'Elf' at 15: 5 things you didn't know about Will Ferrell's holiday classic

The contemporary Christmas classic Elf has been a holiday tradition for 15 years. You can chalk up the film’s longevity to the perfect marriage of David Berenbaum’s script to Jon Favreau‘s direction and Will Ferrell’s star turn as overgrown man-elf, Buddy. Change any one of that trio and you would have wound up with a very different movie. How different? Allow Elf producer Todd Komarnicki to give you just one example. When Yahoo Entertainment spoke with Komarnicki — who shepherded the movie through production with his former producing partner, Jon Berg — he revealed a wild pitch that one directorial candidate made in the room. “He was like, ‘The movie’s not edgy enough — nobody’s gonna come to this movie,'” Komarnicki remembers, laughing. (Watch our video interview above.)

His idea for upping the edginess factor? Giving Buddy’s love interest, Jovie (played by Zooey Deschanel), an abusive boyfriend. He also came up with a grimy New York location to match that unpleasant development: “‘I imagine a lot of the movie taking place in her apartment on the Lower East Side,'” Komarnicki says, mimicking this unnamed filmmaker. “‘I see one of those dented doors with the big metal thing, but it’s not safe for her because Jovie’s boyfriend beats her.'” Needless to say, the job search continued after that interview. “I think that director is currently in prison,” the producer jokes.

Once Favreau took over the director’s chair, the rest was holiday movie history. But in our extended conversation with Komarnicki, he shared some other Elf-related tidbits we hadn’t heard before. For example, the Santa Claus doppelgänger that Buddy encounters while crossing a busy Manhattan street was just an ordinary old man in red sweats going about his business. “That was not stunt casting,” the producer emphasizes. Also, Ferrell really did scarf down syrup-covered spaghetti, often multiple times. “He’s very committed,” Komarnicki marvels. “He ate the gum off the subway platform! … I feel like we had HAZMAT guys in there to clean it.”

Komarnicki also put to rest a longstanding internet rumor about Elf, which posits that Jim Carrey was his and Berg’s original choice for Buddy. “For us, it’s always been Will,” he says emphatically, noting that Ferrell’s name occurred to them the minute they finished the script. Don’t feel too sorry for Carrey for missing out on Elf, though. After all, he’ll always have How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Elf is available to rent or purchase on Amazon Prime, iTunes and YouTube and will air on AMC on Christmas Day.

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