One’s a comic superstar, the other is a superstar in training. Together, Will Ferrell and Jon Heder are a formidable comic duo, on and off the screen, or the ice, as they play unwilling ice skating partners in the hysterical Blades of Glory.
Pair them up for an interview and you get unpredictability amidst the serious sides to these two inimitable actors, as Paul Fischer discovered when he confronted the pair recently in a Los Angeles hotel room. What follows is an uncensored transcript of that interview, so forgive the somewhat disjointed nature of the piece at times:
Ferrell: What’s up Holmes? This is the first time we’ve seen each other all day. After spending the entire day yesterday …
Heder: It was the day before.
Question: Do you miss each other then?
Heder: I was fine. I was watching 300 so …
Ferrell: Did you go see 300?
Heder: I did.
Question: Is it great?
Heder: There was about 300 people in the theatre.
Ferrell: Bud did you see 300?
Heder: All the soldiers were there to watch themselves.
Question: So I take it that Blades of Glory is just an irresistible opportunity for you to make fools of yourself on ice. Is that the real attraction to doing this?
Heder: No. To make ourselves like quite cool. Not fools.
Question: Oh I see. Didn’t work, sorry.
Ferrell: Yeah. This is not a foolish endeavour. This was, finally we were able to fulfil our dreams and aspirations of becoming figure skaters which I know we all have.
Heder: Inside of each and every one of us when we watch the Olympics and we want to get out there in the Lycra, and express yourself. It’s all about expression.
Question: Could you talk about the physical preparation for doing this and how tough it must have been on the pair of you. I mean it was pretty tough on you right, because you injured yourself?
Heder: Well once you injure yourself you don’t have to do it for a while so that wasn’t too bad. Where he had to live in fear. He had to skate in fear.
Ferrell: And live with the fear of knowing that just like that you could break your ankle.
Heder: Yeah. I mean we’re not invincible. That’s what I learned. So it was tough. It was tough. And it was more disheartening when we thought the movie might actually kind of go away scheduling wise. That wasn’t fun.
Question: So did everything come together OK then?
Heder: Um, what’d you think?
Question: What about the physical look of the pair of you in this and how much input did you have into your hair, your costumes, the whole look – and your hair was particularly inspiring I might say.
Heder: Oh thank you. It was cool. We kind of had some input. We figured since we’re going to be playing complete opposites …
Ferrell: The directors obviously had their ideas of how they wanted us to look and Julie Weiss, the costume designer, she came to the table with, she had some pretty inspired choices for that sort of thing. But yeah there was a lot of consultations over hair I seem to remember.
Heder: I believe so. I was like a mix of Meg Ryan and Aaron Carter. Kind of their love child.
Ferrell: And I was the love child of Farrah Fawcett and Stephen Segall.
Question: Jon, have you ever had a stalker as in this film?
Heder: Oh yes. Nick who plays him. He’s my stalker. In real life. So that’s why when they were casting, I said ‘Look here’s his resume. You should use him’.
Ferrell: Yeah. He’s very good at it.
Heder: He’s good at it. But no, I’m pretty safe.
Question: What is the attraction to doing a movie like this? I mean is it the physical comedy, is it trying to find something that meets your particular sensibilities as actors? I mean, what do you look for? Because I assume that the script came to evolve as you guys became involved in it.
Ferrell: You know, I mean I think for both of us it really was just the pitch. I mean the simple pitch of two guys becoming the first men’s figure skating team. It was as simple as that. It was obviously a funny premise, that as soon as you told someone about it they instantly started laughing and the fact that, at least it had dawned on me, is why hasn’t anyone made this movie before? And that was kind of it.
Heder: It wasn’t just an ice skating comedy, which was enough to sell me. But it was kind of the concept of two guys. Yeah. Like skating together, having to deal with the difficulties and all the innuendo that follows.
Question: How much improv was there?
Ferrell: For me, physically on the ice, a lot. for him, right off the page.
Question: How is that? When you have to work like that together?
Ferrell: Difficult. I don’t know, I don’t really remember anything being an issue either way.
Heder: Yeah. It was a lot of fun. They would bring us in actually when preparing the routines, the planned routines. They would actually bring us in. They had a choreographer but then we would just try to like skate around and do our own things and they incorporated that in. So a lot of that flavours the mixture.
Question: Did you get any grief from figure skaters like ‘Hey you’re mocking our sport’ or things like that?
Ferrell: To a man it was just the opposite. Every single skater. Even all the cameos of all the pros who were in the movie and Scott Hamilton and all the coaches, everyone was embracing the movie. It was almost weird. I was expecting us to get, you know, like ‘It’s funny but, come on’. ‘I know what you’re doing but it is ….’
Heder: ..’And it’s not cool’.
Ferrell: ‘I don’t appreciate it. OK?’ But I don’t think I heard that once. They’re, within the sport, aside from probably someone like Dick Buttons. I’m sure he will hate us forever. But literally everyone in the sport has a great sense of humour at the fact that it’s obviously recognised as a sport and super hard but at the same time, while you’re watching the figure skating you’re like, ‘Oh look at that fake tuxedo they’re wearing’ or whatever. You watch and admire but also make fun of it all at the same time. And they know that.
Heder: Because it’s not just a hard core sweaty sport, it incorporates ‘flashmanship’ I guess, if that’s a word. Like it has glitter. It’s like throwing glitter all over basketball or football. It’s just, I mean and music.
Ferrell: We’d laugh about Chazz and Jimmy’s relationship or certain jokes and, you know, some of the jokes were like no so far from the truth. So there was no backlash whatsoever.
Question: So Will, now having done racing cars and ice skating and basically being probably bad for both of those, is there a sport now that you’re dying to, or another leisure activity or ….
Ferrell: Unfortunately for interview purposes, because it looks like I’ve tried to do this all in a row, I’m doing a basketball comedy now.
Heder: That’s what the hair is for.
Ferrell: Yeah. So there’s no reason. It just happened to stack up this way. But yeah so now I’m doing this movie about the ABA which was this league in the 70s that – where a lot of the kind of conventions of the game now came from the ABA. And a lot of the personalities. And some of the league’s best players originally started in the ABA so it was a pretty outlandish league.
Question: Is the comedic tone of that similar to these two films?
Ferrell: Yeah for sure. It’s similar and even more. Semi-Pro is going to be R rated so we can go even further with stuff and yet it’s pretty realistic in that we’re taking a lot from kind of real promotions they actually did and things like that. So it’s actually ….
Question: Did you get the red, white and blue ball?
Ferrell: We got the red, white and blue ball and a lot of afros and things like that.
Question: So you’re going to keep doing comedies like this or do you plan to do more stuff like Stranger than Fiction that are more dramatic?
Ferrell: You know it just depends. I would love to do more films like that. I mean I’m not really getting deluged by scripts that are in the Stranger than Fiction category.
Question: Why? You were so wonderful in that movie.
Ferrell: I don’t know. I haven’t really – it’s not like it’s changed the landscape of anything so much.
Question: But just the fact that the film didn’t do as well as you would have expected, sort of forced you back into the comedy direction anyway?
Ferrell: No. No, we just kind of – I’d be doing these next couple of movies regardless of how Stranger than Fiction had done commercially or critically. But yeah, I look forward to doing more of that if it happens.
Question: And Jon, what about your latest production? What’s going on with you?
Heder: This movie’s coming out. Mama’s Boy is the only other movie I’m in. That’s probably coming out some time this year but there’s no announced date yet.
Question: Who’s Mama in that again?
Heder: It’s Diane Keaton. And that’s kind of all that’s on the plate.
Question: And Surf’s Up.
Heder: Yes, the animation. Surf’s Up. June 8th.
Question: Sony would be really pissed if you didn’t ….
Heder: Well Sony’s not here right now
Question: They read what we write you know. They are in the building.
Heder: Yes. So Surf’s Up, Mama’s Boy and yeah.
Question: Did you expect your career to be as hot as it is now? When I met you at Sundance you were kind of ‘Oh I want to go back into my cartooning and see what happens’.
Heder: Is that what I said? And I still plan on getting back into cartooning one of these days. I mean I meant it then and I mean it now and I really like being behind the camera and getting into the production of things. I have a production company with my brothers. And at some point we would like to make animations, live action films and really kind of get into more of the creative process. But continue to do that.
Question: Are you writing anything Will?
Ferrell: Adam McKay and I just finished our third script. So we’ll shoot that ….
Question: Cool. It’s gold when you two seem to write together.
Ferrell: Oh thank you, yeah. We have a good time and we had so much fun working with John C Riley that the three of us came up with a whole new premise that will ..
Question: Can you talk a little bit about what the premise is?
Ferrell: Yeah we’re essentially two grown men who still live with a parent. And those parents get married and we still live at home. So we’re these two stepbrothers. It’s kind of like Brady Bunch meets, what was the movie with Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland?
Question: Oh, Ordinary People?
Ferrell: It’s like Ordinary People meets Brady Bunch. Yeah. So we’re two forty year old guys who live at home. We’re still indignant about trying to get jobs and band together and become best friends even though their parents don’t know what’s happening.
Question: Were you late leaving home yourself?
Ferrell: I guess I was in a convention way. Yeah. I moved back home after college, I lived at home another three years. It’s pretty late.
Question: I’ve got to ask about the costumes, especially the crotch area. Were there certain enhancement there or?
Ferrell: Oh no. It’s all natural. It’s all 100%.
Question: And the stunts were actually ….
Ferrell: Hand on the crotch?
Question: Yeah, was that a real knock …
Heder: Was that a thrill? That was a stunt crotch. It was my hand. One of the more painful moves we had to do was when John is straddling my waist. What’s that called?
Heder: The frog lift.
Ferrell: The frog lift. And I had to sit back and do this and ….
Heder: And he was sitting back with both his feet going completely out.
Ferrell: Jon is having to hold himself up eve though I’m kind of …
Heder: And I have a cable and it’s – it wasn’t emotionally uncomfortable but it was physically …
Heder: In pain. We were in pain, yeah.
Ferrell: Thank you.
Question: Will, how did your Oscars routine come about? Did they contact you and say ….
Ferrell: Yeah Judd Apatow had gotten in touch with Laura Ziskin, who produced the Oscars this year, and I don’t know if it was Judd’s idea or her idea but they said ‘Hey, we’re thinking of doing a Les Mis number about how comedians don’t get any attention at the Oscars’ and so Judd and Adam wrote that whole song. But it was funny that at the same time, even though it was the Oscars asking us to do it, I don’t think the Academy – they kept saying during rehearsal like ‘Oh that’s so funny. The song is wonderful. Very funny’. But I think it went over their head. Yeah but you know what we’re saying. ‘So funny’. Or they were like ‘It’s funny’ and ‘Yes you’re right. We won’t vote for comedians’.
Question: Would you like to see a Golden Globe thing or the Oscars split up into drama and comedy? They do animation in a separate category now.
Ferrell: Yeah. I bet you eventually they’ll do something like that. I think that’s a bit of a copout though. I think they really should just open it and just consider comedic performance as …. I don’t know why there has to be two separate categories. Because I think you can look at comedic performances and think about a dramatic actor doing that same thing and they wouldn’t be able to do it and I think they just need to kind of, I think, open up.
Question: Did you talk to Helen Mirren at all?
Ferrell: We didn’t get to.
Heder: She didn’t go home with you.
Ferrell: That part of the song didn’t actually materialise. At least for me. I haven’t talked to Jack and John.
Question: Will, do you have any fatherhood advice for Jon, whose wife is expecting?
Ferrell: Oh haven’t we talked about this?
Heder: We’ve talked about it but you haven’t given me any tips.
Question: How come you’re going to see movies at this critical time?
Heder: How am I doing movies?
Question: No. No. You said you went to see 300. I mean isn’t it due any second?
Heder: Yeah but she was asleep. She’s got to sleep. I mean as soon as she goes to sleep…sssh, sneak out.
Question: Oh you saw it in the theatre though right?
Heder: Yeah that was the first movie I’ve seen in a long time
Question: Do you get bothered when you go to the movies?
Heder: Yep. So I don’t do it. And especially when you go to movies like that where it’s filled with nerds.
Question: (To Will) You can’t go to the movies either right?
Ferrell: I can still go. I wear a hat and ….
Heder: Sometimes I’ll wear my biker helmet on.
Question: What fans do you have now? Is it still the old ….
Heder: I don’t think I have any.
Question: Do you really think they’ve all gone away now?
Heder: Um, I don’t know. No I think it ranges. I don’t know. But yeah, you know, nerds. Or people who used to be nerds but aren’t any more.
Question: Or who want to be nerds maybe.
Heder: What’s nerd? I mean we could really get into that.
Ferrell: But aren’t we all nerds at heart?
Heder: Yeah, there’s a little nerd inside of each of us.
Question: So have you got some fatherly advice then?
Ferrell: Oh, let me see. You know, try to look your child in the eye right.
Heder: Don’t cross him – or her.
Ferrell: Yeah. And get to know their name. And remember you have to see them. That’s about it.
Question: When is the due date for this momentous event?
Heder: Coming up, basically when the movie comes out.
Question: So what, you’re going to divide your time between going to the premiere and going to the birth of your ….
Ferrell: He may not be able to go.
Heder: No I’m going to come regardless. I’m just setting up a lifestyle for my child. I’m there to enjoy the finer things in life. So …
Question: Are you guys going to wear outfits to the premiere? Some of your skating outfits?
Ferrell: I’m going to wear something from Bob Mackie. That’s all I can say.
Question: When is Semi-Pro coming out?
Ferrell: I’m not sure. We’re only three weeks into this film.
Question: And the script you’re doing with Adam, is it going to be shot this year or?
Ferrell: Yeah, like probably September.
Question: Do you have any other casting?
Ferrell: No. Not as of yet.