Established actors are known for staying in close range to the genres that have helped make them famous and respected in the film community. But Will Ferrell, who is known for his physical comedy in such hit films as ‘Old School’ and ‘Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,’ decided to try something completely unexpected: a Spanish language romance action adventure film. The movie, ‘Casa de mi Padre,’ which is set to hit select theaters on Friday, pushed the actor outside his comfort zone.
‘Casa de mi Padre’ follows Armando Alvarez (played by Ferrell), who has lived and worked on his father’s ranch in Mexico his entire life. His younger brother Raul (portrayed by Diego Luna), a successful businessman, returns to the ranch when it falls on hard financial times. With his new fiancee, Sonia (played by Genesis Rodriguez), Raul seems poised to settle all the debts his father has incurred. But the arrangement falls through when Armando, who has never been interested in women before, falls for Sonia. At the same time, he learns that his brother’s business dealings aren’t legal, and Mexico’s most feared drug lord, Onza (portrayed by Gael Garcia Bernal), turns up to ruin the wedding.
Ferrell sat down at the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City to discuss why he decided to make ‘Casa de mi Padre’ in Spanish. Among other things, he also spoke about how he prepared for the role of Armando, and what it was like trying to improvise in Spanish.
Written by: Karen Benardello
Question (Q): You speak Spanish the entire time throughout the movie. Gael said when he was approached with the idea, no one could give him a clear answer if it would be in English or Spanish or both. Why did you decide to make the film in Spanish?
Will Ferrell (WF): Well, I created the project, so it was my plan all along to speak Spanish. That was the idea, to put myself in a Spanish-speaking comedy, which I thought had never been done. But also commit to speaking as well as I possibly could, which would be something unique, as opposed to speaking Spanish poorly. That was the intent all along, and I had to work really hard with the translator every day.
I wasn’t that much fun on the set, because I was always with my lines, going over and over again. Diego was so excited to work with me, and he said, you’re so boring, sitting in a chair. (laughs) But if we didn’t get the lines right, we would do it again and again. We didn’t want anything to sound like I was dubbed over. So that was always the intent.
Q: How did your cast support you with the Spanish speaking?
WF: They were just very patient. I once asked Diego, how am I doing? He said, here’s the good news. I can understand what you’re saying, you’re very clear, but you don’t sound Mexican. (laughs) He said, but that’s okay. But that’s why we had the lines, like Pedro saying, you speak so weird. So it would be obvious that we knew that while I was in the ballpark, we knew that I wasn’t speaking perfectly.
Q: When they’re usually casting a movie about Latinos, and they cast Caucasians, you question why. They may be a good actor, but there’s so many Latino actors. But you turned that around.
WF: I wanted to appear as though you’re watching this bad Mexican Spaghetti Western. I’m just a member of an entire Hispanic ensemble. That was just the idea, and the rest of the cast are Latinos, and I just happen to fit in the middle.
Q: You’re notorious for improvisation. Were you able to work that out with the Spanish, or did you find yourself at times stopping, and saying I have to go based on the script?
WF: Like I said, every day’s task was to complete the lines as written, and do them well. There wasn’t any, oh, I don’t get to improvise. I knew if I did this all well, I was placing faith in the whole premise, and it would work. So when the cast would improvise around me, I had no idea what was going on. I would just sit and listen.
So I would kind of have to find my moments of improvisation through physical comedy and reactions. Like when I helped Genesis get up on the horse, and it was so awkward and weird, and I just leave her and walk out of the frame. We never rehearsed any of that. That was just one take. Or when I was on the horse, and I say to her, can you just walk? (laughs) I would ask, how do you say, do you want to walk?
Q: When the cop is talking to you, and you just speak in English.
WF: My accent is terrible.
Q: How funny would it have been if you just kept your American English?
WF: I think if we had done that, it would have sold out the whole premise, in a way, if I reverted back. It’s just as funny, but it’s a different type of joke, though.
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