Will Ferrell is the star of the movie Casa de mi Padre a feature-length telenovela spoof in which he stars opposite Mexican film stalwarts Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna It’s a genuinely interesting and risky idea, something we don’t often get to see in the world of mainstream, big budget comedies. The film is completely in Spanish with English subtitles and the actor confessed that the shooting was so hard that he needed a Martini at the end of every day.
Will Ferrell does strange things in movies to make people laugh. The telenovela-esque flick, tells the story of the Alvarez brothers (Ferrell and Diego Luna), who try to save their father's ranch and end up in a war with Mexico's most notorious drug lord, Onza (Gael García Bernal). Of course, this wouldn't be a traditional, passionate Spanish movie without a little love triangle added to the mix.
Off-screen Ferrell does strange things just to make himself laugh. This includes getting into a shouting match with a two-year-old for the short The Landlord which launched his Funny or Die website. And lately he's been making commercials for Old Milwaukee beer across the Midwest for apparently no money. Now, instead of turning a wacky idea into a short viral video, Ferrell has made one into a full-length feature film. The idea was simple enough: make a movie inspired by the telenovela style of soap operas performed entirely in Spanish. The only issue was the fact that Ferrell didn't speak the language. But that didn't stop him from playing the lead role in Casa de Mi Padre. We talked to the actor in Los Angeles where he confessed that the only real words he knows in Spanish are cacahuates y huevos.
Q: When you had the idea of making a movie in Spanish?
A: I can’t point to the moment when the idea of making a comedy in Spanish occurred especially since I can’t speak it. But I liked the unique notion of taking an American movie star and putting that actor in a foreign-language film. I thought the telenovela format -- with its forbidden romances and familial intrigue -- would be a good jumping-off point.
Q: How do you shoot a movie entirely in Spanish if you don’t speak Spanish?
A: I worked with a translator for a month prior filming to nail down the correct delivery of my Spanish dialogue. Once shooting began, I would drive with the translator to the set every morning to go over that day's work. The thought of speaking Spanish is insane but if you know me, you know I will make it happened with a twist
Q: Can you describe the movie Casa de Mi Padre?
A: Sí. Sí puedo (answer in Spanish). It is a different kind of animal. Unique and hilarious. I’m sure the audience will like it because it is a surprising kind of movie.
Q: Can you talk about what you guys were going for now that there is some footage out there? Have you seen the final film and how happy are you about the results?
A: We are still playing around with it a little bit. We are kind of thrilled. We set out to write a poorly made Spanish language film. The best example that I can say is that it is kind of like a telenovela, but it’s not really that. It’s more like a telenovela and at times it’s Quentin Tarantinoesque and it has a little bit of Robert Rodriguez. It’s all of that mixed in with a poorly made movie where you see mistakes. You can see the boom mic in the reflections of someone’s sunglasses.
Q: Did you write the mistakes in the script?
A: Yeah. You see someone coming into the frame and appear somewhere else. It has bad edits. It’s just a poorly made Mexican western. That is kind of the idea. At the same time our buddy Andrew Steele, who helps run Funny or Die, wrote a script that is so great. It’s surprisingly satirical. We kind of comment on the whole U.S./Mexico relationship, the American stigmas, the Mexican stigmas, and a little bit on the drug policy. All of that stuff. It’s kind of this crazy….yeah.
Q:What stuff do you have coming up that we might not know about?
A: We have the movie with Zach Galifianakis in the fall, Southern Rivals. It’s going to be directed by Jay Roach and we are dueling small-town politicians. So that will start in the fall. You know, we just had a great meeting with John C. Reilly about maybe another Step Brothers because Anchorman is a brick wall right now.
Q: ¿Do you have any items that you cannot let go of?
A: (Jokinly) My speedboat. I had a beer bottle collection, but I got rid of it.
Q: When you were at high school in Southern California did you know you wanted to be an actor and comedian
A: Right. No. I never imagined that when I was doing sketches over the intercom for the school would lead to starring in a Spanish movie. But maybe that's where I developed the skills needed to do the work. It's interesting to think about, since as kids we would just mess around with these weekly announcements and it became kind of a cult thing where even the teachers would ask, "Are you doing an announcement today?" And they'd actually beg for us to do what were essentially radio skits. So now I'm getting paid for it!
Q: You and other cast members in the movie have a background in Saturday Night Live. What have you brought to the movie from your days in skit-based comedy?
A: I think working on a show like Saturday Night Live for seven years provided a great background for almost anything I've done since. It was like a comedy and performance boot camp because every week you had different hosts and new material. You always had to think on your feet and be ready to adapt to any sort of change – and that built up this muscle where you knew you were flexible and that change didn't affect you. So during the shooting of Casa de Mi Padre the filmmaker was constantly trying to perfect it – we'd change different lines, the writers would think of new jokes and I'd think of new jokes. In looking back, the time I had on Saturday Night Live enforced all that.
(c) America Reads Spanish
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