Hollywood funnyman Will Ferrell talks to Michele Manelis about fatherhood, keeping up with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and his memories of basketball star Kobe Bryant
One of the interesting elements in the storyline was that your character makes a bad decision but wouldn't admit it. How good are you at owning up to your mistakes?
In my personal life, I'm pretty good at right away acknowledging it. I'll say, "Okay. That was a mistake, I'm sorry." At least I like to think I'm good at it.
I was surprised to learn that Downhill marked the first time you worked with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who was not only your co-star but your producer. What was that experience like?
Actually, it was the first time we had ever met or even crossed paths despite the fact we were both on Saturday Night Live. She's one of the more impressive people I've ever worked with, not only from a comedy standpoint but as a producer. She would go back to her hotel room after shooting for 12 hours and she would watch the final cuts of Veep because she was producing that, too. I don't know how she did it. I would just collapse. And on top of that, showing up every day and being as funny as she is, I don't know if she gets enough credit for that as well.
I've often seen you on TV at basketball games. Can you talk a little about your Kobe Bryant connection?
I had met Kobe a handful of times. He had actually done a cameo in the first Daddy's Home movie and he couldn't have been nicer. I think, if I remember correctly, he once, in a press conference, said he wanted me to play Kobe Bryant in the Kobe Bryant story. And he said, "How hilarious would that be?" I will be forever flattered by that.
You and your wife are raising three kids. In your profession you can probably spend more time with them than dads who have traditional jobs but is it difficult to balance your priorities?
I'm kind of typically un-male in that regard. Obviously, I love doing what I do professionally but I take just as much pride being involved in my family, being a father and a husband. And I am constantly asking my wife, because she's a bit more of a stay-at-home mum, "Is there something you want me to do, do you want me to be more around?" And she usually says, "No. Get out of here!"
Is there a different pressure these days on what it means to be a man today?
I don't know if I feel the pressures of what it means to be a man today, I think it's all constantly evolving for the better. I think men are encouraged to be much more involved with their kids than they ever were. I see it with a lot of our friends and family.
This film centres on a family ski vacation. Do you have a favourite holiday spot you go to with the family?
I like vacations, period. We're very fortunate to be able to take ski vacations because they're not necessarily cheap. That's an expensive trip and I don't lose sight of that. There's something very cosy about being with your kids and being able to do this shared thing, to be able to ski down a mountain together, no matter what age you are. Kids love it because there's a certain autonomy they get to have, they get to go off on their own, although we make sure they are with the ski instructor. Then at night you get to be all together and have dinner and talk about the day.
You just shot Downhill in Austria – did they know you there? Does your humour translate?
I had been told by Austrians that they thought I was really funny. So, I don't know if they meant it from watching my movies or that I just look funny. Humour is cultural, obviously, and there are always discrepancies and what could be funny to an Austrian, where Americans don't get the joke and vice versa. It translates in some countries but not all.
Your character has a terrible habit of texting in the bathroom. What about you?
I try not to!
I hear you're making a movie about the Eurovision Song contest.
Yes, it's me and Rachel McAdams. We are from Iceland and we are in the band Fire Saga. It's kind of a lovable loser story. We get into the competition on a technicality and we are in way above our heads. So, it's all set in the insane world of Eurovision, which I watched and thought it was the craziest thing I'd ever seen.
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I'm sure you'll have a great costume.
Yes. And I also have beautiful hair! You're going to love it.
Downhill is in cinemas from Thursday, March 5.