FERRELL’S HOUSE OF CARDS

Will Ferrell talks about his new com­edy The House, out in the UAE to­day, in which he and Amy Poehler star as par­ents who start a casino to fund their daugh­ter’s col­lege ed­u­ca­tion

Khaleej Times - City Times - - FRONT PAGE -

By the time Will Ferrell was in the sixth grade, he was al­most 6 feet tall and own­ing it. “I never felt gawky or like it was a dis­ad­van­tage. I was kind of proud of be­ing tall,” said Ferrell, who grew up in Irvine, Cal­i­for­nia, where he played base­ball, bas­ket­ball and soc­cer. “You’re more looked up to. Lit­er­ally. You are lit­er­ally look­ing down on peo­ple.” Through­out his film-and-tele­vi­sion ca­reer, Ferrell has used his height (he’s now 6-foot-3) and ath­leti­cism to his ad­van­tage, wring­ing laughs as Buddy, the over­size Santa’s helper, in Elf (2003), the preen­ing, loom­ing broad­caster Ron Bur­gundy in An­chor­man (2004) and the goofy step­fa­ther bat­tling a buff Mark Wahlberg in Daddy’s Home (2015). In one of this sum­mer’s fun­ni­est flicks, The House, which opens in the UAE to­day, Ferrell is Scott Jo­hansen, an av­er­age sub­ur­ban dad who learns to walk tall out of mis­guided ne­ces­sity: When he and his wife, Kate (Amy Poehler), dis­cover they can’t af­ford their only child’s col­lege tu­ition, they raise money by open­ing a Las Ve­gas-style casino at a neigh­bour’s house and be­come men­ac­ing en­forcers in the process. “It’s against their bet­ter judg­ment, but in a weird way one of the great­est things they’ll ever do,” said Ferrell. “And I get to wield an axe.” In real life the 49-year-old Ferrell is soft-spo­ken and the father of Mag­nus, Mat­tias and Axel, who re­cently got to watch their dad film a scene with John Lith­gow for the com­ing Daddy’s Home 2. “It didn’t cross my mind to tell them that we play the type of father and son who are so af­fec­tion­ate that we don’t think twice about kiss­ing each other on the lips when we say hi,” Ferrell said. “But the boys, ap­par­ently, were crack­ing up watch­ing that.” Ex­cerpts from a con­ver­sa­tion with the ac­tor.

You’ve starred in so many come­dies. What’s the one ques­tion that you just can’t an­swer se­ri­ously any­more?

The ques­tion that in­evitably gets asked for ev­ery com­edy is: “How much is im­prov in the movie, and how much is scripted?” And it’s re­ally hard not to mess with peo­ple. I’ll just say, “On this movie, 14 per cent is im­pro­vised.” And they’ll go, “Oh! How do you know?” and I’ll say, “We have a log­a­rithm” or “We run it through a com­puter that an­a­lyzes it.”

What ap­pealed to you about play­ing a nice guy who trans­forms into a thug­gish casino boss?

One thing I thought was great was get­ting to play a cou­ple who are both equally com­mit­ted to the premise. Usu­ally, in a movie, one of them – the wife, the hus­band – is in on the plan and the other is, like, “What’s go­ing on?” But here, for bet­ter or for worse, they’re both like, “OK, let’s just do it.” They get to be funny to­gether. I liked that.

You and Amy Poehler will both do what­ever it takes for a laugh.

Shoot­ing the scene where we’re walk­ing home drunk and she re­lieves her­self in the front yard. There was all this talk about [in a sin­cere, worried voice] “How do we shoot this?” and be­ing very pro­fes­sional. And Amy goes, “I’ll just pull my pants down!” and I thought, “Oh, my god. This is great!”

Was gam­bling a part of your par­ents’ lives?

My dad’s a mu­si­cian. He had his own lounge acts, then played with the Right­eous Broth­ers on and off for 20, 25 years. He played a lot in Ve­gas. I have a nos­tal­gic view of Ve­gas be­cause, as kids, we’d go stay with him for a week at the Riviera. Then, com­bined with that, were the cau­tion­ary tales we’d hear of peo­ple los­ing all their money and think­ing, “That’s not for me.”

Speak­ing of vi­ral videos, the re­cent speech you gave at U.S.C., your alma mater, has more than 2 mil­lion YouTube views.

I didn’t re­alise that it’d get that much re­ac­tion. I’m used to writ­ing things that are sar­cas­tic, not things that are sup­posed to be funny, but also in­sight­ful and earnest. So it was an in­ter­est­ing chal­lenge to find that mid­dle ground. But also my fam­ily was there, my par­ents were there, and I got to sing a Whit­ney Hous­ton song.

Hol­ly­wood makes few dra­matic movies about mid­dle-class wor­ries now. So can come­dies fill that gap?

I love come­dies where we get to ei­ther make very di­rect satir­i­cal com­ments about what’s go­ing on or in­di­rect. I think it’s great when we can slide that stuff in. But is that the only way we’re go­ing to get peo­ple to lis­ten? It seems to be more and more that way. When you feel like you get more real news by watch­ing The Daily Show or Sa­man­tha Bee, that’s say­ing some­thing. Margy Rochlin, The New York Times Syn­di­cate

ina Wil­lFer­rell The scene­from re­leas­ing House intheUAE­to­day

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