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The CU Independent recently spoke with Will Ferrel over the phone about his new movie, Casa De Mi Padre.
CUIndependent: You are the king of improv; did you get to improvise in this film even though it was in Spanish?
Will Ferrell: Not so much. Yeah, it was a little difficult, but the main challenge for me, since I’m not fluent in Spanish, was to make sure that the joke of the movie wasn’t that I spoke Spanish poorly. So I was very focused on having as good pronunciation as I possibly could. And then of course memorizing in a foreign language is a whole other aspect as well, so it drastically reduced moments for verbal improvisation. I had to rely on little physical moments and reactions and things like that.
CUI: Was the decision always to make the movie in Spanish, and how did that inform the process as you went along?
Ferrell: This all came from a random idea I had five or six years ago. For some reason it struck me that it could be pretty interesting to put myself in a Spanish-language film. I felt like you hadn’t seen that. You hadn’t seen an American comedian commit to a foreign language movie. The premise being that I would be the only kind of “gringo” in the cast and it would be an entire Hispanic cast. So it was always intended to be in Spanish.
CUI: In this movie, you chose to work with a lot of Spanish-language actors like Diego Luna and Genesis Rodriguez. How would you say that the experience compared to working with the actors you usually work with, like John C. Reilly?
Ferrell: I have to say, and I am happy to say, it was relatively easy. Diego Luna and Gael [Garcia Bernal] both have great senses of humor. That’s the reason why they chose to do the movie, because they saw it as an opportunity to be funny in a way that they’re never offered. They found the same kind of bond, in a way, that I’ve found with performing with John [C. Reilly] and Mark Wahlberg, and people like that. As long as you commit to the character and you think things are real, the context takes over and before you know it, you’re doing comedy.
CUI: Are you a fan or viewer of telenovelas?
Ferrell: I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan. I only watched them, you know, any weekday from 11 in the morning to four in the afternoon. So I’m not like a crazy person about it… No, I keep getting asked, “What are your favorite telenovelas?” and sheepishly, I have to say, “I really don’t know any of them.” I just basically got this idea from the thing, I am sure we all have done, where you’re just flipping through the channels and you stop for a second and are like, “What’s going on here? Is this – what is this show? Oh, it’s a Spanish soap opera. Okay, this is pretty intriguing.” That’s kind of how I got the idea, but no, I am not well-versed in them at all.
CUI: Beyond it being a parody of a telenovela, it’s an amazingly stylistic movie. Can you talk about some of the cinematography?
Ferrell: That’s kind of what Matt Piedmont brought to the table. He said, “I’ve been watching these kind of 1960s, ’70s Mexican Westerns and I’d love to mimic that.” He was able to use these really old lenses from Panavision, so all of that was a really conscious choice, to give it kind of this throwback feel visually.
CUI: What was it like to work with Nick Offerman from “Parks and Recreation,” and why did you bring him into the film?
Ferrell: When we were trying to cast, first we went to Chris Cooper and people like that were like, “What? No, that’s crazy.” And we thought, what about Nick? He can play that guy perfectly. He, of course, was fantastic, and I just love how he commits to everything. So he probably had a harder job than I did, to not only memorize it in Spanish, but in bad Spanish. He was great playing that shitty attitude and being the cocky DEA agent which is what we wanted the Americans to represent in a way.
CUI: Would you want to do a movie in another foreign language?
Ferrell: It would be hysterical to me if this movie became a little cult hit, and we made a sequel or a little series of them. That would be really fun. But there are a billion Chinese [people]; maybe I should do one in Chinese. That’s the next market to conquer.
CUI: How do you think humor is conveyed or interpreted differently in different cultures, and what you think are universal elements of comedy?
Ferrell: It’s tough because if you watch some of the “Mexican” comedy I’ve seen, like odd shows like Salvadore Gigante, it’s really over the top. Yet, from talking to Diego, they really appreciate subtle humor. Obviously there are going to be different cultural things that you can never compare from different countries, such as their style and humor. But obviously physical comedy translates and probably certain broad themes are shared in a way, but I’ve always found it difficult to analyze if something is funny [in one culture] and doesn’t get a laugh in another.
CUI: What was your favorite scene to shoot?
Ferrell: One of the scenes that makes me laugh so hard is when we go to the Pond of the Seven Tears and we’re on that ridiculous set that looks terrible and Genesis’ line is something like, “It’s the most beautiful place I have ever seen” and I just love that scene. That we’re having this romantic talk and it’s like a little pond. Probably that and any time you can talk to a gigantic, white panther, that’s always a plus.
CUI: So this movie is pretty different from most of your other movies, the language especially. How do you think the hardcore Will Ferrell fans are going to react to this film?
Ferrell: I think it’ll be a pleasant surprise because you literally don’t know where the movie’s going at any moment, and you really have to pay attention because it’s subtitled so you’re forced to lock into the story. But I’m kind of proud of it. It’s absurdist quality in the same kind of way that we kind of did “Anchorman,” and it kind of has a similar feel in a way that we threw all the rules out the window. So I think people that are coming expecting to see something different will be fully satisfied.
“Casa de mi Padre,” starring Will Ferrell, opens Friday, March 16.