Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here. We here at AICN believe that there's no such things as too much coverage of people we find truly entertaining. In the last few months, Quint and I have been allowed to "double-team" interview some of our favorite filmmakers and actors, very often within a day or two of each other. Jason Schwartzman and Frank Darabont are a couple recent examples. Rather than swear off this practice, we try to coordinate. Since internet types are typically given as much time with a subject as print or TV people are, it seems only fair that we try to cull together our own brand of two-part interviews whenever we can. We fill the other person in on what ground we covered with subject, and hopefully what we're able to achieve is a longer, more in-depth profile of someone we think is worthy of a more penetrating examination (continuing the "double-team" metaphor). I think most of you will agree with me that Will Ferrell qualifies as someone we would be foolish not to get as much time with as possible. So the day after Valentine's Day (and one day prior to an Austin appearance for an AICN-sponsored screening of SEMI-PRO), I sat down with one of the funniest and most successful comic actors working to talk about his new film, as well as a few upcoming projects he may or may not be involved with in future months. The first thing you notice about Ferrell upon meeting him is that he's very serious about his comedy. And as much as he's willing to joke around with you while you're talking with him, he's always very good and careful about answering the question asked even if it's a moderately silly question. Sure, when he's doing the talk show circuit, he'll be more animated and jokey, but he knows he's performing; a TV audience has different expectations of him. But he's smart enough to know that for print or online interviews, his audience might want him to actually take a more analytical look at his work. A funny face or loud voice isn't going to play as well to someone interested in reading an interview with him. As for SEMI-PRO, it is great to see Ferrell back in the R-rated universe (his next film--the summer release STEP BROTHERS, in which he re-teams his TALEDEGA NIGHTS co-star John C. Reilly--is also R rated). I shared this interview with one other online journalist friend of mine, whose questions often are very similar to mine, so I know that we'll cover more ground working together. Enjoy Will Ferrell…
Will Ferrell: So, you're Ain't It Cool News in Chicago?
Capone: Yeah. I write as Capone. We have a guy in Los Angeles, but most of the other guys are in Austin. Well, you're going there tomorrow. You're talking to another one of our guys down there, I think.
WF: I think we're doing a Q&A after the movie, which I've never done.
Question: You've never done a Q&A?
WF: No, no, no. Well, I've never done a Q&A in English. [laughs] No, I've never done one for Ain't It Cool News.
Question: Have you ever been to the Alamo down there in Austin?
Capone: Well, it's not the old one now. It's the new one. So when you're wearing basketball shorts, where do you draw the line on tightness? Where does it go from sexy to obscene?
WF: I don't know. That doesn't even enter my consciousness. I was going for historically accurate. When I had my first wardrobe fitting, I complained to the costumer that these aren't short enough. And she was like "No, that's what they said they wore." And I was like, "Look at these photos. Look at this guy. This guy's got a LOT tighter shorts." It was revealed later that all the guys on the team, everyone, refused to go tighter than what they had. Kent Alterman, the director, was like "I wish I would have known that. I would have made everyone have as tight shorts as you." Andre [Benjamin] and I had the smallest shorts. Jackie Moon [Will's character] kind of had to have. I like the juxtaposition of a guy who is supposed to be a sex symbol, and these shorts are just not sexy at all.
Capone: And with the white knee-high socks on top of that.
WF: Yeah. But if you do look at a lot of the reference photos of the league, the players look ridiculous. And it's so funny because the Lakers and the Celtics, when played in LA, the Lakers were paying homage to the '79 championship team that beat the Celtics. So, they came out in the short shorts, and half the crowd started laughing and the other half started cheering. But they were so self-conscious that they changed during halftime. They came back in the regular uniforms. No one will be returning to those shorts. [laughs]
Question: You clearly have a love for sports comedies. So, other than short shorts, what makes a great sports comedy? What are your favorites? Kent spoke a little bit about SLAP SHOT.
WF: Yeah, he probably told you that was a model of what we were trying to do with this movie. When I think back -- BREAKING AWAY -- that's a great sports comedy even though it's not like a laugh riot. It's more like a sensitive movie. I love BULL DURHAM, watching that as a kid, loving a film like that. But I'm kind of a sucker for even the worst sports movie ever. I take that back. If it's like AIR BUD, I won't shed a tear. But if it's relatively sincere, even if it's hokey, [Will's writing partner and director of ANCHORMAN and TALLEDEGA NIGHTS] Adam MacKay and I talk about this all the time, we'll watch it to the end. Many times on a flight, I'll have tears streaming down. Like Denzel Washington. What was the team movie he did?
Question: REMEMBER THE TITANS.
WF: Yeah, yeah. He's giving a stirring speech, and I get sucked up.
Capone: We were joking about clothes before, but one of the things I've noticed about the characters you play is that you always come up with these great hairstyles.
WF: Oh thanks.
Capone: They're always so appropriate and they seem carefully chosen. Is that the first step in sort of getting that character right?
WF: Not to sound too simplistic, but it kind of is. I don't really have a process. It's not like I collect pieces of fabric and have a cigar box where I keep trinkets of the character's life. I find myself piecemealing this stuff together and by the second week of the movie, I really feel like I have the person down. I guess I should have it down by the first day of shooting, but it takes a while. But a lot of that is definitely the hair. We knew I was going to grow my hair out for this, so finding the headband [was important]. Another piece of the puzzle for me was that I wanted Jackie Moon to wear these neckerchiefs. I saw this thing with Rick Barry where he's giving a press conference, and he had this scarf that was almost like a cape. It was the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. That was it: Jackie Moon's got to wear scarves. But, yeah, we put a lot of thought in to Ron Burgundy's hair. Ricky Bobby -- something about short hair with sideburns is such a cocky look. But, yeah, that's a place where I definitely start.
Question: Clearly you're involved in all kinds of elements with each film, from shorts choices to scarves. Were you involved at all with casting? I'm curious about how you develop a rapport with Woody Harrelson and Andre.
WF: Kent and the producers involved me the whole way. We talked about with the Clarence role to go outside of the box a little bit and look at someone like Andre. So, we kind of discussed each choice. Woody was always the first choice for the Monix character. He had that veteran feel about him and it's fun that he was in WHITE MEN CAN'T JUMP. That kind of callback was kind of a cool thing. So, I'm fortunate that, with especially the movie I write, but the ones where I'm just sort of a hired gun, I'm still included in that process, which is important. I'm at the stage now where I won't do a movie if it doesn't seem like it's going to be a really fun time or super interesting, so that I can endure other elements that make it less fun. [laughs] We like to kind of pull from what's now building into like a little repertory company of actors who are comfortable with improvising and doing all that stuff.
Capone: "Love Me Sexy" - you hear that right at the beginning and the movie wouldn't work without that working. Tell me about putting that song together and recording it. I heard it on iTunes even before I saw the movie.
Question: I expect to hear it on next year's Oscars.
WF: Wouldn't that be great? [whispers] Oh my God.
Question: "Blame Canada" did it. You never know.
WF: You never know. You're right. Except I sung a song at the Oscars about how they don't respect comedy. So, I'm on the blacklist now. That was the funniest experience. There we are singing this song about how "You don't really give comedy its due" and all these producers of the show, it's just going over their head. They're walking around going "Very funny piece. Very funny. Oh wonderful."
Capone: You're assuming they even heard it.
WF: I don't think they did. But back to the song thing. When I read the script, I loved two things -- I loved the name Jackie Moon, and I loved that he started each home game with his hit song, "Love Me Sexy." These pitiful 200 people who would show up had to endure through this song, and they've probably heard it so many times. What was even more fun was that, in the script, just the first four bars were written, and we decided that we had to record this whole thing. Scot [Armstrong, screenwriter] wrote out the rest of it, and I started improvising a lot of whispering stuff. Nile Rodgers from Chic produced it. He was like in the studio while I was going, "That sounded good man, alright." It was great. I felt like a real R&B singer.
Question: Let's talk a little bit about future projects. Can you tell us anything about STEP BROTHERS? Is LAND OF THE LOST happening?
WF: Yeah. STEP BROTHERS will be out July 26th. It's the third movie that Adam and I have written, but we collaborated with John C. Reilly on this one. We all developed the story. That's another R-rated comedy, which has been fun to get to do R now. I'm excited for that one. That one's totally different from all of these broad characters. It's still a broad comedy, but we're playing two very real, dysfunctional guys who still live with their single parent. And then they get married, so they become stepbrothers. It's kind of like "Brady Bunch" meets PARENT TRAP, but all fucked up. [laughs] And then LAND OF THE LOST starts filming March 3rd. That's going to be insane. I've never worked on a movie [like this one]. They're building massive sets and we're doing it in scale, in a way. Brad Silberling's directing with Danny McBride and Anna Friel as Holly.
Question: And Kent told me to ask you if ELF 2 is 100 percent dead.
WF: (Laughs.) Yes.
Capone: I was going to ask about OLD SCHOOL DOS because I know there's been a script floating around.