INT: Will Ferrell

Interview #1 Jon Favreau
Interview #2 Zooey Deschanel
Interview #3 Will Ferrell

I’ve been a fan of big Will since his days in SNL when he often took his shirt off and provided me with quality laughs. He took that charm (and pasty white skin) to the big screen and stripped his way to movie success, most recently as Frank the Tank in the smash OLD SCHOOL, co-starring another cool swinger Vince Vaughn (I take every opportunity to push SWINGERS). Ferrell uses his childlike innocence and precise comic timing to perfection in playing the innocent and giving elf Buddy in what is easily the biggest and most important (career-wise) film he’s done so far.

ELF has the potential to elevate Will to the ranks of A-list comic actors if it manages to bank like many are anticipating that it will. Ferrell, interestingly enough, is unlike the volatile and wild characters he often plays on the big screen. In person, he is very calm and collected. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t have minded a deadpan Trebek impression or even his classic James Lipton, but alas, it was not to be. As he came into the room, I noticed a leaner, tanned Ferrell and I hoped that he’d dispel the myth (it was rather confirmed) that he’s not the always the cut-up off screen as he is on. We might have another Peter Sellers on our hands. Let’s hope so…


It must have been exhausting being happy all the time?

Actually, it wasn’t. That was kind of the fun part of getting to play this character, because I don’t know how to play someone who’s constantly internally optimistic. So that was the fun part of doing the role.

Was the sidewalk gum in the movie real?

We didn’t have a big enough budget, so I actually had to eat old New York City gum, but it wasn’t as bad as you think, it was still relatively flavorful. That’s good to know if you ever have to eat gum off the streets.

How many cotton balls did you eat?

Bushels. No. How would you measure cotton? A few hundred. Actually, we fooled you. That was cotton candy that we made especially for this.

What about the sugar rushes?

Yeah, that was tough. I ingested a lot of sugar in this movie and I didn’t get a lot of sleep. I constantly stayed up. But anything for the movie, I’m there. If it takes eating a lot of maple syrup, if that’s what the job calls for.

And you’re actually a toy now too, because of the Jack-in-the-Box.

Am I? Does it look like me? I think it looks like Bert Convy.

How did wearing the Elf suit change you?

It’s always nice to having something like that especially in the wardrobe area that immediately kind of helps you become the character. With the elf outfit, I didn’t have to try too hard once I got in the tights. It was kind of a perfect visual.

When you got the script, what was the appeal to make you decide to do this? Old School had not even come out by then.

I had this for a while. If we could find a way to handle it correctly and shoot, the appeal of it was to be able to shoot a film that would be funny and also heartfelt and be a different type of thing for me to do in terms of something that a family audience would see as opposed to some of the other projects that I have gotten to work on which has obviously been for a different audience. That was the appeal. To have the potential to be in something like this.

If comedy is all about reaction, do you practice your reaction shots?

I don’t. I actually don’t work on anything. I’m very lazy. Someone mentioned to me that I didn’t blink for the entire film, which I wasn’t conscious of, but that’s just something that manifests itself in whatever way it’s going to once I got into character.

Were you excited to work with Bob Newhart?

I really was. I didn’t realize how much I would be, but it was kind of great to work with someone like that. It’s rare that you get to actually cast the person that you are using as the type of actor you want for the role. So we talked about who could play Papa Elf, someone like Bob Newhart would be perfect and when you actually get to cast him, it’s truly a special thing.

When you thought about leaving SNL, did you worry about how much work you needed to do to succeed when there have been others who have left the show and failed?

Yeah. I was at a point being on the show and I just felt I had been on the show for a nice amount of time. I definitely wanted to leave Saturday Night Live while I still enjoyed doing the show and I didn’t have a supreme confidence that I would be immediately successful after leaving the show, but I just knew it was the right time to test myself and get out there and try other things.

The lovely and talented Zooey Deschanel told me that your next movie with her is not a comedy. Is that going be tough for people to handle with you in it?

Yes. I don’t know. It will be a whole different thing in a way that hopefully you view a Bill Murray doing something like that.

Jim Carrey is so talented, but not many people take him seriously whenever he does a dramatic film.

It will be interesting to see because it’s a smaller film. It’s more like an independent Sundance type of movie. I’m really looking forward to seeing it; if I’m going to be in over my head or if it will be just another aspect of something I have within me that I’m able to do. We’ll find out. I’m going to try my best.

A lot of people say that they use comedy to compensate for some tragic thing in their life. Can you relate to this statement?

Yeah. I’ve been asked that question before and it’s true, a lot of people have gotten into comedy because of certain influences in their lives or events that were painful and I really have wracked my brain to pretty much figure out I’ve had a normal childhood. Maybe it was too normal.

Who influenced you growing up? 

I’m not one of those people you talk to who loved so and so. I loved the idea of studying everyone. So I would go from watching Saturday Night Live to watching The Tonight Show and getting so excited when a comic was on. It was such a big deal. I remember watching Garry Shandling for the first time and Jerry Seinfeld and their differences. I have a couple of Steve Martin’s albums. Those things put together and SCTV collectively influenced me in different kind of ways.

What do you think of Chris Rock?

I think he’s one of the best, if not the best. His stand-up and unique voice is amazing. There’s no one like him.

You and James Caan seemed to have a good rapture on screen. Can you talk about working with him?

That was kind of, once again, I was really lucky that my job in the film was to drive him crazy, and I would try to offset anything he could throw at me. I knew it was driving him crazy on one level. It’s great to see Jimmy in a way that we’re not used to seeing him and his specific casting adds to obviously why it works so well.

Were you intimidated when you first met him?

I wasn’t, only because the first time I met him I just put him in a bear hug and yelled: “Dad!” I thought that would break the ice. I think he got really uncomfortable because I wouldn’t let go.

If this film becomes hugely successful, would you be okay being a family comedian for a while?

I don’t know if I can look that far in the future. I kind of feel like I’m going to hopefully have the opportunity to pick the material that’s going to be interesting to me on a project-to-project basis as opposed to trying to fulfill a certain category or this or that. The movie that we shot this summer will be more different than this. It would be fun if I can keep everyone guessing if I can.

Do you have kids of your own?

I don’t, but we’re actually expecting in March.

When you meet kids, do they think you’re genuinely funny?

I guess they do from stuff they have seen me in, but in person, they’re a little shell-shocked. It’s not like I have this great knack for making kids laugh, but some kids tell me that they think I’m funny.

Did you just decide this is the right time to have kids? 

Yeah, we pretty much did. It’s something my wife and I wanted to do at some point in our lives and we started thinking: “What’s the wait?” We just jumped into it.

What was Christmas like growing up as a kid?

It was always a special time for the most part. We had a different dynamic because my folks had split up at an early age so we would go back and forth on Christmas Day and had one Christmas here, and the other Christmas there; but that just amounted to 2 Christmas’.

Will you do any SNL movies?

I can’t really predict. It’s once again whether the project appeals to me.

What was your favorite scene in ELF and why? 

I don’t really know if I have a favorite. One that sticks out in my mind is the big fight I have in the department store with Artie Lang who’s playing Santa Claus. That actually was kind of fun because we only had one take to do that. We thrashed the “Santa-land” and we knew it would take too long to build back up and we were on such a tight schedule. That was really fun and we did that essentially on one take. It’s always fun to have the adrenaline to make it right. That’s a favorite for sure.

As an actor, do you feel the pressure of carrying a film now that you are a lead?

You know, I don’t usually feel pressure so much. I probably should feel it more but it’s just ignorance on my part. When I stop to think about it, I feel it a little bit. Of course, when filming, I realized I would be the main thing in this. As long as I’m having fun and enjoying it, I really don’t try to worry about it.

If you had anything to say about Elf and how universal it is, what would it be? 

Hopefully we have made a movie that people are going to find funny and something that can be a shared experience for the entire family in a way that’s emotionally satisfying as a story, but also works for a comedy and captures the spirit of the holidays all kind of rolled into one.

Do you think it’s important that children believe in Santa?

It’s important for the economy. Yes.

What makes you laugh?

I just love junkets. That’s going to be my next idea.

Are you doing OLD SCHOOL 2?

You know what, there was talk of it. I haven’t heard about it for the longest time so I don’t know if it derailed or not.


Thanks to Latinoreview.com for their help with this transcript.

Source: JoBlo.com



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