Interview : Fred Willard

His career’s been invigorated thanks to his turn in Christopher Guest’s films, “Waiting for Guffman”, “Best in Show” and “A Mighty Wind”, but there’s more to comical Fred Willard than mockumentaries, as the star of the upcoming “American Wedding” and “National Lampoon’s Cousin Eddie’s Christmas Vacation Lost” explains to CLINT MORRIS.

You’re in "American Wedding" – who are you playing in that?
Harold Flaherty, the father of the bride – Alyson Hannigan. So if the marriage lasts, I’ll be Eugene Levy’s in-law.

They’re popular films – the “American Pie” series – what do you think their secret ingredient is?
They appeal to teenagers’ sense of outrageous humor. They wish they could have friends like this and experience these "wild" adventures.

When I think Fred Willard, I think Christopher Guest’s movies – how has being in those films helped your career? Or has it?
The first phone call I got from Christopher Guest offering me a part in "Waiting For Guffman" was a huge turning event in my career, although it just seemed like a fun offer at the time. Up until then I had pretty much done whatever roles I could, saying other peoples lines. But I’d had a whole separate career doing sketch comedy,standup and improvisation, so I had a whole bagful of funny ideas and characters I thought would only see the light of day to small theater and club audiences. The call from Christopher came out of the blue and really gave my career a jet propulsion. I owe an awful lot to Christopher Guest.

Will Ferrell recently told me he’s hoping to get your for his movie "Anchor Man : The legend of Ron Burgundy" – did he get you?
Let me say that my roles with Christopher Guest put me in a position where a lot of people who I greatly admire are now asking me to be in their projects. And in the case of Will Ferrell, I couldn’t be more thrilled as I think he’s one of the funniest men around. So happily, to answer your question,yes,he "twisted my arm" until I signed on. Now comes the hard part-to try to hold my own with him and his brand of comedy.

And I hear you’ve a part in "National Lampoon’s Cousin Eddie’s Christmas Vacation Lost"? Can you tell me about that?
I play Cousin Eddie’s (Randy Quaid) boss who has to tell him he’s being replaced by a monkey, because the monkey is a little brighter. But after Eddie performs some heroics for his family on a South Seas island, I greet him like a hero.

Heard any rumours of another "Vacation" with Chevy from being on the set?
No.

What’s the favourite film you’ve done?
Although I enjoyed my character in "A Mighty Wind”, I had more fun in "Waiting for Guffman" as it was more ensemble, plus it was my first really "starring" part.

What about a least favourite?
I had the least fun in a movie called "Moving Violations". The movie was very funny and I had a good part when I was on camera. But what I didn’t realize when I signed on was that I was in a lot of crowd scenes with extras in a traffic school set before my character was introduced. This meant 2 weeks of driving to a location about an hour away to sit as "background" There was also a lot of night shooting which is never much fun.

Have you a favourite scene from the new American Pie movie?
There is a wedding rehearsal dinner where I have to toast the bride and groom and our new in-laws, and the director, Jesse Dylan, let me write my own speech.

What else is in your future?
I’m scheduled to be on a series starring Norm MacDonald this Fall. He’s another of my comic idols, so I’m really happy about that. The show is funny and he’s just great to be around. Plus (and here I’m starting to annoy myself not to mention other actors) I will be a recurring character on the TV series "Everybody Loves Raymond". But the way things work, this time next year I’ll probably be sitting on my back porch wondering why my agent hasn’t called.

AMERICAN WEDDING Commences August 1st across America