Interview : Will Ferrell

“One day the kids will ask, Dad, where’s the vegetables?” Would you expect anything less in terms of an answer from comedian Will Ferrell – star of the new movie “Old School” – on whether his children are getting far too use to seeing their fathers butt on film. “It’s my favourite question at the moment”, Ferrell remarks. “I never get sick of talking about my arse”.

Stripping down to his bares is just one of the audacious deeds Ferrell does in the new movie, in which he, Vince Vaughan and Luke Wilson play middle-aged men renting a domicile on college property.

“I really wanted to work with Vince and Luke, and I was also really attracted to the premise. I was in a Fraternity myself, so it’s an area I knew was ripe”, he says. “It [the film] is a much bigger deal for me, than the other two, because it’s a really elevating thing”.

Where Ferrell is graduating from, is TV comedy, in this case, the long-running sketch comedy series “Saturday Night Live”, in which he became a recognizable and popular face over the years. “There are some big differences [between doing the series and this film] in a sense. All of the Saturday Night Live experiences [including the spin-off feature films like “The Ladies Man” and “A Night at the Roxbury”] were much slapped together. We’d have no idea when one of the SNL movies was going to shoot and then suddenly get a call to tell us it’s filming in two weeks. Be there”, he says.

“Old School is a real movie in that sense. We had a luxurious shooting schedule and all the planning and stages had been better handled.

But Ferrell has nothing but warm fuzzies for the TV series that made him famous. “Week in, week out, I’d get to play various characters. You’re pressured to step outside of yourself constantly and put through your paces. I loved it, because I’d rather be running around in a game-day feel. This was a great base, a comedy camp if you will. I learnt so many skills – writing and interpersonal skills, heaps”.

In the past couple of years, Ferrell has managed to make the transition to the silver screen with ease gaining parts in films like “Austin Powers”, “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” and fan favourite, “A Night at the Roxbury”, based on one of his SNL characters.

“It’s a strange thing that one. It wasn’t a hit at the cinemas, it wasn’t a flop either. But it found more of a life on video and DVD”, Ferrell says. “I was in New York, and this Foreign Cab driver turns and looks at me and goes, ‘Roxbury guy! I love it”.

But despite the loyal following, Ferrell seems a little dissatisfied with the film. “Let’s just say I liked my part in ‘The Ladies Man’ [another SNL inspired flick] better than I liked the whole ‘Roxbury’ movie. I couldn’t believe it when Lorne Michaels [SNL’s producer] said he wanted to make a movie about the Roxbury guys”.

“So no sequel, I’ve kind of done that”

Ferrell is much happier with “Old School”. “It is what it is – a broad comedy – but we also made sure we wanted to make it distinctive”, he says. “We all [the cast] just kind of clicked and hit the ground running”.

The film’s been so popular that Director Todd Phillips has struck a deal to make a sequel. “He called me and said ‘don’t hang up…but what about a sequel?’”, Ferrell laughs. “Todd said we’ll only do it if it’s funny and if we all want to do it – and then, I’ll go and develop something. Having said that, we’ll probably be filming next Summer”.

But the next Cab off the rank for Ferrell is a film called “Elf”. “We’ll I’m not naked in this one – although I do wear yellow tights. So I’m kind of graduating”, he laughs. “This one’s a little bit more of a left turn for me. It’s a Family Christmas movie. It’s funny, but it’s also a sentimental movie. A human is raised at the North Pole by Elves, not knowing he isn’t one. Then one day he goes to find his biological father – who is played by James Caan – in New York City.

“It’s great. I mean how many times do you have the opportunity to have Sonny Corleone beat you up against a wall”

After that, Ferrell will headline something he’s written. “It starts July 7 and at the moment we’ll call it “Action News – The Legend of Ron Burgundy” – it’s had so many name changes. It’s something I’ve written with Adam McKay, who was one of the head writers on “Saturday Night Live”. We’ve become good friends – we just clicked – and have written a couple of screenplays together. This one’s about a Local TV news anchorman in 1975”, says Ferrell, adding that he’s growing his hair for the part – just in case it’s fitting for the film.

“Christina Applegate stars as the first TV news anchor woman. She’s bright and beautiful, and smart – everything that my character Ron Burgundy isn’t. He can essentially read the news – and that’s it. So he starts to get a bit nervous. He gets this great segment going called “Rip the Lid off It – with Ron Burgundy”. Hopefully, Fred Willard – who’s in all the Christopher Guest movies – will be playing the station manager, Paul Rudd is playing one of the other members of the news team, David Koechner, who I was on with on SNL in my first season, is the sports guy, Jack Black has a cameo, and I’ve talked to Vince Vaughan about playing a part. So it’s a real ensemble…yet it’ll be my mug on the poster – complete with moustache – you’ll be seeing”, he laughs.

Ferrell says they had a bit of trouble convincing the studio to let them set it in the 1970’s. “They were like, ‘first, does it have to be set in the 70’s, and secondly, does it have to be set in the News World?’. They get tunnel vision on whether a 13 year old kid would go see it”, he says. “But Old School was a big hit and all their fear went out the window”.

And would he ever revisit the series that made him eminent? “I wouldn’t be surprised if I host this year sometime – Possibly when it’s time to do some publicity for Elf. It’s a strange place there at the moment – Chris Kattan’s just left, Tracy Morgan’s about to – but the people that are there, I’m still really good friends with”.

- CLINT MORRIS

OLD SCHOOL commences around Australia May 29