Someone will eventually make a subtle adult comedy with Will Ferrell
playing a character who will closely resemble the real Will Ferrell, and when that happens, that filmmaker will be acclaimed for his amazing vision. It's just a matter of time. He's almost always funny in person, but in a smart, quiet way that is totally unlike his screen persona. He's got a wry verbal wit that can be easily overlooked by people more familiar with the outrageous comic performances he's perfected over the years.
When we sat down to discuss his new film, "The Other Guys
," it was still a week before the Comic-Con panel for "Megamind
" that I moderated. It was the first time seeing Will in a while, and although it was a quick conversation, it was a fun one:
Will: You're rocking the Ghostbusters T-shirt.
Drew: Can’t wait to see you next week for the 'Megamind' panel.
Will: It's going to be interesting. I've never...
Drew: I’ve never been in Hall H to do this, but I can tell you from being in the audience, it’s a terrifying room.
Will: I heard.
Drew: And we start the convention. It’s literally the very first thing on the very first day. But it’s great. I’m glad that DreamWorks Animation is finally bringing something to Comic-Con, and it makes sense that they’re finally going down with a super hero film. It makes perfect sense.
Will: I knew that Jeffrey wanted to do it a long time ago and I was fine, but the timing... I was suspect of the timing, like, "Are you sure? It comes out in November, and I didn't want to step on "The Other Guys" stuff and …
Drew: I love 'The Other Guys.' Love it.
Will: Oh, thanks.
Drew: I really think what you and Adam are doing together is very special in terms of comedy. In almost every film, characters talk because they have to service the script or because they’re reacting to something. Your brand of humor with Adam seems to be about the way people think. Can you talk about the evolution of this particular character? I love that he’s somewhere in the middle of the range between the desperation of "Step Brothers" and the wild success of "Anchorman
" or "Talladega."
Will: Yeah. It’s a totally unique thing and a unique character for me to get to play because he’s pretty grounded, you know? When we first read through the script, I’m like, "Adam, we’ve got to really... the main thing we have to do with this is make sure it’s not this relationship of nerdy computer guy who can’t fend for myself and the super-cop. We’ve got to go against that. And he actually has to be eccentric. He has to be a guy people make fun of, but he also has to have that... for some reason he has self-confidence."
Drew: There’s no ground given, ever.
Will: Yeah. No ground given ever and I think that’s what makes it so fun. It’s like, "Guys, you’re making fun of me. I know it. I don’t like it." But he's just self-assured and I was adamant about the fact that when Mark pushes, he’s got to be able to push back. Adam was like, "Well, you’re right because he should call out the stuff that Mark’s making fun of this guy for being a nerd about, and then he can turn around and go, 'Well, when was the last time you voted? When was the last time? Like really? You consider yourself a real person? Like you wear a leather jacket constantly. Is that cool? Do you have computer skills?' Like those things that you stop yourself and go, "Oh, you’re right." So it’s fun to get to play a guy who on the surface you think is just going to be annoying and persnickety and yet has this real backbone to him.
Drew: Well, I think a big part of what is so great and unexpected about the film is when you put an ensemble like "Anchorman" together with all those heavy hitters who are great at that particular thing, you expect those results. But then when you throw Eva and Mark into the mix... I thought she was very funny in "All About the Benjamins," but I think like nine people saw it. And with Mark, I love his performance in the great, crazy, eccentric 'I Heart Huckabees'...
Will: Yeah, yeah... same with us.
Drew: So, that to me is the really great collision here. Three totally different styles but it completely all sounds like one voice in the film.
Will: Yeah, yeah. And we were just lucky that those people wanted to play ball, you know? And that Mark was totally game, totally got exactly what we do. Eva’s the same way and totally got the joke. Not only the joke on the page, but getting to make fun of her persona as an actress, too. We just couldn’t stop laughing at the fact that she’s actually playing my wife.
Drew: I think the craziest moment I’ve seen on screen this year has got to be "Pimps Don't Cry." You’re way out there.
Will: We’re sitting at the screening in the back just laughing, going, "This is actually happening. This scene is insane." It’s funny but then to have this weird song that’s tender but bizarre and is it a song they sing together? Like what’s the deal? We’ve caught them in this little snippet…
Drew: Well, it’s definitely not the first time it’s ever happened.
Will: No, because they both know the melody. And then it’s completely irrational again and he gets kicked out and it’s... I don’t know. It’s fun that, like you said, all those things kind of mesh in a way that’s pleasing.
Drew: Now, it's one thing to say on the page, "Okay, we'll cast Sam Jackson and The Rock," and then you actually get Sam Jackson and The Rock. So you really did have that super cop movie inside your film. For them, was it great to play one of those roles where they didn’t really need to carry a movie so they could go as far as they wanted?
Will: I hope it was. I mean, it must have been because they agreed to do it. I mean, in talking to Sam we all went to dinner before those guys started working. Just like, "I don’t want to sound like a broken record but thanks for doing it. We can’t believe you’re doing this." He’s like, "Oh, no, I need to do a fun one. I need to do a fun one. I’ve had some serious ones. I really want to do a fun one." And Dwayne was just like arguably one of the nicest guys and was just like, "Whatever you want me to do."
Drew: One of the real treats this summer is the return of Michael Keaton
. Being able to see him in "Toy Story 3" and having my kid fall in love with what he does, and then to see him here and be reminded, "Oh yeah! Michael Keaton is the man!"
Will: He’s so gifted.
Drew: He has great stuff with you guys and it’s very quiet which I kind of love. I love the gentle rapport between…
Will: That was another conscious decision, like, "Let’s try to avoid the guy busting through the doors and going 'Guys, enough!' and then walking out.' I know some of that was in the script, but I think Michael brought a lot of that, of more of a fatherly, 'Okay, come on. Just knock it off.' And like you said, what he was doing was so subtle that in the course of filming, you know, a lot of times the high energy, bombastic stuff gets everyone talking and laughing but it’s the small stuff that goes unnoticed until you put the movie together and then you see what he was doing the whole time. It’s so great.
Drew: I’ve got to tell you, I just heard the premise for what "Anchorman 2
" was going to be. I’m heartbroken.
Will: I know.
Will: Did Adam tell you?
Drew: Yeah. There was a musical that you guys were actually going to do onstage for several months and then film it?
Drew: Unbelievable, man.
Will: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Drew: I think I will probably mourn that film forever now.
Will: (Laughs.) I know. Yeah, the Broadway show was going to be called 'Anchorman 2 The Musical!' and, yeah, it was going to be one of those things where it was going to start as a stage show and then the film was either going to be parts of the stage show or none of it at all. We were just going to keep what worked or keep this part or let’s just totally do a different thing.
Drew: The Marx Brothers used to do that, man! That’s what I think is tremendous about that.
Will: That’s where Adam got that idea from.
Drew: Well, I just hope you and Adam keep working together because I really don’t think there’s anybody else with a voice like you too working together.
Drew: And it’s that combination that I really love.
Will: Yeah, yeah. We... yeah, we feel lucky that we kind of found each other, you know?
"The Other Guys" opens in theaters on Friday.
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