Magazine article The New Yorker

Versatile

Magazine article The New Yorker

Versatile

Article excerpt

Will Ferrell had racked the balls and chalked his cue for a game of eight ball. The only thing lacking was atmosphere. "A little Robert Goulet, if you don't mind," he suggested. The actor dropped the tonearm on his Stack-O-Matic turntable, and "(Where Do I Begin) Love Story" wafted through his rec room, high in the Hollywood Hills.

Remember when Goulet had that revival? "Yeah--and then he died," Ferrell said. He cracked up. "I mean, I feel bad--except my mom saw him in 'Camelot,' and she said he pretty much sat in a chair while everyone danced around him, and then he'd take two steps and say 'Camelot!' " He gave the word a lazy boom. "Then he'd do some gesturing and go back to the chair."

Bending over the felt in a gray sweater and jeans, Ferrell split the rack. His rec room was where he worked with the writers on the script for "The Other Guys" and filmed "The Landlord," a two-minute sketch about a two-year-old harridan that's been viewed seventy-six million times online. "And I got really drunk here"--he indicated a nearby stool--"before we made 'Everything Must Go.' " In the drama, which opened last week, Ferrell plays Nick Halsey, an alcoholic salesman whose wife kicks him out--leading him to eat and sleep on his front lawn, where he's also holding a giant yard sale. "I wanted to see if weird, dark stuff would come out of my brain, so I had a friend film me while I drank fifteen Budweisers." And? "I discovered what I sort of already knew: I'm a happy drunk."

As Ferrell lined up his next shot, he said that he doesn't play dramatic characters any differently from comedic ones: "I personally think the comedy mostly comes from context. When you're watching 'Wedding Crashers,' you know it's a comedy, so that when you meet this guy"--Ferrell's character, Chazz--"you're prepared to laugh. But, if you're in the mind-set of a drama, then you'd see him as a pathetic, desperate guy who's now crashing funerals."

He chalked again. "And in a comedy I'd probably be thinking more about where the scene could go next." So when Halsey is awakened from a stupor by a blast from the sprinkler system? "Yeah," Ferrell said. "We'd have him wake up confused, just like he does now, then take two steps--then vomit. …

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