Will Ferrell does strange things in movies to make people laugh. But off-screen he will sometimes do strange things just to make himself laugh. This includes getting into a shouting match with a two-year-old for the short "The Landlord" which launched his Funny or Die website. And lately he's been making commercials for Old Milwaukee beer across the Midwest for apparently no money.
But now, instead of turning a wacky idea into a short viral video, Ferrell has made one into a full-length feature film. The idea was simple enough: make a movie inspired by the telenovela style of soap operas performed entirely in Spanish. The only issue was the fact Ferrell didn't speak the language. But that didn't stop him from playing the lead role in the upcoming "Casa de Mi Padre."
Ferrell said that he can't point to the moment when the idea of making a comedy in Spanish occurred to him, especially since he couldn't speak it. But he liked the unique notion of taking an American movie star and putting that actor in a foreign-language film. He thought the telenovela format -- with its forbidden romances and familial intrigue -- would be a good jumping-off point.
Ferrell recruited friends from his "Saturday Night Live" days -- Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont -- to write and direct the film, respectively. Like Ferrell, Steele didn't speak any Spanish when he sat down to write the script. He drafted the entire screenplay, and then worked with a translator to adapt it. But Steele recounted they ran into trouble when the translator would try to improve some of his intentionally stilted dialogue. He said, "I love bad writing. It's hard for a translator to read it and not want to fix things that I deliberately wrote poorly."
The filmmakers did decide to surround Ferrell with many talented native Spanish speakers. Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, who both broke out in the Oscar-nominated "Y Tu Mamá También," reunited for the film. Luna plays Ferrell's charming brother, and Bernal is a villainous drug lord. Actress Genesis Rodriguez, a veteran of 150 episodes of the telenovela "Prisonera," was also cast as Ferrell's love interest.
Ferrell says he worked with a translator for a month before filming to nail down the correct delivery of his Spanish dialogue. Once shooting began, he would drive with the translator to the set every morning to go over that day's work. This meant that Ferrell, who's well known for improvising and coming up with new lines and jokes on the spot, had to stick with what was in the script. Director Matt Piedmont compared Ferrell acting in another language to a boxer fighting with one hand tied behind his back. Piedmont said, "The thought of him speaking Spanish is insane but if you know Will, you know somehow it will become completely legitimate and logical and a blast."
Ferrell joked that he's not done expanding his cinematic world. He said, "I have 17 projects in development, mostly in Spanish, some in Korean and one in German. It's an exciting time."
"Casa de Mi Padre" opens on March 16. Watch the exclusive trailer below.