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Ferrell goes Spanish in 'Casa de mi Padre'

By Chris Osterndorf
On April 1, 2012

We had the chance to speak with comedian Will Ferrell about his new film, "Casa de mi Padre."

The film surrounds a pair of brothers, who, scheming on a way to save their father's ranch, find themselves in a war with Mexico's most feared drug lord.

The DePaulia: You get to work with a lot of old friends again in this movie. Can you talk a little bit about the process of going back and getting to collaborate with people you like?

Will Ferrell: We're always with our production company (Gary Sanchez Productions) trying to look for opportunities to work with old friends and people who've gone on to or are working in other parts of the business.

So yeah, when I kind of came up with this idea it kind of fit perfectly to work with (writer) Andrew Steele, who used to be a head writer on SNL, and now is kind of like our creative director for Funny or Die and (director) Matt Piedmont is also a buddy of ours, who was a writer but who then went on to direct a bunch of shorts and commercials and that kind of thing. So to get to kind of work together and be friends and share the same shorthand is always the best situation.

DP: Was the decision to make the film in Spanish made at the very beginning, and how did that inform the process as you guys went along?

WF: Yes, this all came from just a random idea I had, and I couldn't tell you when, probably five or six years ago, and for some reason, it struck me that it could be pretty interesting to put myself in a Spanish language film and that you hadn't seen that, you hadn't seen an American comedian commit to a foreign language movie, and the premise being that I would be the only "gringo" in the cast and that it would be an entirely Hispanic cast. So it was always intended to be in Spanish.

DP: Is it harder to come across funny speaking in a completely different language than you're used to?

WF: We wrote the script in English first, and then it was translated, so I always knew what I was saying. And once you know what you're saying, you can put the right emphasis in the right places. Plus, the whole telenovela style and genre is so kind of over the top that it was fairly easy to kind of mimic and put yourself in that zone. But, you know, as different as it was to begin, I just knew that the more dramatic I could be, the more serious I could be, that would probably play funny. And the fact that I'm speaking in Spanish.

DP: Did you do any improvisation in this film, despite speaking in a foreign language?

WF: Not so much... The main challenge for me since I'm not fluent in Spanish, was that I didn't want the main joke to be that I spoke Spanish poorly, so I was really focused on having as good a 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 so I had to rely on little physical moments and reactions and things like that.

DP: You've had a pretty great track record in terms of your films. How do you generally go about choosing what projects you want to be involved in or develop?

WF: Two years ago I did two kind of smaller movies, this movie and "Everything Must Go," which were definitely more in the world of indies, and then this past year I just finished a big studio movie again with Zach Galifianakis, that will come out this summer... I think that question is asked very loosely of actors, like, "Why did you choose this role?" and most actors are like, "Well, because I had to pay my car payment," you know? But I think if you have some flexibility, I always try to kind of keep people guessing and mix things up a bit.

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