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Interview: Will Ferrell, Danny McBride for "Land of the Lost"

By Jeff Otto Thursday June 4th 2009 10:05AM
Will Ferrell, Danny McBride for "Land of the Lost"

Put Will Ferrell in just about any scenario and the result is almost always comedy gold (Thanks to our short attention spans, we’ve all forgotten "Night at the Roxbury"). But add another comic mastermind to the equation and you’ve got comedy, well, whatever you consider better than gold, depending on your perspective on the values of precious metals.

A few years back, Ferrell and comedy cohort Adam McKay (the team that put together Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers and comedy web site funnyordie.com) discovered another like-minded comedy duo in Jody Hill and Danny McBride, the guys behind the quirky martial arts comedy The Foot Fist Way. McKay and Ferrell soon wound up co-producing the Hill and McBride’s comedy series for HBO, Eastbound and Down, which recently completed a critically-lauded first season run, and McBride joined the cast of Ferrell’s latest big screen summer comedy blockbuster, Land of the Lost. The rest, as they say, is history.

The big screen remake of Sid and Marty Krofft’s "Land of the Lost" was originally conceived as a family movie vehicle for Ferrell, pairing the comic talent with a few cute kids. But after the discovery of McBride, the idea shifted to include a redneck (McBride) and a love interest (Brit beauty Anna Friel from Pushing Daisies). The comedy was turned up a raunchy notch to the far reaches of the PG-13 rating and here you have the movie hitting screens this Friday. Ferrell is has-been paleontologist Dr. Rick Marshall, Friel is research assistant Holly Cantrell, McBride is redneck idiot Will and Jorma Taccone (of SNL digital shorts Lonely Island fame) is the brow-challenged primitive Chaca.

Ferrell and McBride spoke with press this weekend to talk about how they translated the ‘70s cult TV series to the big screen, just what age this movie is appropriate for and their future project plans involving "Sherlock Holmes," "Anchorman 2," "Your Highness" and "Eastbound and Down" Season Two.

To start, we asked Ferrell why they made the decision to ditch the kids in favor of a redneck and a hottie Brit. “We just thought that would give up a better platform for the comedy,” says Ferrell matter-of-factly. “Instead of having my character kind of saddled with these two kids, it just seemed like there would be more opportunity with the character Danny brought to life and to have the potential of a love interest and that sort of thing.”

Once Ferrell and crew decided on the new direction and approached McBride, he didn’t hesitate to accept. “I just wanted to see what I’d look like standing next to a T-Rex, to tell you the truth,” admits McBride. “People don’t get that chance. They’re not alive any more. A lot of people don’t know that.”

“[Will] was responsible for getting our little film, "Foot Fist Way", out there. This was the first time I really got to work with him. He was awesome. Its a 90-day shoot, it’s a long movie, and to be stuck with Will and Jorma and Anna, they were just all great. [Will] can make you laugh without even saying stuff.”

The choice of Brad Silberling, whose previous works include "Moonlight Mile," "City of Angels" and "Lemony Snicket", was also a bit of a surprise, considering his lack of experience in broad comedy. Ferrell on Silberling: “I’m a fan of his work. When we were meeting with potential directors, he immediately set himself apart. He had so much knowledge about how to shoot this film. We were so impressed by how he had the whole thing laid out. We were looking at more comedy guys at first who didn’t necessarily have a handle on a movie of this scope. He’s got a better sense of humor than he gets credit for.”

Remaking a popular TV show, particularly one with the cult status of Land of the Lost, is always a challenge. Pleasing both fans of the series and newcomers is no easy task. “The purists, who I always read about, are like, ‘I can’t believe you’re raping my childhood,’” says McBride. “But it’s like, if Land of the Lost is your childhood and we’re raping it, I apologize.”

“We knew the Sleestacks would be slow,” adds Ferrell. “We would maintain that. For the most part, the decision was made early on for the effects to be updated and be a cool thing as opposed to a kitschy thing. The only other references we had were the original Will and Holly meeting us at the end of the movie. There’s a whole part where we return back to the La Brea tarpits, but that ended up getting cut for time. That was going to be a little homage to them.”

"Land of the Lost" walks a very fine line between PG-13 and R, particularly in terms of sexual innuendo. Thankfully, the team behind LOTL was able to keep things just within the realms of good taste to appease the MPAA’s radically inconsistent standards for what constitutes a PG-13 rating. “We obviously didn’t want it to be a Disney film,” says Ferrell. “We wanted the humor to be cool and pushing that PG-13 thing. You know, kids are pretty sophisticated.”

When asked what age LOTL was appropriate for, Ferrell hesitated and offered his trademark innocent deadpan before responding with, “I’d say this movie is appropriate for six years-old and above. (Laughs) No, probably a sophisticated 11 year-old, 10 year-old, that sort of thing. I’m proud of this movie in a sense that it is a more family movie than I’ve done in a while, but then its also got some more sophisticated jokes than you’d find in a movie in a similar vein.”

“There’s definitely a subversive nature to it,” adds McBride. “Yeah, on face value, you’d think it would be just for kids, but yeah, it’s pretty racy. That’s what I liked about this film. It’s unexpected. It takes some turns where you don’t think it’s gonna go. There was a great rape joke didn’t make it. There were a lot of those [moments] where I was like, “I want to say f**k you so bad.”

The previously innocent Chaca has some of the film’s raunchiest bits, which include grabbing Anna Friel’s breasts repeatedly, clutching Will Ferrell by the family jewels and possibly engaging in a hinted sexual tryst with Ferrell and McBride after a heavy dose of hallucenogenics.

Ferrell explains, “[Chaca] kind of quickly figured out, ‘Oh, is this the way you communicate with women, by grabbing their breast?’ Yeah, he’s kind of sly and a bit touchy-feely. We just thought that was a funny place for Chaca to go. Jorma did such a great job. When I first meet him and he steals my wallet, [Jorma] came up with a lot of that, just touching me everywhere he could. It was really funny to play off of that, like, ‘Oh, he’s just saying hello.’”

Along with serving as one of the producer’s of McBride’s breakout hit HBO series "Eastbound and Down", Ferrell made a memorable appearance as the proud proprietor of a BMW dealership, Ashley Schaeffer. We asked Ferrell whether Schaeffer would be back for a return performance in Season Two. “I would love to, but it’s up to the guys,” says Ferrell. “I think the direction they’re talking about going with the second season, which I don’t want to spoil, is something that wouldn’t lend itself to my character re-appearing.”

The basis for Schaeffer may come as a bit of a surprise. “They wanted him to look like Rick Flair, the Wrestler,” says Ferrell. “You know, the Mouth of the South,’ So I kind of used that guy as the basis.”

McBride says he is looking forward to the second season of Eastbound, but he doesn’t foresee it shooting until early 2010. Like the first season, which totaled only six episodes, next season will be a relatively short run. “I don’t know what it’s going to be, but it might be like eight episodes,” says McBride. “It was our choice to keep it small so we could be in control of the whole thing. We didn’t have to hire a writing staff. We oversee everything, so six seemed like it was manageable with everything we had going on.”

Before 'Eastbound', McBride will be starring in a unique comedy entitled Your Highness directed by David Gordon-Green and co-starring James Franco and Natalie Portman. “I just came from Belfast where we’re over there getting that going,” says McBride. “That’s shaping up really nice. It looks like it’s going to be a pretty crazy movie. I get to learn how to swing a sword and ride a horse this week, so we’ll see how that goes.”

“My character, he’s a lazy second-born Prince that knows he’s not going to be King so he just fks off all the time. He smokes a little bit of the wizard’s grass, but it’s not centered around smoking. It’s two brothers, [James] Franco’s my brother and he’s like an action star. Everyone loves him. His fiance gets kidnapped by this evil wizard and we have to go on the road and save her. It’s like a classic kind of quest tale with our kind of f*ed up view on it.”

“There’s everything from stop motion characters to crazy CG creatures to puppets like in "Dark Crystal". It’s a wide variety of things that we’re pulling from it. We don’t want it to be a spoof, so it’s kind of inspired by those things with its own kind of tone. Its been interesting when we’re in the meetings with Universal and they’re like, ‘So what is this thing?’ and we say, ‘It’s Barry Lyndon meets Krull.’”

Ferrell hasn’t locked down his next project just yet, but he’s got a couple of promising possibilities. “We’re trying to develop [Sherlock Holmes],” Ferrell tells press. “We’ve got a script written by Etan Cohen. I just met with Sacha [Baron Cohen] a few weeks ago. It’s just a question of, you know, the Robert Downey Jr. one they just shot will come out at Christmas and that will probably be a hit franchise. So whether that is something you want to go up against or do we just inform the audience to do a comedy version or would it feel like we’re just trying to copy them, even though we wrote our script before they did, I think. But yeah, we’re thinking about it.”

A return to the news desk is also a possibility, as interest and meetings have started to generate around the possibility of Anchorman 2. “The legacy of that movie kept building and we got excited. And then, last year, we did this Funny or Die comedy tour where, every college we went to, I would interview the head football coach or the president of the school Ron Burgundy. And Adam [McKay] and I got such a kick out of it, we thought, ‘God, it would be so much fun, maybe we should revisit this.’ Then Carrell said [he was] up for it.”

Considering the often rocky history of comedy sequels, we asked Ferrell why he thinks Anchorman 2 might be able to break that tradition. “Oh, we don’t,” says Ferrell, again mastering the deadpan. “We just think it would be really fun to do. It could be terrible, but I mean, if they’re going to pay us to do it, why not?”

After pausing for a moment, Ferrell added, “I agree, sequels to comedies that have really found a foothold in the consciousness are hard to [recapture], but I think we would use that as a challenge to make it the craziest comedy sequel you’ve ever seen.”

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