The Will Ferrell star power is strong. Few people will disagree that he is one of the funniest people in the world. Even if the movie he is in isn’t that great, you know that you will get at least a few good, hard belly laughs out of a Ferrell performance. In 2015, he was named the best comedic performer by the readers of GQ magazine. Thanks to his absurdist sense of humor and his knack for comically overacting, Will Ferrell remains a pretty mysterious and enigmatic figure. Here are 10 things that you may not have known about him.
10. He can’t tell you why he decided to do a Spanish language movie
Of all the wacky things that Will Ferrell has done over the course of his comedy career – all the wacky movies and the wacky roles and the wacky sketches – perhaps the wackiest and most absurd is the Spanish language movie that he starred in. When you heard back in 2012 that Will Ferrell was starring in an all Spanish movie with an all Spanish cast that wasn’t a comedy and was being played completely straight, you might have wondered just one thing: why? Well, even he can’t answer that question. He explained, “I can’t tell you where I first thought of Casa de mi Padre and I can’t tell you when, but a light bulb went off that said putting me in a Spanish speaking movie with the cast being entirely Latino, and myself playing a kind of Latino actor, and the joke not being that I’m speaking poor Spanish, that it would be hilarious. I guess I did it specifically to raise the question, ‘Why did you do this?’ It’s one of the craziest things I’ve done.” So, he basically did an entire movie with the intention of getting you to wonder why exactly he did it. That’s so Will Ferrell, right?
9. He would happily work at the bank for a decent salary
Will Ferrell once said that he would happily take a job at a bank for decent pay and good hours. When he was a kid and the career counselors were telling the kids all the usual stuff about how you can be anything you want to be and all that, they would joke about getting a job at the bank. But even to the future movie star, that didn’t sound too bad. He said, “The stereotype you made fun of as a kid was ‘the job in the bank.’ But to me, that always sounded all right. Nine to five and you know where you’re going. You get a decent salary and vacations and get to carry a briefcase. I was fine with that idea. But then I also realized at a young age that I loved writing. I was doing little comedy bits. I never had the guts to realize I might be a performer. But by the time I graduated college [where I studied sports journalism], I knew that thought would eat away at me if I didn’t give it a shot. Thank God, with the success I’ve had, I’ve been able to have stability, too. When I’m at home with the family now, it is a blissfully boring existence.”
8. He makes fans work for his autograph
Will Ferrell was given the honor of worst celebrity autographer in a 2007 issue of Autograph magazine. There was a list of celebrities ranked in order of how often they sign autographs for fans and how nice they are about it and how good their actual autograph is – and Will Ferrell was placed bang last on this list. An editorial comment by the staff of the publication read, “What’s so frustrating about Will Ferrell being the worst autograph signer this past year is that he used to be so nice to fans and collectors and a great signer. What makes him so bad is that he’ll taunt people asking for his autograph.” In response to this, Ferrell said, “I don’t know how I got on the list. I sign a lot of autographs.” He also defended his so called taunting of fans by saying that it is just a game he likes to play. He said, “I do [taunt the autograph seekers]. I really do. I’m like, ‘How badly do you want this autograph?’ ‘Are you sure?’ ‘You say you’re my biggest fan. Really? Prove it.’ I’ll do things like that. They have to earn it.” That sounds like a very Will Ferrell thing to do.
7. He almost played Walter Mitty
Remember that Ben Stiller movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty from back in 2013? It’s okay if you don’t, because it was pretty forgettable. But before Stiller took on the project and both directed and starred in it, the film went through a long, long, long development history – like, excruciatingly long. Directors who were, at one point or another, attached to helm the project include Steven Spielberg, Gore Verbinski, Ron Howard, Chuck Russell, and Mark Waters. Drafts of the screenplay were written by an even longer list of names, including Zach Helm, Jay Kogen, Peter Tolan, Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz, and Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant. Jim Carrey was the first star to be attached to the title role, followed by Owen Wilson about eleven years later, followed by Mike Myers two years after that and Will Ferrell two years after that and Sacha Baron Cohen just one year after that. One year later, Ben Stiller took over directing and starring duties, and two years after that, the movie was released in theaters across the globe – and it was astoundingly mediocre. It just goes to show that some movies are doomed from the beginning and just aren’t worth the wait.
6. He used “GET OFF THE SHED!” in his SNL audition
Will Ferrell rose to prominence when he became a cast member of Saturday Night Live and began doing all kinds of memorable characters and celebrity impressions, like that of then President George W. Bush. Before he was discovered by Lorne Michaels, he was just a relatively unknown sketch comic doing live performances. In one of his most iconic SNL sketches, he yells, “GET OFF THE SHED!” to his off screen children. This was apparently the line that he used in his initial audition that ended up winning him the job. Ferrell said recently of this sketch, “I still love that sketch – partly because it was what I auditioned with, but also because you never knew exactly what the shed was and why getting off it mattered so much. Playing those types of guys who turn on a dime is really fun to do.” The “GET OFF THE SHED!” guy became sort of a template for the kind of easily angered characters that Ferrell would become famous for. “GET OFF THE SHED!” is an early version of “MA! THE MEAT LOAF! FUCK!” If you’ve never seen the sketch, then head over to YouTube right now and check it out, because it is hysterical – and he did a few of them.
5. He calls Mark Wahlberg “the lion male to my kitty cat”
Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are an unlikely comedic duo. One is the absurdist genius behind Ron Burgundy and Jacobim Mugatu, while the other is an action movie badass who plays cops and criminals. But their first pairing, buddy cop action comedy The Other Guys, proved to be so popular and successful that they have since reteamed for two other movies. Ferrell describes his dynamic with Marky Mark in the most perfect way: “Mark is the guy who could walk down the street in a movie with his own theme song. People will step aside. He creates that dynamic without saying a word. He represents the lion male to my kitty cat.” Ferrell explained that it was this dynamic that influenced his portrayal of his straight laced stepdad character Brad Whitaker in the movie Daddy’s Home and its recent sequel: “[Brad] is so emotionally available on an almost sickening level – reading the script made me laugh every time. You know that line in the movie where someone says, ‘No one likes smooth jazz.’ He is hands up: ‘I do!’ He loves benign and mediocre; he loves his Ford Flex. It might drive someone else nuts, but he just loves where he is.”
4. Ron Burgundy was almost a car salesman
Well, not exactly. But the first feature length screenplay that Will Ferrell and Adam McKay collaborated on that attracted a lot of attention in Hollywood was called August Blowout and it was set at a car dealership. It would have starred Ferrell as a brash, loud mouthed car salesman named Jeff Tanner who shares many traits with ‘70s newsman Ron Burgundy. The opening monologue of the script goes like this: “Hi, I’m Jeff Tanner and I sell cars. The only thing I love more than a finely crafted American automobile is the hot rush of adrenaline I get from selling one. Meet my car: the Ford Explorer. It’s rugged, sexy, and American – like me. And just like this bad boy, Jeff Tanner is fully tricked out with all the features. I come with a confident handshake, an outstanding ass, a saddle in my bedroom, and except for some screw-up by JC Penney, a near spotless credit report. And guess what? That’s all standard. For Jeff Tanner, life is all about three things: speed, steel, and gas. You think cheetahs are fast? Fuck cheetahs. My speed is American made. I’ll be honest. I’m hard right now.” This character seems like an early incarnation of what would eventually become Ron Burgundy.
3. Will Ferrell’s kids don’t love Elf as much as we do
When the Christmas holiday rolls around, we are all very eager to get all of our favorite Christmas movies on, including the heartfelt and hilarious Will Ferrell starring vehicle Elf. But Ferrell’s own kids – three boys and counting – are not so keen on a movie that stars their dad in an elf costume. When Ferrell was doing the press rounds to promote his latest Christmas comedy movie Daddy’s Home 2, he described what Christmas morning is like in his own house with his own family: “I think it’s always chaotic. There’s a lot of screaming and yelling and complaining as to when they get to open their presents. And then it’s a mad – I think they each get way too many presents each. We have three boys. And [all of their presents] are opened in twelve minutes.” And then he joked about forcing his 2003 holiday comedy classic on them. He added, “Then, [sarcastically] yeah, I force them to watch Elf ten times. Ten straight times. It’s a marathon, yeah. And then you get to open a present.” Ferrell isn’t the only comedy star whose kids don’t like his movies – Adam Sandler has said that he has the same problem.
2. He’s trying to “resist the temptation” to do a sequel to Step Brothers
Fans of Will Ferrell and his writing partner Adam McKay and his regular co star John C. Reilly have been begging for ten years now for the trio to reteam and do a sequel to their most beloved comic creation, the absurdist comedy Step Brothers. They made the movie with the expectation that it would lose money and it ended up being one of their biggest box office hits. But don’t expect a sequel any time soon, because Ferrell believes a sequel would ruin how special the original is. He said, “You have to resist the temptation. It’s just tough, because the things everyone wants you to do sequels of are special because there’s not a sequel of it. I guess we’ll see, but as of now, there are no plans. We just don’t want to be doing sequels of everything.” Still, both Ferrell and McKay have kicked around ideas for a sequel when they have been asked about it in interviews. The fact that they keep getting asked about it should be enough to show them how much the fans are clamoring for it. Sadly, for now, it seems like they won’t be making a sequel any time soon.
1. But he and Adam McKay have a fantastic idea for Step Brothers 2
Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, and John C. Reilly might not be planning to do a sequel to Step Brothers in the immediate future, but they do have an amazing idea for the plot. Back in 2014, when McKay was busy prepping the mortgage crisis drama that would earn him an Academy Award, he revealed that they have a story treatment for the sequel and it sounds incredible: “We have a whole story [for Step Brothers 2], an outline that we’re happy with. We were ready to go, and you know the story of [how] we got the call on Anchorman 2. We’re not gonna do it now, ‘cause we just did a sequel. I don’t wanna get into the sequel business too much. It was kind of a novelty to do one of them and it was certainly very interesting and I had never done anything like it. So, I want to go make some original movies – or you know, The Big Short is an adaptation, but do some different stuff. But who knows? Two to three years, three to four years. I mean, the funny thing with Step Brothers is if those guys are in their 50s, it still works, so we could easily return to that, but for now, no sequels.”