When Todd Phillips launched the first film in The Hangover trilogy, Ed Helms was arguably the biggest star of the comedy franchise. While Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis were indeed gaining traction, Helms was well on his way to becoming a household name thanks to his role on The Office and hilarious contributions to The Daily Show. However, fame comes at a price, and nothing had prepared Helms for the attention The Hangover would grant him. Sadly, the flood of strangers vying for Helms’ attentiveness inadvertently made the actor nervous, adding to his growing concerns about fame. Helms had project pitches coming at him from all sides and became paralyzed with indecision.
Speaking to Conan O’Brien on the Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend podcast, Helms described the climate of his life after the release of The Hangover as a “tornado of fame.” The attention he received for his uproarious role in the R-rated comedy launched him to “a whole new level,” which he was uncomfortable with for many reasons.
“It was a tornado of fame and a lot of buffeting. It was very overwhelming,” Helms said on the podcast. “I really was reeling a lot of the time, like in the aftermath of ‘The Hangover,’ I was getting scripts for all these different kinds of projects. ‘Like what do I do? I dunno.’ I was kind of spinning out and panicking about different things. Like, ‘Well, what kind of a career do you want?’”
Helms says he felt “very lucky” to have his pick of promising projects to pursue. However, his anxiety about making the wrong choices skyrocketed, leading to a period of “turmoil” in his already complicated life.
“I will say one of the — one of the craziest things about a massive jump into fame like that, and what I think people who have never dealt with that or been close to it just can’t understand, is the just total loss of control of your environment,” he said.
Thankfully, Helms found solace in his Hangover co-stars, Cooper and Galifianakis, who were good company on set.
“If it wasn’t for those guys, I don’t think I would’ve stayed sane. But we all had each other to kind of be like, you know, I don’t know, just to commiserate and measure ourselves,” Helms confessed. “And I think we kept each other from drifting too far. And being too unprofessional.”
Fame is a monster that can devour you if you’re not careful. I’m glad to hear Helms overcame his heightened anxiety and continued his career of making people laugh.