TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY: An Interview with Will Ferrell
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NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY: An Interview with Will Ferrell
Will Ferrell has a knack of making you laugh. From his days on
Saturday Night Live to his various film credits, he goes on non-stop.
In the beginning of his career, you may not have been sure if this
guy had the chops to be the next Mike Meyers, but over time, his
small appearances led to bigger roles and then eventually stardom.
His breakthrough film, ELF, showed that he could carry a film and
when he co-wrote ‘Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”,
who knew that it would be a comedy cult classic. Well, his co-writer
on Anchorman, Adam Mckay and Ferrell have teamed up once again
to tackle the “American” man by concentrating on the
racing industry. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Ferrell talks
about tacking the racing industry and comparing this film to Anchorman.
(Wearing a Swedish soccer shirt) Did you go to any of the (soccer) games?
WF: Yeah, I went to a couple of games in Germany; saw Sweden and Paraguay, and USA and Italy.
Do you think that they will make a movie about soccer in America like Talladega is about the racing industry?
You did a soccer movie before.
WF: Yes, I did a soccer movie.
Did that turn you into a fan or are you just a sports fan?
WF: No, I played soccer starting like in the third grade and I think I was the first wave of AYSO kids who played and I played club soccer; so I was like one of the weird kids on the block who played soccer but I loved it.
Can you compare NASCAR fans to World Cup fans?
WF: The same zealousness. I think a lot of the same fashion taste. A lot of face painting. Part of the same beer consumption too is what I notice.
You were into sports before you became an actor right? You wanted to be a sportscaster?
WF: Yeah. I grew up kind of playing a lot of sports and I loved comedy too and I knew I wanted to do something, but something in front of the camera, but journalism seemed a little more legitimate than trying to be a comedian or actor, so that’s why I stayed in college and that’s what I thought I was going to do and then realized that I didn’t want to try to go get a job in Yuma, Arizona and nothing against Yuma; I hear it’s lovely, especially this time of the year but I just thought, “That’s a long road and that’s a hard road too. I might as well try comedy”.
When you started on Saturday Night Live and you started off slowly, was it tough to hang in there?
WF: That was never the feel from my perspective, only because there was a whole group, 8 or 9 of us hired at one time; so we were essentially a new cast that came in together. Usually they add in a new person or a couple of new people every year and you don’t get to participate but we were all kinda thrown in there. We didn’t have a choice but to move forward whether we were being criticize at the time because either the show was going to get cancelled after this cast or we’re going kinda hopefully to either bring it back a little bit. No one was keeping a score card as to how you were doing and that sort of thing.
How much fun was it writing this film and writing the lines for the kids?
WF: It was a blast and for the kids especially. That was always one the favorites. Whenever there was a scene with the kids, even if I wasn’t working that day, I would come to the set and help out and we’d pitch them lines to say off-camera and they were so good. They were these two kids who had never been in a movie that we found in Alabama and they were so excited to be there and they really got it to deliver the lines earnestly as opposed to try to make it a joke. That’s a prime example as to how fun it was to write for all these characters.
Were you a big Chuck Norris fan?
WF: We’d always loved a good Chuck Norris reference. It fact, our first script we ever wrote, Chuck Norris played the husband of my ex-wife. We always wanted Chuck Norris to play himself.
How was working with Amy (Adams)?
WF: Great. We kinda laugh after the fact that we have three Oscar nominated actors in Talladega with John C. Reily, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Amy Adams, and …me. (Laughs) It’s kinda of a geeky comedy when you look at it from that perspective. We had actually talked to Amy about “Anchorman” and she read with us for that, so we were always big fans of her.
When you do a film like this, is there any research as far as NASCAR to make the characters a hybrid of some people?
WF: Yeah. We went backwards about it because we started writing the script and then NASCAR came on board and then we started going to races. In a weird way, our ignorance allowed us to go places that maybe if we knew too much we’d be like, “Oh, they would never say or do that”. Let’s just think of the craziest things and that sort of thing. That being said, we wanted to make all the racing shots look intense and real. We got an amazing second unit director who did all the car stuff and we wanted that to look big and epic, which is what it feels like when you go to these races. Hybrid is a great way to describe it.
Can you talk about this American Man trilogy you are looking to do? Was that just something you decided to do after this?
WF: No, I think that’s just a term that happened but that’s endlessly fascinating to us and it’s funny about people who think they’re great, who are not and are far from it. There’s something humorous about unearned confidence that makes us laugh. That feels like something that we will always go back to.
This film is much more story driven than “Anchorman”. When did you guys make a decision to give it a coherent plot?
WF: I think the sports movie lends itself more to that and it felt like in order to be a bigger feeling movie, we had to think about that a little bit more. It’s a byproduct of that.
Is it harder for you guys? Adam (McKay) mentioned that as you are writing you are thinking of most ridiculous scene imaginable. Is it harder to take that and graph it into an actual story?
WF: Yeah. It’s a struggle sometimes we often have this debate about how when you walk out of a comedy, do you say to yourself, “That was an amazing story. Wow! It’s changed my life”; or do you say, ‘That was a funny line. Do you remember when this happened?” and that always a battle with studios sometimes because they preach story, “I wish it had a little bit more story” and “I would just cut this because it didn’t make any sense”. We know it doesn’t make sense. It’s just a funny thing that happened. There’s a speedbump in the movie where you’d go, “how did they think of that?” That’s so weird and funny. They would go, “That does not make sense, stop the film!” It’s a struggle for us and yet, begrudgingly, we worked with Judd Apatow a lot and he’s great taskmaster. That’s one of the great things he did with “The 40-year old virgin”. He found both. He found story and comedy, so we’re trying to graduate to that.
How do people react to you when they see you in the street? Do they expect you to be funny?
WF: They usually shower me with gifts. A lot of stuff I don’t want. It’s the usually kind of thing where it’s “Is that him?” and people walking by and asking what time it is and looking closely at my face. “Do you have the time?” There’s a certain expectation level of what you are going to do, so I always have a feeling that I’m letting people down.
How was working and kissing Sasha?
WF: That was a definite highlight for me. That’s my first male to male on-screen kiss.
Did he ad-libbed on some lines?
WF: Yeah. He and Adam would just come up with stuff, like “You could be my Katie Couric” He had a million ideas and “You taste of America”.
It was funny that you weren’t the tallest the film when you have Sasha and Michael at the same height.
WF: WE tried to have a certain height requirement in the cast.
How do you feel about doing roundtables? Is it hard for you?
WF: These are actually a lot of fun. There’s more time and there’s a vary amount of questions and you guys can be more in-depth. The harder ones are the electronic ones where it’s 4 minutes at a time and in their defense they have to come back with all the basic information which then becomes this process of “tell me about your character” and etc. That’s the harder part, but this is fun. Anchorman and this film are just prides of joy that we get to do this stuff.
What are you doing next?
WF: I’m at the halfway mark of “Blades of Glory” and we’re on a little break right now and we start again in August.
Are you skating?
WF: I’m skating.
Will we ever see a sequel to “Old School”?
WF: That’s the hot topic of today. It keeps resurfacing I guess in terms of the media but I don’t know anything. Someone said to me recently, “Tell me about the sequel”. Is it happening? Do you know something that I don’t know? I don’t know and I havemt been called, so if they’re making it, let me know.
Can you talk about working this group of actors (Cole, Reily, etc.) and making it work on film?
WF: We just love the whole ensemble of doing these types of movies. We had been trying to work with Gary Cole for a long time and with John C. Reily and I think it’s so fun. I really hope that people see how gifted he is as a dramatic actor, he’s an impressive comedian as well; and people like Michael Clarke Duncan and even the guys in the pit crew like David Koechner and Ian Roberts and Jack McBrayer are all buddies from Second City. There’s a real team effort when we do these films that everyone’s on the same page in terms of sharing comedic ideas and it really kind of feeds itself in that other actors say, “You know it would be funny if you did…” and giving away ideas which I don’t know if that happens a lot in other comedies.
TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY opens on August 4th
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