CATEGORIES Movie NewsIt's hard to believe that Ken Jeong used to be a practicing medical doctor when you see him in any of the "Hangover" movies -- he's crass, vulgar and downright hilarious. In "The Hangover 3," his character, Mr. [Leslie] Chow, is exactly the same, but instead of bursting out of a trunk, he's parachuting across the Las Vegas Strip.
Chow is featured more prominently in "Hangover III," and he joins the Wolf Pack (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha) for another (and reportedly their last) insane adventure. Moviefone caught up with Jeong in Toronto on a press tour, where he spoke about how this role changed his life and career, being naked on-screen and his favourite Chow moment.
Moviefone: Chow is pretty much the core of this third movie. How much of his character development has been your creation? Ken Jeong: The seeds were planted in the first movie. It was my idea to jump naked out of that trunk. [Laughs] That was my contribution; the script called for me to have clothes on, but I thought that scene was screaming for Mr. Chow to be naked. I'm not an exhibitionist at heart -- I'm the kind of guy who's so shy about his body that I'm afraid to take my shirt off at the beach. You can ask my wife, I'm pretty demure. Anyway, I think [that scene] kind of bonded me and Todd Phillips early on, and he was amazed that a guy like me, who was only working on the movie for a few days, was willing to put himself on the line. In my head, it was a character choice, not a personal choice. We needed to widen that spectrum of imagination for Chow.
What's the secret behind these movies? Why do they resonate? I think Todd's vision of this movie is amazing. I think his relationship with the three leads also helps. I can't say enough good things about them -- those three [Zach, Ed and Bradley] are the most egoless, diva-free leads you could ask to work with. They set the tone of the whole movie. People are always shocked to see how low-key we all are in real life. We save it all for the camera. That's why I'm really going to miss the "Hangover" franchise. It's the most fun I've ever had making anything.
How many of the stunts did you do yourself, and was that really you parachuting over Vegas? The parachute was many different stuntmen -- I can't take credit for that. There are some close-ups, where I was elevated 30 or 40 feet to simulate some of that intensity, but no, it's not me. There's another point in the movie where Chow does a free-fall for 30 feet, and that was me. No double. I'm massively afraid of heights, but I worked with the stunt coordinator for six weeks to get over my mental block. Physically speaking, that was the greatest day of my acting career, just to be able to conquer my demons.
Who would you say are your comedic inspirations? I grew up watching Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, David Letterman ... for some reason they stand out in my mind. All of them had a sense of fearlessness. Also Dana Carvey on "SNL." There are so many people out there who I admire, I can't name them all. The funniest actor working right now is Zach Galifianakis; whenever I have bad day I go on Funnyordie.com to watch "Between Two Ferns."
There's a certain resignation to the Wolf Pack, now that they're older. How does that impact your character's interaction with them? Chow's the only character you can really go as over-the-top as you want to go, but it's still within the confines of that character. He's over-the-top because he's over-the-top. In this movie, Chow has such an expanded role in the story. There were times where I would instinctively go for something bigger, but Todd would rein me in just to go from Point A to Point B in the plot.
What is your personal favourite Chow moment? From the first movie, when Zach falls out of the car. For a second time, I make a fat joke ... something like "Fat guy fall down funny" -- there was a whole extended run where I analyzed the comedic bent of it. In comedy it's a meta joke. Chow is a meta joke. He's making fun of the Asian accent, which is something Chow does: makes fun of Asians and Asian actors, the stereotypes and archetypes.
What do you think of the idea of a Chow spin-off? I absolutely support that idea. I would love to do it!
"The Hangover Part III" opens in theatres on May 23.