Todd Phillips is smiling. He has good reason for cheer. As director of one of the hottest comedies of the year, "The Hangover," the 39-year-old has already established himself among Hollywood's firmament.
And the release of the DVD and Blu-ray versions of the film just before the holidays has made Phillips even merrier.
Humor is nothing new to the producer-director who helmed "Old School," "School for Scoundrels," "Road Trip" and "Starsky and Hutch."
"I had a sense of humor when I was a kid," he says, seated at a linen-covered table in a vacant room at Caesar's Palace, where most of "The Hangover" was shot. "I grew up with my mom and two older sisters, and I was always trying to make them laugh, just like anybody.
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"But I also had an appreciation for comics and people that understand comedy. I love the opportunities I've had. I mean, I've worked with Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn and (Jerry) Stiller and now Zack (Galifinakis) and Bradley (Cooper), people who are naturally funny."
As for Phillips, he confesses that his humor comes from pain. "I think all humor comes from pain. The more painful childhood you have the funnier, at least some people use it as a cover for pain they had as kids. Mine comes from pain," he says, reluctant to elucidate.
Phillips first got interested in directing through photography. "When I was younger I took a lot of pictures and it was kind of a natural progression, you start storytelling with photos. I actually started with documentary films because it was very linked with photography. And I just kind of went from there."
Though "going from there" is the hard part, Phillips says his ascendance came through his early films and a fortuitous meeting. "I'd made some documentary films, one went to Sundance. And I met (director-producer) Ivan Reitman through his son, Jason. Jason directed 'Up in the Air,' but he used to be an 18-year-old kid who made short films. And they were that good that he would go to Sundance," he recalls.
"I was there with a documentary that he had seen. I didn't know who Jason was and he went up to his dad and said, 'You gotta see this movie. This guy's really funny. I think you'll really like this.' And his dad came and saw it. I met Ivan through Jason, so I owe a lot of my whole thing to Jason, just introducing me to his dad. It's funny. Now Jason is one of the great filmmakers."
Phillips is in such demand that he's finished "Due Date" with Robert Downey Jr. and will start the sequel to "The Hangover" next summer.
The sequel will not take place in Las Vegas, says Phillips. "I think what people like about 'The Hangover' is not necessarily Vegas or the tiger or the baby. I think they like the characters, and I think what they like about 'Old School' is the characters, it doesn't have anything to do with the college or the fraternity. I think you could make a sequel to 'Wedding Crashers' and not have Vince (Vaughn) and Owen (Wilson) crashing weddings. They like those two guys in that movie. So the idea here is to take those characters and put them through a new set of paces."