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‘The Hangover’ at 15: Here are 15 things you may not know about the comedy

When the cast and crew of “The Hangover” rolled into Las Vegas in the fall of 2008, people were not impressed.

“I have to say, there’s something wonderful about this city,” Bradley Cooper told the Review-Journal in 2013 during the “Hangover Part III” press junket at Caesars Palace. “I mean, we were in the elevator in the first one with tiger scratches on our necks, and no one cared.”

Then the movie, about four friends — well, three friends and an oddball brother — who check into Caesars Palace for an over-the-top bachelor party they don’t remember, opened on June 5, 2009. It quickly joined “Casino” (1995) and “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001) in the pantheon of quintessential Las Vegas movies.

As “The Hangover” turns 15, here are 15 things you may not have known about it:

1. The movie was inspired by a true story — a far less scandalous true story. In 2002, producer Tripp Vinson (“The Exorcism of Emily Rose”) was in Las Vegas with a couple of dozen friends when he went missing from his bachelor party and 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,” Vinson told Deadline in 2009. “It was not a fun experience at the time, but it made for a funny story.”

2. The Caesars Palace suite the characters woke up in doesn’t exist. Production designer Bill Brzeski and his team created that suite at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California. It was built on Stage 15, which also was home to the “Ocean’s Eleven” remake.

3. Despite all the evidence of a seriously debauched night in their hotel, Caesars Palace executives only officially requested that one scene be changed. In the script, Alan (Zach Galifianakis) bought the blackout-inducing drugs in the Caesars gift shop.

“They, very rightfully so, said that that couldn’t happen on their property, because it would never happen,” director Todd Phillips told us in 2013. The transaction ultimately took place in a liquor store.

4. Phillips developed a bit of a gambling problem while living in Caesars Palace and could be found playing blackjack in the middle of the night — in his pajamas.

“I think that’s why (Caesars Palace) let us film here,” he told us during that same interview. “Because I lost $55,000 on night one.”

5. Mike Tyson was not in a healthy place while filming his scenes. “Somebody had told me something about a movie, but I wasn’t coherent as to what he was talking about,” Tyson told the Hollywood Reporter in 2013. “They made it sound like it was low-budget, not a serious movie.”

Then he encountered Galifianakis and Justin Bartha, who played the missing groom, Doug, at Nick Cannon’s birthday party at Pure, the Caesars Palace nightclub now known as Omnia. Tyson had no idea who they were.

“They said, ‘We’re going to be shooting a movie with you in two weeks,’ ” Tyson recalled. “I didn’t even know. I said, ‘Really?’ And I started drinking with them. I was a little wasted at the time. I still didn’t understand the movie until like a week and a half later, when I was on set with these guys.”

During an interview with Yahoo Sports in 2012, Tyson said he was high when filming his scenes. “They had to know I was messed up,” he said of his co-stars. “I couldn’t talk. I had the cocaine talk.”

Later, when he was swarmed by a group of children asking him about the movie, the encounter made him want to get sober.

“That changed everything for me, which I’m so appreciative,” Tyson told ABC News in 2012. “That was just some good stuff.”

6. Four tigers were trained to perform specific tasks on screen. The Jim Henson Creature Shop supplied a life-size animatronic tiger, which contained 30 servo motors and required two puppeteers to operate, for certain scenes.

7. The Best Little Chapel, where Stu (Ed Helms) married Jade (Heather Graham), was just a facade built in the parking lot of what’s now known as the Bungalows Hostel, 1236 Las Vegas Blvd. South.

8. You can, however, get married in a replica of the Best Little Chapel at Madame Tussauds Las Vegas. Packages include wax figures of Phil and Alan as witnesses, as well as a chance to hang out in the attraction’s “Hangover” hotel room, and range from $2,500 to $10,000.

The Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel, meanwhile, offers a “Hangover”-themed wedding package that includes a ceremony officiated by an Alan impersonator, and Jägermeister shots for the couple, for $950. A Stu impersonator is available for an extra $150.

9. Jade’s apartment complex? That’s the Wild Wild West Gambling Hall, the one-time site of the Athletics’ proposed stadium, which Station Casinos closed in 2022.

10. During a break in filming, Cooper, Phillips and Graham went to see Cirque du Soleil’s “Zumanity” at New York-New York.

Despite what Graham said were assurances by “Zumanity” staff that they’d be left alone, Cooper ended up shirtless, being rubbed all over by cast members, during the show.

“They were like, ‘We’re not gonna take you guys up onstage,’ ” Graham told us in 2009. “We were like, ‘Oh good.’ And then they grab Bradley, take his shirt off, and he’s like, ‘Ohhh!’ Really freaking out.”

11. As written, Ken Jeong’s Mr. Chow was supposed to be introduced in his underwear. Jeong suggested the scene, filmed in the vacant lot at Mandalay Bay Road and Giles Street, should be done in the nude.

“When Ken jumped out of the trunk, there was a policeman who said that people were complaining from Mandalay Bay, which was in no way true,” Phillips told the Hollywood Reporter in 2013. “He said, ‘You keep doing it, and we’re going to shut you down.’ ”

According to Helms, the cop said something like, “This is Vegas — we don’t act like that. This is not that kind of town.”

“Behind the cop, as he’s saying this,” Cooper added, “is a billboard of naked women.”

12. The scene in which the guys bring Chow his money is a direct homage to the desert meeting between Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro) and Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) in “Casino” — down to the reflection of the arriving Mercedes in Chow’s sunglasses. Both scenes were filmed at the Jean Dry Lake Bed.

13. A 1965 Mercedes-Benz 220SE that was wrecked for the movie is on display in Las Vegas. The car has no wheels, and its interior is destroyed as if by the tiger. It can be seen at the Hollywood Cars Museum, 5115 Dean Martin Drive.

14. The movie grossed $277.3 million domestically, besting 1984’s “Beverly Hills Cop” to become the highest-grossing R-rated comedy ever. It’s since been surpassed by “Deadpool” ($363.1 million) and “Deadpool 2” ($324.6 million).

15. Cooper auditioned for Phillips’ 2004 comedy “Starsky & Hutch,” but the duo didn’t really bond until the casting process for “The Hangover.” They went on to produce the movies “War Dogs” (2016), “A Star Is Born” (2018) and “Joker” (2019) together. Since “The Hangover,” Cooper has 12 Oscar nominations while Phillips has three.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on X.

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