Call him Anchorman, Harold Crick, Ricky Bobby, or one half of the worst cheerleader team ever, but no matter what you call him you probably know the name Will Ferrell. As part of his promotional tour for his new film Semi-Pro, Ferrell is currently schlepping around the country with a handful of comedians at his side for the “Funny or Die Comedy Tour.” Between giving us an early peek at the film and preparing for the opening night of the tour in Manhattan, Kansas, he sat down with us to answer some questions.
21 Questions with Will Ferrell
As a launching off spot to promote his new film Semi-Pro actor and funnyman Will Ferrell brought, along with his film, his Funny or Die Comedy Tour to Manhattan, Kansas. Between the screening of the film that afternoon and the comedy show that night he was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions. And we were lucky enough to be invited. Here’s how it went down.
1. Why do you think the 1970’s are such a rich ground to make fun of?
Well, I think it’s kind of a remarkable time period where you look back and think back to clothing styles and hairdos and attitudes that was actually a period of time that happened. That people actually wore the clothes they wore and looked the way they looked and thought, “I’m looking great! I will never get higher than this.” You know. So I think for some reason it’s just intrinsically funny period of time.
2. Where did you find Kelly from the Bad News Bears (Jackie Earl Haley)? And did he look like that?
Kent Alderman, our director, was actually an executive at New Line, which is the studio that put the movie out, and helped produce the movie the movie [Little Children] that he got so much acclaim for. And we were just such a fan of him as an actor, and also we loved Bad News Bears, and we thought, “Oh my God, he’d be perfect for this role.” To play this you know weirded out guy, and that’s kind of how it happened. We found him in a dumpster; he thanked us for giving him employment. No, it’s funny that was obviously just a wig, and everything like that, and he looked pretty normal.
3. Why did you go with the title Semi-Pro?
We just loved that title because even though the ABA, they were fully paid salary guys, for the most part a lot of these guys had to work other jobs in the off-season. It was such a rinky-dink league in a way. Well, I take that back, there was such a dichotomy in that you had players like Dr. J and Artis Gilmore and guys who went on to great fame in the NBA and they were like the upper echelon and they made pretty big money and the other guys on the roster, I was reading something just recently about this one guy who was negotiating a deal for $10,000 dollars and a new refrigerator. They came back and the counter-offer was $10,000 and a used refrigerator. He said “I’ll take it, I’ll take it.” So it was a professional league but it had a semi-professional feel to it. So we just loved that title.
4. Did you read Terry Pluto’s book Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association? Do you remember any stories from that?
Yeah. There’s so many. When you read the book and see the movie you see what we did in the movie is not that far from anything. Some of the classic stories are Marvin Barnes who played for the Saint Louis Spirits refused to fly on a plane which was changing time zones because he was afraid it was a time machine. That’s probably my favorite, because I have those same fears myself.
5. Can you flashback to the 1970’s and 80’s, what kind of student athlete were you?
The word excellent comes to mind. I was nine in 1976 so I was really big in the Bicentennial. I loved that. Do you remember the Freedom Train? I waited three-hours to see the Freedom Train and then my mom got impatient and we left so I never got to see the stuff on the Freedom Train. Let’s see, I started playing soccer as a kid and I started playing basketball in 8th grade and played in high school. Played baseball, played football. I was kind of a funny jock I guess you’d say.
6. So then maybe we’ll see a football movie come out? About a kicker, maybe?
7. Do you have any current plans to do other sports movies?
No. I mean this just kind of lined up this way that I ended up doing [these films] . It’s truly by coincidence. Blades of Glory happened because Ben Stiller was originally going to do it and asked me to do it. And we’d actually talked about Semi-Pro before Blades of Glory even happened. So it all just kind of lined-up this way that I did these three sports movies together. So unless someone could write a really good part for me to play a jockey, a thoroughbred jockey… The joke is I’m too big.
8. Your degree is actually in Sports Information, is that correct? Do you use that daily?
Sports Information, yes. I probably use it ten times a day. I use my degree ten times a day, the now defunct Sports Information department.
9. The costumes were great in the movie. Did you actually have to be custom tailored into those pants for your size?
We had a great [designer]; Susan Matheson was the wardrobe designer and she wanted everything to look completely authentic. I kept telling her my shorts weren’t short enough. I found out later that a lot of the other guys on the team refused to wear their shorts any shorter than what they were. So I truly lobbied for the short shorts.
10. What was your favorite outfit you wore in the movie
Favorite outfit? Well [looking at the poster] that’s a pretty good one right there. I don’t know if I had a favorite, I really liked all of them. But my favorite accessory was my neckerchief. I saw some old footage of Rick Barry, a player who went on to be an All-Star in the NBA, but he started out in the ABA also and he was doing this press conference with this scarf tied around his neck that literally fell over his shoulder and I was like I have to have that. Jackie Moon has to wear neckerchiefs.
11. Was it nerve-wracking having the camera shot up your crotch on your free throws?
You know I was in such a zone I didn’t even notice. A lot of times I just carry a video camera and shoot my crotch, just to have it.
12. Did you guys get into any pick-up games on the set?
Yeah, all the time. It was kind of a problem because you’re working with a packed arena of extras with five, ten, different guys on the court. You have these choreographed plays that we run to make it look like free play. So anytime it was cut where they had to move the camera to do another set-up we all just started playing; basketballs bouncing, they literally had to take the balls away from us because when you’re in a gym all you want to do is shoot baskets.
13. Who was the best player on the cast, other than you?
Woody was, other than me, was very good at the half-court back to the basket throw it over his head. He actually made a couple of those. There was a bunch of good players on all those other teams. Pooh Richardson actually was on the Spurs. Every player that played either was playing currently in Europe or had played in college. It was very seductive in a way because these guys were going half-speed and in a couple takes the coordinator of basketball, this guy Mark Ellis who had this thick South Carolina accent, said “Okay, let’s go full speed.” And these guys would turn it on and you forgot they have a whole another gear and you sort of get cocky thinking you can play with these guys and they would just blow by you. Even that was fun.
14. Was there a stunt double for the bear scenes?
Actually the bear trainer was the guy who fought the bear when it was actually the bear and then we had a robotic bear, a guy in a suit, that fought me. And then I fought him. But between the two that’s how we pieced that whole piece together.
15. What are some of the differences between you feature film work, your Internet videos, and the tour tonight?
Well, I’ve never done anything like tonight. I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s going to be…it should be fun. This is brand new, doing this tour that we’re doing, and I don’t know. They all kind of compliment each other. I feel lucky that I get to think of little funny ideas for the website. Obviously the film work is the biggest commitment to my time. Adam McKay and I have started producing things as well so it’s a little busy.
16. How did K-State get on your list?
We had a number of schools that we knew we wanted to do like seven schools or so. We wanted to do enough but not too many because we didn’t know how taxing something like this would be. We knew we wanted to bring this tour to parts of the country that maybe wouldn’t get a chance to see something like this and Kansas State just totally fit the bill. And some of our promoters were like it’s a great place to go, take something like this, and people will really respond. It’s fun to get to kind of bring, for myself and the comedians, to come here and know this crowd is going to be so fired up to see something like this.
17. How was it decided to promote the movie that there would be this tour?
This was in conjunction. Some of my agents who represent a lot of the stand-ups just came up with the idea is how it kind of happened. It would just be a different way to get the word out about the website and the movie and just do something a little more interactive with a live audience and break it up as opposed to a lot of the time you just come to a city and do interviews all day, blow out. But this is something that gets attention but is actually fun for us to do, and that was the idea.
18. What line from your movies do people yell at you the most?
You know it’s kind of evolved. It’s funny, I was just in Ireland for a few weeks and for some reason Anchorman is huge in Ireland. So I would get yelled, in Irish accents, “I want to be on you,” “I’m kind of a big deal,” so a lot of Anchorman quotes have kind of come pack around a little bit. So I guess that’s kind of in first place now.
19. What’s going to be the catch-phrase from Semi-Pro?
You just never know. One of the obscure lines from Anchorman I get is “milk was a bad choice,” I never would have picked that as something anyone would have ever picked to recite back to me. Or even “you’re my boy blue” from Old School, I just made that up that night at 3 in the morning yelling at this poor old actor. it’s tough to predict.
20. Do you have a favorite SNL character?
It’s tough to say, and I’m happy to be able to say that because I’ve really enjoyed so many of these things I’ve gotten to do, and it’s so fulfilling that the crazy ideas I have people actually think are funny. From the show I loved doing Harry Caray, I loved Robert Goulet, I loved doing Alex Trebek, I loved the middle school music school teachers I did with Ana. You know the cheerleaders were great because kind of the first think people started to notice. I’m just lucky that a lot of those things I had so much fun doing.
21. Can we look forward to a Jackie Moon album?
You never know. We’ll see. Love Me Sexy…