Will Ferrell

Will Ferrell: The Interview

After bringing back Saturday Night Live yet again from the brink of obscurity, Will Ferrell slowly trickled into theatrical movies with the failed likes of Zoolander and Superstar.  After finding cult and box office success in Old School, Ferrell has quickly become one of the hottest stars in Hollywood.  We sat down with this comedic genius and picked his brain on his new movie Semi-Pro, sports and human growth hormones.

SHAKEFIRE: You were really big into sports through high school.  Do you have any regrets of not following that path?

WILL FERRELL: You know what, I have a very silly regret when I think back to my sporting career cause I was a really big soccer player. And I abandoned soccer to play basketball and I always think back, I could have been a professional soccer player. So I’m bummed, I’m bummed about that. But I could have gone to Europe. Or I could have played in a world cup. Come on, that would have been cool. 

SF: play a lot of “larger-than-life” characters and that rolls over into Semi-Pro.  Do you relate to these characters?

WF: Yeah, it has kinda interest me in a way, directly with Talladega Nights and Anchorman cause we wrote those characters. Semi-Pro I’m just getting kind of plugged into the equation but yeah, I think it’s kind of typically American like we have larger than life people here and larger than life characters in government, media, sports, everywhere. I think it’s so fun to make fun of all that stuff. Cause at times, we are definitely the cockiest nation on Earth and that needs to be pointed out. I just love what I called unearned confidence that you’ll sometimes meet someone somewhere who’s talking about how great they are and they sell insurance or something you know and you’re like, what?

I haven’t analyzed it that far only because Talladega Nights we set out to write because more from a cultural standpoint like it’s such a big phenomenon and seemed like a funny place to make fun of and then while I was in Charlotte working on the movie, my wife and I were watching figure skating on TV. She literally said, someone should make a movie about figure skating. And like that next week I got a call about the script “Blades of Glory”. I’m like are you kidding me, we were just talking about that. And that was too good to pass up on and then this project actually had been in the works for a while. Scott Armstrong, who wrote it, I’ve known him from Oldschool, I’ve known him for a long time. He was like, I’m working on this 70’s basketball movie and you’re the main guy. I don’t even have to read it, I’ll do it. Cause I love basketball, I love that world of the ABA so it all lined up in a weird way. 

SF: Do you have something in the works right now that you’re looking at?

WF: I have another movie comes out in July, Step Brothers, that I wrote. It’s my third movie that I wrote with Adam McKay and John C Riley. The three of us came up with the story and we’re these two 40 year old guys who live with their single parent and they get married so they have to become step brothers. And we still behave like we’re 14. So that will come out and then we start Land of the Lost on March 3rd. We start filming that which is based on this 70’s kids morning show about this explorer who got sucked into the land into the lost which was running from dinosaurs.

SF: Speaking of, you played a character named Marshall Willenholly in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, an obvious throwback to Land of the Lost.  Was that just a coincidence?

WF: No, no, that was just Kevin Smith kinda giving a little nod to the show and then it just made sense. Cause we’re changing the script a little bit that instead in the original show it was Marshall and his two kids but this is …I’m kinda famous in my own mind Paleontologist and Holly’s this research assistant who believes in my theories and then Will is this dirtbaggy guy who quietly gets sucked in so that becomes the new team.

SF: So you survived the bear attack, can you talk about that a little bit. How rough it might have been.

WF: Well, it’s only rough to the untrained observer cause I’m very comfortable with wild animals and I own many. I’ll go for months at a time into the woods and just track bears and wrestle them to the ground.

SF: Where do you guys get some of these promotional ideas from like gerbil night and corndog night?

WF: Yeah, they are kinda not that far off (from what actually happened). There was a free gerbil night. Yeah, I don’t know what you would do with a pet gerbil. I mean I know. But yeah, that’s what was crazy about this ABA league. They had like insane promotions. Someone actually wrestled a bear at a game. They also had stuff like…I forget what year, they would always have the ABA All Star game and whoever the MVP that year would get a prize or something. And one year the prize was a horse and it literally died like the next week. So it’s like they were always doing this crappy stuff that was trying to get people in.

SF: Did you draw parallels to the WFA?

WF: Yeah, that was the…cause really the California Suns was the team in LA when I was growing up with the WFA. I think I watched one game and you could tell it was awful cause it was like, played at a community college and there was no people in the stands but it still had TV coverage.

SF: So, why Flint, Michigan for the home of the team?

WF: It was just; once again, it was just kinda taking a page from the ABA. They would have teams in the weirdest cities. So it’d be like the Kentucky Colonels in Lexington Kentucky and Flint was like a perfect kinda, I hate to say, pathetic city.

SF: How much free range were you given on this movie and were there any scenes that were fully adlibbed?

WF: Yeah, I can probably can go through every scene and give you at least… point out the parts that were adlibbed. I’m lucky enough that I’m given leeway now that where we shoot the scripted scene and then I just won’t even ask if it’s ok, I’ll just start changing words. And sometimes it works and then other times I’m like, “eh, that wasn’t funny.” But, it’s kinda the way we work now.

SF: Woody Allen is known to hold tight to his scripts, were you able to work this way on Melinda and Melinda?

No, he’s one of the few people. He was like you can say these words or not, this is the script but if you don’t feel like…and so this one time I was like okay great, thank you so much. Then I left out a joke and everything. He was like, “you left out the thing, the joke” and I was like “well yeah you said like if I don’t” “I know but I think this is really funny.” So I was like okay, I get it. Say what he wrote.

SF: Now, the key congressional question; did you use any performance enhancing drugs for this movie?

WF: I used all of them. Yeah, I used all of them. You can tell. You can track my steroid use throughout the film.

Matt Rodriguez
Interview by Matt Rodriguez
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