Will Ferrell wants your vote
WHEN talking politics – or anything for that matter – with Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, getting a straight answer is no mean feat.
Two of the most in- demand movie funny men around, the pair have joined forces for the timely The Campaign, and sitting side by side in a Beverly Hills hotel, it’s easy to see how they make a dream comedy ticket.
Exhibit A is Ferrell, discussing what he would do to clean up the money- tainted mess that is American politics.
‘‘ I would make every member of Congress hold hands and sing a Beatles song before every session,’’ he says, utterly stony- faced.
‘‘ They could rotate it and just get a good feeling going, and then just go around the room saying one positive thing about the person next to them. And then start discussing the issues of the day.’’
Galifianakis chips in: ‘‘ I would just make it so there’s no littering. It wouldn’t do anything but it would make me feel powerful.’’
Or then there’s the matter of their eagerly anticipated sequels – Anchorman for Ferrell and The Hangover 3 for Galifianakis – which are due to open next year.
‘‘ I have to re- audition,’’ says the towering Ferrell of the prospect of reprising the jazz- fluting, richly moustachioed newsreader Ron Burgundy. But ( director) Adam McKay told me I was in the top five. And if I don’t get Ron Burgundy I can audition for one of the lesser members of the cast.’’
And as for saddling up again with the Wolf Pack, the man who dreamed up the clueless but lovable man- child Alan says: ‘‘ We are doing Hangover 4 but not 3. We figure people can make up their mind where 3 would be.’’
Both experts at improvising, the free and easy banter can be hard to keep up with as they wander off hilariously on tangents, and occasionally seriously contemplate the state of the US as it gears up for an election – but on hearing that Australia’s prime minister is a female, childless, unmarried atheist
I would make every member of Congress hold hands and sing a Beatles song before every session
who lives with her partner, Ferrell is momentarily dumbfounded. ‘‘ Wow,’’ he says, eyes widening. ‘‘ Well, that’s really progressive – that should be able to happen here but we are a long way off.’’
The Campaign, about two rival politicians who will stop at nothing to get elected, is directed by Jay Roach, the man behind comedies Austin Powers and Borat, as well as more serious political efforts The Recount and last year’s Sarah Palin biopic Game Change.
While the very adult comedy, in which babies and dogs are inadvertently punched and grown men act like self- obsessed children, has much more in common with the first two, there are some serious points behind the belly laughs that say a lot about the role played by money, religion and the media in politics.
And while neither the director nor the actors set out to make a ‘‘ political’’ movie, in an American political system that is getting weirder by the day, sometimes it seemed like the outrageous gags they came up with were not going far enough.
This, after all, is the country that gave the world the magnificently named Anthony Wiener, the congressman who emailed a picture of his nether regions to a woman who was not his wife. ‘‘ That is still baffling,’’ Ferrell says. Galifianakis goes on to explain: ‘‘ We are just trying to make a comedy but there are things where we are waving our hands in a funny way saying there are some key things here. And it’s not right or left. That’s the magic of it – everything is screwed up.’’
While the Campaign is the first movie the two comedians have appeared in together, the pair have known each other for years after meeting during Galifianakis’ brief stint as a writer on Saturday Night Live, the US skit show that launched Ferrell’s career.
While they, along with regular collaborator Adam Mckay, searched for a project to do together, Ferrell became fascinated with one of Galifianakis’ characters he called ‘‘ the effeminate racist’’, convinced that there was a movie in it. Initially they planned to set their story in the world of boy pageants but the larger- than- life world of US politics proved to be too fertile a comic garden to ignore.
Even though Ferrell had become known for his impressions of George W. Bush on Saturday Night Live and his 2009 Broadway show You’re Welcome America: A Final Night With George W. Bush, he says the former US president didn’t influence his character in The Campaign – the venal, preening, amoral Cam Brady.
‘‘ We stole some things from actual
political candidates and their behaviour but I don’t know if that really informed this,’’ he says.
‘‘ The hair is really a tribute to John Edwards – he had the most beautiful hair in politics.’’
Galifianakis could have used his family political connections for research – his uncle was a congressman for North Carolina between 1967 and 1973 – but he says he turned to the ever- crazier campaign ads that were airing during the Republican primaries.
‘‘ All I did was watch the political news – on both sides,’’ he says.
‘‘ The Republican debates were going on and we were drawing from that a little bit. ‘‘ Also watching Fox News and MSNBC, everything is under a magnifying glass these days.
‘‘ You almost have to start running from office as a kid to make sure there is nothing in your closet.
‘‘ Who doesn’t in their life have a thing they don’t want people to know about?’’
With the presidential election just months away, now is the time when the George Clooneys and Matt Damons of the world start to throw their weight behind candidates hoping their celebrity shine will rub off.
While Ferrell is unlikely to appear on the hustings with his arm draped around Barack Obama, he says he has no problem with those who see it as their democratic right.
‘‘ It’s a bit of a double- edged sword in way,’’ he says.
‘‘ You will hear people say ‘ I don’t want to see a bunch of actors campaigning’ and yet those people are citizens, so if they are asked by a campaign, then why shouldn’t they be able to do that?’’
Galifianakis has a theory on why the conservative side of politics gets so fired up at the celebrity Democrat supporters, who seem to wildly outnumber their Republican counterparts.
‘‘ You hear it a lot from the right side of the spectrum about ‘ those stupid actors up there’ but the Republican Party – they actually try to elect actors,’’ he says. ‘‘ Ronald Reagan, the guy from the Love Boat ( Fred Grandy), Fred Thompson, Sonny Bono.’’