Doing interviews for Blades of Glory, I got to come about as close as I will ever get to fulfilling my dream of meeting Woody Allen by getting a chance to meet Will Ferrell, who stared in Melinda and Melinda. I also had the chance to meet with Jon Heder, who I have seen on multiple occasions (I have one of those neat Hollywood set ups where I’m the neighbor of the brother of a celebrity) but never had the chance to talk with.
I’ve been a fan of Will Ferrell since he was on Saturday Night Live. I remember having arguments with my brother on whether or not Ferrell was actually funny or if was too over the top. Looking back, there are some skits where Ferrell hams it up, but sometimes the skits need it. All the same, his movies have all been very funny and with Stranger Than Fiction, Ferrell had a chance to show off some of his dramatic ability (personally, Stranger Than Fiction is one of my favorite films of 2006). Ferrell surrounds himself with great comedic actors and writers for his films; Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Fred Willard, Sacha Baron Cohen, Judd Apatow, Adam McKay and Will Arnett to name a few. Ferrell understands that comedy isn’t a one man job; that it always works best in pairs or groups. Maybe that is something he took from his days on SNL, or maybe its something he knew well before then. Either way, Ferrell has figured it out and it hasn’t failed him yet.
Jon Heder had been in three movies before Napoleon Dynamite (one of which, a short called Funky Town, stars his brother Doug and is really funny. Its a musical noir, which you don’t see many of). As we all know, Napoleon was his breakout performance. He recently started a production company with two of his brothers and may have had his first child by now. Before the interview, I spent some time in an elevator with Jon but before I could mention that I often talk video games with his brother, a Japanese woman started up a conversation. I learned that Jon is very fluent in Japanese and that it is impossible to find the right time to interrupt a conversation when you have no clue what the people are saying. Jon comes off as friendly in his movies, and he is even friendlier in real life; the guy was stopping to take pictures with anyone who asked, even though he was running late for interviews. He wouldn’t just take the picture and walk away, he would ask the person’s name and speak with them for a few moments. While I’m sure he gets far too many people coming up to him and doing their version of Napoleon, I get the feeling that he appreciates each and every one of them.
Will Ferrell – I’m not saying anything until Jon gets here.
Not even about-
Will Ferrell – I can’t. I won’t.
—-Jon Heder walks in, all smiles—
Will Ferrell - What’s up holmes?
Jon Heder - Bing!
Will Ferrell - This is the first time we’ve seen each other since yesterday. After spending the entire day together yesterday.
Jon Heder - Since the day before.
Will Ferrell - Or the day before.
Jon Heder - I saw 300 yesterday.
Did you like it?
Jon Heder – Yeah. There was about three hundred people in the theater. It was all the soldiers there to watch themselves.
What was the attraction to making Blades of Glory? Besides the chane to play fools on ice?
Jon Heder - We make ourselves look quite cool, not fools.
Will Ferrell – This was not a foolish endeavor. This was us finally able to fulfill our dreams and aspirations of becoming figure skaters, which I know we’ve all had.
Jon Heder – There’s a little bit of, when each and every one of us watch the Olympics, you want to get out there and be ion the lycra and express yourself.
Will Ferrell – Yeah, its all about expression.
What were the physical requirements for doing this like and how tough were they? Jon, you injured yourself, correct?
Jon Heder – Yeah, and once you injure yourself you don’t have to do it for a while, so that wasn’t too bad.
Will Ferrell – I had to keep training and live with the fear that just like that you could break your ankle.
Jon Heder – We’re not invincible, that’s what I learned. It was more disheartening when we thought the movie may have gone away because of schedules.
What about your physical appearances in the film; how much input did you have in your hair and outfits? Jon, your hair was particularly inspired.
Will Ferrell - Sounds like someone has a crush.
Jon Heder - Sorry, I’m married.
Will Ferrell – The directors had their ideas on how they wanted us to look and Julie Weiss, the costume designer, she came to the table with some pretty inspired choices. There were a lot of consultations over hair.
Jon Heder – Mine was a mix of Meg Ryan and Aaron Carter.
Will Ferrell - And I was the love child of Farrah Fawcett and Steven Seagal.
Jon, have you ever had a stalker like you have in the film?
Jon Heder - Yes, Nick Swardson, who plays the stalker, is my stalker in real life. When they were casting the part I said why not use him?
Will Ferrell – That’s why he seems so natural at it.
What is the attraction of a movie like this?
Will Ferrell - I think for both of us, it really was just the pitch; two guys enter into couples figure skating. It was as simple as that. Its a funny premise and it dawned on me, why hasn’t anyone made this movie before?
Jon Heder - It wasn’t just an ice skating comedy, though that was enough to sell us, its the concept of two guys skating together and having to deal with all the innuendo that follows.
How much improv is there in the film?
Jon Heder – For me, on the ice, a lot. For Will, right off the page.
How hard was it to do the routines together?
Will Ferrell - Difficult. Very. No, I don’t remember anything being an issue.
Jon Heder – They would bring us in while planning the routines with the choreographer and have us add in our own bits. They incorporated a lot of that in. It was a good mixture.
Are you getting a lot of grief from figure skaters?
Will Ferrell - Just the opposite. Every skater, all the pros in the movie and all the coaches, they all embrace the movie. I really thought we would get a lot of ‘Its funny but, come on. I know what you’re doing but it is a hard sport’. I don’t think I heard that once, aside from Dick Buttons. I think he will hate us forever. Everyone in the sport has a great sense of humor at the fact that its obviously a recognized as a sport and its super hard but at the same time, while you’re watching figure skating you can’t help but wonder why they’re wearing fake tuxedoes. You watch it and admire it but also make fun of it at the same time.
Jon Heder - Its not just a hard-core, sweaty sport; it incorporates flash. It has flashmenship. It has glitter; its like throwing glitter all over basketball. And the music.
Will Ferrell - We would laugh about the characters we play; Chazz and Jimmy’s relationships and some of the more out there jokes and the coaches would be like, ‘Not so far from the truth’.
Will, now having done racing cars and ice skating, is there a sport you still want to tackle?
Will Ferrell – Well, unfortunately for interview purposes, because it comes off looking like I tried to do these all in a row, I’m doing a basketball comedy now. There’s no reasoning behind it, it just happened to stack up this way. I’m doing this movie about the ADA, a basketball league in the seventies, which wrote a lot of the conventions of the game that are around now. Some of the NBA’s best players started out in the ADA. It was a pretty outlandish league.
Is it a similar type of comedy to Blades of Glory?
Will Ferrell - Yeah, for sure. Its similar and even more. Semi-Pro is going to be rated R so we can go a lot farther. We’re taking a lot from actual promotions they did; we have the red white and blue ball and a lot of afros.
Do you plan to keep doing comedies in this style or are you looking to do more things like Stranger Than Fiction?
Will Ferrell - It depends. I would love to do more films like Stranger but I’m not really getting deluged by scripts that would fit into that category.
Really? Because it was a great movie.
Will Ferrell - Yeah, but it hasn’t really changed the landscape that much. I look forward to doing more like that if it happens.
Jon, what about your latest?
Jon Heder - Well, this movie is coming out and I have Mama’s Boy with Diane Keaton and Jeff Daniels. That’s about it for this year.
What about Surf’s Up?
Jon Heder – That’s right, Surf’s Up comes out June 8th.
Sony would get pretty pissed if you forget that.
Jon Heder – Well, Sony isn’t here right now so forget them.
Did you expect your career to be as hot as it is after Napoleon Dynamite? During interviews at that time you talked about going back to cartooning.
Jon Heder - Well, I still plan on getting back to cartooning. I really like being behind the camera and getting into the production side of things. I just started a production company with my brothers Dan and Doug called Greasy Entertainment and at some point we would like to make animated movies. But I want to continue doing the acting.
Will, are you writing anything right now?
Will Ferrell - Adam McKay and I just finished our third script. We had so much fun working with John C. Reilly that the three of us came up with a premise.
Can you talk about it?
Will Ferrell – John Reilly and I each play two grown men who still live with a parent and those parents get married, so we become step brothers who live at home. Its kind of like Brady Bunch meets Ordinary People. We’re two forty year old guys who still live at home and are indignant about trying to get jobs.
Is anyone else cast?
Will Ferrell - Not yet.
No parent casting?
Will Ferrell - No.
When are you looking to start shooting?
Will Ferrell - Probably September.
Back to the costumes, specifically the crotch area. Were there enhancements there?
Will Ferrell – No, that’s all natural. 100%
Was doing the one stunt uncomfortable?
Will Ferrell - The hand on the crotch?
Will Ferrell - Do you mean was that a thrill? It was. Actually, I don’t think that was Jon.
Jon Heder - I don’t think so either.
It was a stunt crotch?
Jon Heder – It was a stunt crotch.
Will Ferrell - It was my hand.
For the long shot, was that CGI?
Will Ferrell - No, that was done with wires.
Jon Heder – I don’t remember shooting it, but why would we use a stunt crotch?
It doesn’t seem like a day of filming you would forget.
Jon Heder - Well watching it now, I get into it and believe its me. I mean, I felt pain when I saw that but I don’t remember shooting it. I think its a repressed memory.
Will Ferrell – One of the more painful moves we had to do was when Jon is straddling my waist. What is it called?
Jon Heder – The frog lift.
Will Ferrell – The frog lift. I had to lean back and my arms out.
Jon Heder - And both his feet are spread far apart.
Will Ferrell - And Jon is pretty much holding himself up.
Jon Heder - It wasn’t emotionally uncomfortable but physically we were in pain.
Is that an actual skating move?
Jon Heder – I think it is.
Will Ferrell- Its the frog lift.
Are there any moves that you created?
Jon Heder - There are a few moves that were from these Armenian skating acrobats.
Will Ferrell – They brought in these two Armenian acrobats one day that could do all these crazy things and incorporated a lot of the stuff these guys did into the film.
Will, the performance you gave at the Academy Awards was great; how did that come about?
Will Ferrell - Thanks. Judd Apatow got in touch with Laura Ziskin, who produced the show. I don’t know if it was her idea or his, but they said they were thinking of doing a Les Miserables type of number about how comedians don’t get any attention at the Oscars. So Judd and Adam McKay wrote the whole song. While it was the Oscars asking us to do it, I don’t think the Academy got it. I think it went over their head. They kept saying how funny it was, but they missed what it was saying. Or they were like its funny and yes, you’re right, we won’t vote for comedies.
Would you like to see the Oscars split it up like the Golden Globes?; a category for each?
Will Ferrell – I think they’ll do that eventually, but I think that its a cop out. I think you can look at comedic performances and know that a dramatic actor couldn’t do it. A strong comedic performance is just as hard to pull off as a strong dramatic performance. They just need to open up.
Did you get to talk with Helen Mirren?
Will Ferrell - I didn’t.
She didn’t go home with you?
Will Ferrell - That part of the song didn’t materialize. At least for me; I haven’t talked to Jack and John.
Will, do you have any fatherhood advice for Jon?
Jon Heder - We haven’t discussed this.
Isn’t your wife expecting any time now?
Jon Heder - Yeah.
How did you find time to go see 300?
Jon Heder - She was asleep. As soon as she falls asleep, I sneak out.
Will Ferrell - Do you get bothered when you go to the movies?
Jon Heder - Yeah. And especially when you go to a movie like that and its filled with nerds.
Will Ferrell – I still go but I wear a hat.
Jon Heder - See, I always wear a flashy biker helmet.
Jon, what tyoe of fanbase do you find you have?
Jon Heder - I don’t think I have any left. Well, I guess it ranges. No, it pretty much is just nerds or people who used to be nerds. But there’s a little nerd inside all of us.
After seeing 300, which is more homoerotic, your film or that one?
Jon Heder - You know, my wife was driving down West Hollywood and what movie are they promoting in the gay district? I guessed 300 but she said it was wall to wall Blades of Glory.
There’s a new fanbase for you right there.
Jon Heder - I hope.
Will Ferrell - But for fatherhood advice; try to look your child in the eye.
Jon Heder - Don’t cross them.
Will Ferrell - Right. Get to know their name, that becomes important when you want something. And remember to feed them. That’s about all you need.
Jon Heder – You know, my wife’s due date is the same as the premier of the film.
So you won’t go to the premier?
Jon Heder – No, I’m gonna come. I have to set up a lifestyle for my child to enjoy the finer things in life without me there.