The Hangover 2 might not be getting Academy Award winner Mel Gibson for its star cameo, but the movie will still feature an Oscar nominee: Liam Neeson. Neeson flew from his New York home to join the cast in Thailand on Thursday. The last-minute switch came on the heels of a decision by filmmakers to not include Mel Gibson in the movie.
While the cameo spot was originally meant for Gibson, cast and crew decided they didn't want to work with the controversial star. Given Gibson's negative publicity over the last year, and, more generally, over the last five years, it's not hard to empathize with their position.
So what role will Neeson be playing? According to Neeson, he was called in for a "one day shoot" in which he will play "a tattooist in Thailand." He didn't know any more about the role beyond that, but Neeson did say he was a fan of the first Hangover film. In discussing his appearance, the Irish actor told Variety, "I just laughed my leg off when I saw 'The Hangover, I was shooting in Berlin earlier this year and rented it on the hotel TV."
When Gibson was first announced as the likely celebrity cameo for the film, it seemed like a good fit. After all, he was following in the footsteps of Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist who served time in federal prison. My expectation was that they wanted to go with someone who was in a career rebuilding phase, and someone who was also slightly controversial.
Of course, there's controversial and then there's toxic. Mel Gibson, for all of his directorial and acting triumphs, is one of the most notorious celebrities in Hollywood. The bad buzz around Gibson is simply too fresh for the actor to mount any kind of comeback right now. He'll have to wait it out some more before he gets a second chance, though rest assured, he'll get one. It is Hollywood after all, where a hit movie can smooth over a lot of bad blood.
In any case, with the addition of Neeson, Hangover fans will still be getting a treat. Though the actor seems to have switched focus from his most critically-acclaimed roles in movies like Rob Roy and Schindler's List to more popcorn fare like Taken and The A Team, there's no denying his acting chops or his widespread popularity. I suspect that Neeson will do quite well in his cameo role.
My real concern with The Hangover 2 isn't in the cameos anyway, but rather whether the movie can be as consistently hilarious as its predecessor. Immediately after seeing it, The Hangover launched onto my list of all-time favorite comedies. I'm excited for the sequel, but I'm interested to see how the cast and crew will keep things fresh and interesting. Adding Neeson to the cast is a good start.
The Hangover 2 is set to hit theaters on May 26.