the beginning, he’d probably get a few good punches in on Vin Diesel, and then all of a sudden he’d be gone. Then at the very end Vin Diesel would just about to be throwing a punishing blow at Zach and Bradley and Ed, and then out of nowhere Doug would fly in and save the day.

How do you assess Doug’s role in the Wolf Pack?
He’s the grounding element. Once you take the grounding element away, the real craziness can happen. Doug is the guy that you need to save. The big difference between him [and the others] is he’s kind of in a drama instead of a comedy. So everything that happens is real and the stakes have to be as high as possible, so that it means something if they rescue him.

If Doug had a spinoff movie of his own, how would that go?
I would say it probably be something like “Eat Pray Love”--Doug traveling around Europe, eating great food and having love affairs.

That sounds entertaining, I guess.
[Laughs.] I don’t know about entertaining. [It would be tough] to get financing at all for purely a Doug movie, but I think if there was one that would be what would happen.

Now that I’m talking to you, I’ve interviewed all four members of the Wolf Pack. I know who I think is most and least like his character, but I’m curious what you think.
Probably Ken Jeong is the most unlike his character. He’s got the craziest character, and he’s a very nice guy and a good guy in real life.

What about the core four?
I don’t know. You tell me.

In my experience, Zach is extremely down to earth and kind and not at all the wacky character he sometimes projects.
Oh, of course. If he was that like his character, I don’t think he’d be able to function in real life. The guy is a complete idiot. Zach is actually a very smart, kind, gracious human being. But none of the guys are really like their character. It’s just a part in a movie … but actors always bring a little piece of themselves in every character they play. I think Ed is probably most like his character just because he’s a little bit old-fashioned in real life, so I think that [transfers] into the character.

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