One on one with the star of ‘Semi-Pro’
Will Ferrell is appropriately named. Known for his outrageous characters and publicity stunts, Ferrell's image is ... well, feral. This also seems to be a good description of the characters he plays — including the ’fro-wearing, Old Spice-shilling ABA player Jackie Moon in his latest release, “Semi-Pro.” In the film, Ferrell plays a one-hit-wonder turned player-coach-owner of the fictional Flint (Michigan) Tropics.
Yet when I sat down to talk to him during a rare publicity tour, he seemed subdued, calm and affable. His hair was cropped short, a drastic variation from the self-proclaimed “home-grown” ’fro he sported as Jackie Moon — who was smirking from the cardboard cutout behind him.
This was not the wild man I'd seen running around half-naked and screaming on my television and on the big screen. But as we talked, the real Will Ferrell began to emerge — existing somewhere in the tension between shocking and shy. A combination of rowdy and modest ... call it semi-feral.
NUVO: There are a lot of people out there who will go see a movie, just because they know you are in it …
NUVO: What’s it like to have that kind of trust from your viewing audience?
Ferrell: Well, uh, thank you for saying that. It’s great. You know, it’s always something that you don’t … count on. (laughs) Because you want each film to hopefully be as funny as it can be, and you’re always worried about those things. But yeah … I guess I have fans! It’s kind of a luxury to know that people are looking forward to your next film. And it feels … yeah, it feels great.
NUVO: In your next movie, “Semi-Pro,” your character wrestles a bear [as a promotional stunt]. I noticed you often work with animals …
Ferrell: I like wrestling animals. There’s something very funny about wrestling wild, dangerous animals. Whether it be big cats, bears … I’ve never been attacked by a bird of prey, maybe that would be good.
NUVO: Well, that’s something to work towards.
Ferrell: I think I’ll do that for my next film.
NUVO: Now, you have a degree in sports information. Is that why you are so drawn to [sports parodies]?
Ferrell: Yes! I obviously love sports, in fact I thought I was going to be a sportscaster one day, and I played a lot of sports in high school. And I was drawn to this because basketball is probably my favorite sport and I always wanted to do kind of a basketball comedy. And, the fact that I’ve known the writer, Scot Armstrong for a long time. And I love this world of the ’70’s and this pitiful franchise — and it’s funny, but [there’s] the very sympathetic character that you kind of pull for, so all those things together really drew me to this.
NUVO: Tell me more about the outrageous costumes and hair from the ’70s that are very important to this film.
Ferrell: Yeah, that’s what’s so great about the ’70s — it’s just intrinsically funny. You know, when you look back at photos, it just makes me laugh that people thought, “I am looking good right now … in a full fur collar and a neckerchief.”
Plus, you also forget that the sports styles were very different — guys wore the short-shorts and thought they looked awesome. So all those things really enhance the comedy we have, and get a really funny visual going with the script.
NUVO: Your character, Jackie Moon, is a one-hit-wonder. You have a very beautiful voice. Please tell me there are a few musical numbers in this movie.
Ferrell: Thank you. I’m blushing! Yes, well the opening of the movie, my character, Jackie Moon, sings his No. 1 hit single, “Love Me Sexy.” And he opens every game by singing to the crowd …
NUVO: Any chance you’d want to sing a little bit of “Love Me Sexy”?
Ferrell: Umm, I would love to. I always forget the first part ... umm … duh dun dun … Love me sexy — uh! There’s one part … I wanna do a little thing with you. I wanna do a little thing with you. When I say “love me,” you say, “Sexy!” Love me!
NUVO: … Sexy!
Ferrell: Very good. That’s it.
NUVO: I catch on fast.
Ferrell: That was a huge hit.
“Semi-Pro” costars Woody Harrelson (“Anger Management,” “White Men Can't Jump”), Will Arnett (“Blades of Glory,” “Arrested Development”), Andre Benjamin (“Four Brothers,” music group Outkast), Rob Corddry and Andy Richter. The film is written by Scot Armstrong (“Old School”), and will be released on Feb. 29.
For a complete video of this interview, including the “Semi-Pro” trailer and hilarious outtakes, visit nuvo.net/video.