The Hangover movie poster

Todd Phillips’s surprise hit wasn’t supposed to make it to the big leagues. It faced two terrific Meryl Streep comedies, Julie & Julia and It’s Complicated, Marc Webb’s much loved (500) Days of Summer and Rob Marshall’s follow up to his award-winning Chicago, the Broadway musical Nine. And the Golden Globe goes to… The Hangover.

It was the little engine that could. Todd Phillips, fresh out of film school, started out with a bang. Both Road Trip and Old School established him as an A-list director, but given the chance to direct big-budget franchises, neither Starsky and Hutch nor School for Scoundrels lived up to expectations, and he was sent back to the woodshed. Hangover had no big names and cost only $35 million to make. It ended up grossing close to half a billion dollars and it spawned not one but two sequels with all the actors returning.

It was Warner’s surprise hit of the year, and its Golden Globe was only the icing on the cake. It established Bradley Cooper as an A-list actor and made a star of Zack Galifianakis. It wasn’t exactly an original idea: three friends decide to treat their buddy to a weekend in Vegas, a last fling before he gets married, which ends up a 24-hour stag party to end all parties. Word of mouth quickly spread and the film recovered its cost by the end of the week. It became the hit of the summer, the film everyone had to see, and it prompted a rash of imitations.

Paul Rudd must still be kicking himself for turning down Bradley’s role. Needless to say, the Hollywood Foreign Press loved the movie. and it was an even bigger success overseas.

The movie was filmed on location at Caesars Palace, including the front desk, lobby, entrance drive, pools, corridors, elevators, and roof – casinos don’t allow filming at its gaming tables – but the suite damaged in the film was built on a soundstage in Burbank.

Surprisingly no one in the cast was nominated for a Golden Globe. Golden Globe nominees for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy were Robert Downey, Jr. in Sherlock Holmes, Matt Damon in The Informant, Daniel Day-Lewis in Nine, Michael Stuhlbarg in A Serious Man, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer. Downey was the winner. Best Actress nominees in a Musical or Comedy were Sandra Bullock in The Proposal, Marion Cotillard in Nine, Julia Roberts in Duplicity and Meryl Steep in both It’s Complicated and Julie & Julia. Meryl won for the latter

The movie didn’t get much respect when it came out, but a recent viewing confirms one thing: It’s brilliantly directed.