In director Dan Rush’s Everything Must Go, Will Ferrell plays a relapsed alcoholic who begins living on his lawn after he loses his job and wife. Soon after, he decides to sell off everything he owns. As you can tell by the premise, it’s a nice departure for Ferrell, as he’s not screaming or playing things for laughs. Instead, Everything Must Go features a genuine, low-key performance and it shows that Ferrell can do a lot more than comedy. The film also stars Rebecca Hall, Michael Pena, Christopher C.J. Wallace, Glenn Howerton, Stephen Root, and Laura Dern. For the trailer, click here.
I was recently able to sit down with Ferrell for an exclusive interview. We talked about how he got involved in the project, how things changed once he signed on, why Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, was it challenging being in every scene, and how the film is different than what he’s been doing recently. In addition, we also talked about why he did The Office, what’s up with Southern Rivals with Zach Galifianakis, he reveals that he’s been talking with John C. Reilly about possibly doing Step Brothers 2, and he tells me about his awesome looking Spanish language movie, Casa de mi Padre. He says:
“it’s 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.”
Hit the jump to read or listen to the interview.
As usual, I’m offering two ways to get this interview: you can either click here to listen to the audio, or the full transcript is below. Everything Must Go opens this weekend.
Will Ferrell: That is so funny because HFPA does a thing now where they film me for two questions to put it on their site. The second question was “What is your favorite karaoke song and why?”
She stole that from me. That is unbelievable.
WF: So what I said to her was “We Built This City” because no matter in what city you sing it in it works. But I don’t know. I’m a panicked karaoke participant because I am always searching for a song in the moment. I don’t have my go to song. I will be driving along and I will be like, “That should be my karaoke song!” and then I forget what song it is.
I’ve seen you do a lot of singing and I can imagine you can pull off a lot of stuff.
WF: It’s hard. There are some songs that I’ve heard where I am like, “Oh, that should be it. I should write it down.” So I don’t really have that go to one.
What originally got you into this project? There is something about where it’s not the typical Hollywood movie. It’s a nice realistic piece of material and you are obviously known for doing a lot other stuff. Was that what got you into it?
WF: Yeah. To me, in watching it, it never feels false in a way, which is more of an aftermath. What got me going was that it was a really well written script. I liked that it was kind of just…it doesn’t sound appealing or exciting to describe it as grey but it was kind of just grey. There were funny moments, but then there were extremely sad stories. It’s just a story and it’s not trying to be any kind of movie. I loved that you couldn’t fit it in a box in a way. I also loved the premise. I thought it was so unique that you take this guy and you strip him of everything. He throws all of his possessions on the front lawn and then he makes a choice to just live there as opposed to fleeing that situation. He kind of just says, “Well, screw it. This is so confounding to me. Where did my wife go and what if my credit cards don’t work? What is going on? Really? Is what I did that bad?” and he just decides to sit there and say, “Screw it.”
WF: You know, I don’t think it changed much if at all. There were a few scenes. Let’s just put it this way, I knew it changed a little bit. There weren’t any wholesale changes that I can remember. It’s pretty much what I read was up on the screen, which is great. I often times feel that that is just so rare. That you don’t take something and….I think a lot times people are afraid to go, “It’s good. Leave it alone.” It’s the nature. I think Hollywood is so top heavy with people who need to justify their existence so notes are given. “Hmm…does he have to drive a Plymouth? I like Ford better.” It’s like, “What? Huh?” That becomes the knee jerk like, “Well, it needs some notes.” Heaven forbid where it needs nothing. “It’s great. Leave it alone.” I wish [director] Dan [Rush] was with us right now because I know that there were some things that we had to change just because of geography or something like that. Anyway, most of it is there.
Was the Pabst Blue Ribbon beer always there?
WF: I don’t know. I don’t think there was a scripted type of beer. That was just because the good folks at Pabst Blue Ribbon allowed us to use that.
WF: I think there was already some examination as to “Why is he drinking that?” Someone told me that someone had written a blog where a guy had seen the movie and was like, “It makes no sense. He should be drinking Heineken. He is more of a Heineken guy.” My response to that is “We would have loved to have drunk Heineken.”
I don’t think people understand the legality involved in showing things in movies.
WF: Yeah, but PBR was like, “Okay.” [laughs] Also, I think that he is a guy who has to keep it in his system. It doesn’t matter if it’s Pabst or Old Milwaukee or whatever. He will…but we liked the idea that that was his. Of the ones we could use, that just felt like “Oh, he always goes to that.”
I thought it was believable that that was his beer. You are almost in every frame of this film. Can you talk about the challenge of being front and center? Do you enjoy that? It’s a bit of a two hander, but you are always there.
WF: It was intense, but it made the work go by pretty quickly. But there were days where I was just like, “Wow. I am exhausted.” I don’t know. A lot of the times you read something and you don’t realize that you are going to have to do the things that you read. I remember reading Old School for the first time and I read the part about streaking and I was like, “Oh, that is a funny joke when that happens.” Later, it hit me that night that “Oh, I actually have to do it.” I’m in the movie constantly so therefore I never left the set. I would just sit out there partly because it helped to be there ready to go when we were filming. Everyday was such a struggle because most of it is day time exteriors and we are out there fighting the light. So I would just stay out on the lawn. I would look over my lines and just be in the environment of that yard. So knowing that I had to be there all the time kind of helped me stay in that zone with the character.
You’ve done so many different kinds of movies from comedy to drama. You are in very fortunate position where I think that you can do almost whatever you want. What is it that you are looking for now? Are there certain goals that you are putting in front of yourself now? I’ve noticed that you are producing some stuff coming up too. Can you talk about how you see the next few years?
WF: I think last year, maybe starting with the Bush show on Broadway, to rolling into this year was really kind of a fun…to call it a realization isn’t accurate. But it kind of kicked off this thing in wanting to make sure that I just keep kind of tweaking things along the way. Along with studio movies I want to keep doing…it was just so fun. Last year, my life consisted of working on two $5 million 23 day shoot films, and they were two of the most satisfying experiences that I have ever had. They were both radically different between something that is more of an acting exercise to Casa de mi Padre, which is just so out there. To do an entire movie in Spanish, which was another thing that was just like, “Wow. Be careful of what you wish for.” And then getting to do The Office. I think it’s kind of a triumvirate of an example of how I want to just keep showing up in places that you least expect me.
I definitely want to ask you about the Spanish movie, Casa de mi Padre. The trailer looks fantastic. 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 you about the results?
WF: 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.
Was that in the script?
WF: 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.
I sincerely mean that about the trailer. I laughed my ass off.
WF: Yeah. We got an amazing response off of that.
I looked on the “always accurate” IMDB and you are listed as a producer on Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and Bouncers along with some other stuff. How involved are you as the producer and is this a new thing for you where you will start producing movies that you are not in or is it always going to be stuff that you are in?
WF: No. That is kind of Adam [McKay} and I’s company [Gary Sanchez]. We are looking stuff for ourselves but are also excited to be making movies that we are not in. That is he is not directing and that I am not acting in. Hansel and Gretel is a big movie that is shooting right now in Germany with Jeremy Renner. It’s a great twist on the whole fable of Hansel and Gretel.
You landed a good star with Jeremy Renner. I think he might be somebody.
WF: Yeah. We will see. Hopefully. But hopefully that is the future – to help and produce a little bit more. It’s kind of fun to help other projects along too.
I didn’t watch the last episode of The Office, but I have been watching you on the show and loving the episodes. How was it like to be on the show? How did you get involved and how did you work together with your character?
WF: It was as much fun as I hoped it would be. It was great to work with Steve [Carell] again. That is such a talented cast and in a way I think they are slightly underrated as to how good they are individually. You get on set and every single person of that cast is super funny. It may not be seen in all of the episodes all of the time, but they are such a gifted ensemble. I just had the idea. I said to a couple of my agents that “This is Steve’s last season and I would love to go do a thing on it.” That turned into them coming back and saying, “What about four shows?” and I was like, “Great. Yeah.” It kind of fits along the line of what I was talking about and wanting to do these different little things along the way and keep it spicy.
I have to imagine that creatively speaking these kinds of things have to recharge your battery
WF: Yeah. Totally.
What stuff do you have coming up that we might not know about?
WF: 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.
You and John together are great together.
WF: Yeah. It’s so much fun. So we’re maybe playing around with the idea of that.
Would a certain friend of yours [Adam McKay] be directing?
WF: Oh, yeah. We would have to all three do it. Totally.