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Will Ferrell

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Will Ferrell
Will Ferrell 2012.jpg
Ferrell at the The Campaign Australian Premiere at Fox Studios, August 5, 2012.
Birth name John William Ferrell
Born (1967-07-16) July 16, 1967
Irvine, California, United States
Medium Stand-up, television, film, music
Nationality American
Years active 1995–present
Genres Surreal humor, physical comedy, sketch comedy, wit
Influences Peter Sellers, Steve Martin
Spouse Viveca Paulin (2000–present)

John William "Will" Ferrell ( / ˈ f ɛr əl /; born July 16, 1967) is an American comedian, impressionist, actor, and writer. Ferrell first established himself in the mid-1990s as a cast member on the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, and has subsequently starred in the comedy films Old School, Elf, Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Stranger than Fiction, Blades of Glory, Semi-Pro, Step Brothers, and The Other Guys. He is considered a member of the " Frat Pack", a generation of leading Hollywood comic actors who emerged in the late 1990s and the 2000s, including Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Steve Carell, Vince Vaughn, and brothers Owen and Luke Wilson.

Early life

Ferrell was born in Irvine, California, the son of Betty Kay (née Overman), a teacher who taught at Old Mill School elementary school and Santa Ana College, and Roy Lee Ferrell, Jr., a musician with The Righteous Brothers. His parents were both natives of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, and moved to California in 1964. Ferrell's ancestry includes Irish and English. He has a younger brother, Patrick. When he was 8, his parents divorced. Ferrell said of the divorce, "I was the type of kid who would say, 'Hey Look at the bright side! We'll have two Christmases.'" The divorce was amicable and both parents were committed to their children. The biggest problem was Lee's line of work. As a person in show business, his paychecks were never steady and he was gone from home months at a time. Growing up in the environment made Ferrell not want to go into show business, but get a steady job.

Will first attended school at Turtle Rock Elementary and later attended Rancho San Joaquin Middle School, both in Irvine. He attended University High School in Irvine, and was a kicker for the school's varsity football team. He was also on the soccer team, captain of the basketball team, and served on student council.

Ferrell called third grade "a pivotal year". He realized he could make his classmates laugh if he pretended to smash his head against the wall, or if he tripped and fell on purpose, and said it was a great way to make friends. He told the Orange County Register that the dullness of Irvine contributed to the growth of his humor:

Growing up in suburbia, in safe, master-planned Irvine, there was no drama so we had to create it in our heads. My main form of entertainment was cracking my friends up and exploring new ways of being funny. I didn't have to have the survival mode instinct like other comics, who grew up in tough neighborhoods. I had the opposite. For me, I grew up in Mayberry, and the humor broke the boredom. And there was a lot to make fun of.

In his senior year of high school, Ferrell and a friend would perform comedy skits over the school's intercom system, with cooperation from the principal. The two had to write their own material though. Ferrell also performed comedic skits in the school's talent shows. He won the "Best Personality" superlative voted by his classmates.

He enrolled at the University of Southern California, where he studied Sports Broadcasting and joined the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity. In college, he was known for a few pranks. On occasion, he would dress in a janitor's outfit and stroll into his friends' classes. He was also known for streaking around campus with a few other people from the Delta Tau Delta fraternity. Ferrell earned an internship at a local television station in the sports department. He did not enjoy the work.

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in Sports Information in 1990, he knew he did not want to do broadcasting. He took up jobs as a hotel valet, and on his second day he tore a baggage rack off the top of a van by trying to drive it under a low-lying beam. He also worked as a teller at Wells Fargo, but came up short $300 the first day and $280 the second—he was not stealing the money, he was just careless and error-prone.

In 1991, encouraged by his mother to pursue something he liked, Ferrell moved to Los Angeles. He successfully auditioned for the comedy group The Groundlings, where he spent time developing his improvisation skills.


The Groundlings

Before joining The Groundlings, Ferrell's attempts at standup comedy had little success. He started in the advanced classes and grew to love improvisation. He realized he also liked to impersonate people, and one of his favorites was Harry Caray, the Hall of Fame baseball announcer. Soon he began to create original characters. With fellow Groundlings member Chris Kattan, they created the Butabi Brothers, who go out to dance clubs to try to pick up women but are constantly rejected. While taking classes, Ferrell got a job at an auction house via his friend Viveca Paulin. The job was ideal as it was flexible enough for him to audition and go to rehearsals while also being employed. He received small roles, including TV series Grace Under Fire and Living Single, low-budget films such as A Bucket of Blood, as well as commercials. One winter, he even served as a mall Santa Claus. Then, in 1994, he won a spot with the top professional group of The Groundlings.

Saturday Night Live

After SNL's dip in popularity in 1994–1995 and in need of new cast members for the next season, a producer saw The Groundlings and asked Ferrell, Kattan, and Cheri Oteri to audition for SNL's main producer, Lorne Michaels.

Ferrell joined Saturday Night Live in 1995 and left in 2002 after a successful seven-year tenure. He returned to host twice (both in season finales), and once in the cold open of the final episode of Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday.

During his time on SNL, Ferrell made a name for himself with his impersonations, which included:

  • U.S. President George W. Bush
  • Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Caray,
  • Singer Robert Goulet ( crooning a cappella pieces of music by Sisqó, Baha Men, and Notorious B.I.G.),
  • Singer Neil Diamond,
  • Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton (who was quoted several times favoring Ferrell's impersonation),
  • Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy,
  • United States Attorney General Janet Reno,
  • Convicted Unabomber Ted Kaczynski,
  • Game show host Alex Trebek,
  • Fictitious black private detective Shaft,
  • Professional wrestler-turned-Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura,
  • U.S. Vice President Al Gore ( Darrell Hammond took over once Ferrell started playing Bush),
  • Iraqi President Saddam Hussein,
  • Cuban President Fidel Castro.

His original characters included "Morning Latte" co-host Tom Wilkins, Ed the Horse's twin brother Ned (cf. Mister Ed), fictional Blue Öyster Cult member Gene Frenkle (physically modeled after Blue Öyster Cult vocalist Eric Bloom), music teacher Marty Culp, Spartan cheerleader Craig Buchanan, Dale Sturtevant from "Dissing Your Dog", Hank of the Bill Brasky Buddies, David Leary from "Dog Show", and night clubber Steve Butabi in a sketch that went to the big screen in 1998's A Night at the Roxbury.

Ferrell returned to Saturday Night Live as a guest host on May 14, 2005, and May 16, 2009. Both times, he reprised his role as Alex Trebek in the " Celebrity Jeopardy" sketches. On the May 14 appearance, Ferrell reprised his role as Robert Goulet in a fake commercial advertising a series of crooned ringtones and, during the performance of the song " Little Sister" by musical guests Queens of the Stone Age, Ferrell came on stage playing the cowbell.

Ferrell became the highest paid cast member of Saturday Night Live in 2001 with a season salary of $350,000.

Film career

During his time on Saturday Night Live, Ferrell appeared in several movies: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, A Night at the Roxbury, Superstar, The Ladies Man, Dick, Drowning Mona, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Zoolander.

His first starring role came after his departure from SNL with Frank "The Tank" Richard in Old School (2003). The film "belongs to Mr. Ferrell", declared the New York Times, which described how he "uses his hilarious, anxious zealotry to sell the part." Old School was a major success and Ferrell received an MTV Movie Awards nomination for Best Comedic Performance.

The title role in Elf (2003) followed, as did another MTV Movie Awards nomination. Ferrell continued to land comedy roles in 2004 and 2005 in films such as Melinda and Melinda, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Starsky & Hutch earning himself a place among Hollywood's Frat Pack. In 2005, Ferrell earned $40 million. In 2006, Ferrell starred in Stranger Than Fiction and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby; both received critical and box office success. Ferrell's performance in Stranger Than Fiction introduced audiences to the dramatic potential of Ferrell's acting talents. On December 27, 2006, 'The Magazine' named Ferrell as one of its three actors of the year in their 2006 year in review issue. The films Anchorman and Talladega Nights are the first two installments of the Mediocre American Man Trilogy. The third film of the trilogy, Anchorman: The Legend Continues, is slated for release in October 2013.

Ferrell at the premiere of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, December 2007

Ferrell appeared as part of a pre-game video package for the Rose Bowl along with Texas alum Matthew McConaughey. Ferrell also sang a song at the ESPY Awards in 2006 about Lance Armstrong and Neil Armstrong. He and John C. Reilly also did a spot during the 2008 ESPY Awards where they made demands in order for them to appear at the ESPYs like asking Portland Trail Blazers' centre Greg Oden to tuck them in at night and tell them stories of the old times or to bring back the Cold War so the Olympics can be interesting again.

Ferrell participated in a 79th Academy Awards musical-comedy performance with John C. Reilly and Jack Black, wherein they sang a song about comedies being snubbed by the voters in favour of dramas.

In May 2009, it was announced that Ferrell was in talks to star in Neighbourhood Watch (later The Watch), a comedy about an urbanite who moves to the suburbs and uncovers a conspiracy. In negotiations to direct was David Dobkin, who gave Ferrell a cameo in Wedding Crashers. In August 2009, Ferrell decided not to do the film.

In June 2009, Land of the Lost was released. It was a commercial and critical flop after earning $19 million on opening weekend, about two-thirds of what the studio expected.

In 2010, he was the executive producer and star of The Other Guys, a buddy cop film, which also has an ensemble cast which consists of Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan, Ray Stevenson, Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson. Unlike Land of the Lost, the film was a commercial success, earning over $140 million, and was positively reviewed by critics.

Ferrell stars in Casa de Mi Padre, a telenovela spoof comedy set in a ranch with Mexican stars Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal. The movie's is told in melodramatic telenovela form and features English-language subtitles.

Voice acting

Will Ferrell dressed as Megamind at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International

Ferrell has worked as a voice actor in several animated television programs and films, including his portrayal of Bob Oblong, a 1950s-style father with no arms or legs, in the short-lived animated television series The Oblongs. He has had several guest appearances on Family Guy, where he played the Black Knight in " Mr. Saturday Knight", as well as Fat Greek Guy and Miles "Chatterbox" Musket in Fifteen Minutes of Shame. Ferrell also starred as Ted (a.k.a. The Man in the Yellow Hat) in the film Curious George and guest voiced on an episode of the FOX sitcom King of the Hill as a politically correct soccer coach. He voiced the title character in the 2010 DreamWorks Animation film Megamind.

Stage career

Ferrell made his Broadway debut taking on departing U.S. President George W. Bush in a one-man show called You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush. The show started performances on January 20, 2009, in previews—Bush's final day in office—at the Cort Theatre and opened officially on February 1. The limited engagement played through March 15, 2009.

Creating and producing

Eastbound & Down

Ferrell co-produces (with Adam McKay) an HBO show starring Danny McBride called Eastbound & Down. He also has a recurring role as car dealer Ashley Schaeffer.

Personal life

In August 2000, Ferrell married Swedish actress Viveca Paulin, whom he met in 1995 at an acting class. They live in New York City and in Orange County, California and have three sons, Magnus Paulin Ferrell, born March 7, 2004, Mattias Paulin Ferrell, born December 30, 2006, and Axel Paulin Ferrell, born January 23, 2010.

In 2006,, a site that accepts submissions from readers and publishes them as "press releases", reported that Ferrell had died in a paragliding accident. The hoax was published before its factual inaccuracy was noticed. The story was further propagated when it appeared on Google News.

Ferrell is a fan of USC Trojan football. At USC, Ferrell was a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity and is now an active alumnus. Ferrell has worked with former head coach Pete Carroll to do motivational stunts for the players during the season.

Ferrell is also a supporter of English Premier League football club Chelsea, representing Chelsea as honorary captain in the coin toss before the Chelsea v Inter Milan match at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on July 21, 2009. However, he claims to be an Ipswich Town fan.

Ferrell enjoys running and has participated in several major marathons such as the Boston, New York and Stockholm Marathons. He also raises money for charity, including his Scholarships for Cancer Survivors campaign through Crowdrise; a social networking community for volunteers and a micro-donations fundraising platform.

In 2007, Autograph magazine named Ferrell the worst celebrity autographer. Its editor stated, "What's so frustrating about Will Ferrell being the worst autograph signer this past year is that he used to be so nice to fans and collectors and a great signer. What makes him so bad is that he'll taunt people asking for his autograph." In response, Ferrell has stated, "I don't know how I got on the list. I sign a lot of autographs", but has admitted to taunting autograph-seekers: "I do. I really do. I'm like, 'How badly do you want this autograph?' 'Are you sure?' 'You say you're my biggest fan, really, prove it.' I'll do things like that. They have to earn it."

Ferrell had noted that, although he was well known for his SNL impersonation of President George W. Bush, he chose, for both professional and political reasons, not to meet the President on several occasions, unlike his SNL predecessor Dana Carvey's famous chummy relationship with George H. W. Bush: "I declined, partly out of comedic purposes, because when I was on the show Saturday Night Live at the time, it didn't make sense to really meet the people that you play, for fear of them influencing you. And then the other side of it is, from a political standpoint, I don't want to meet that guy." Ferrell also appeared on an episode of Man vs. Wild, where he traveled throughout the tundras of Sweden with the show's host, Bear Grylls. In the episode, Ferrell came across various unique situations, which included eating the eye of a reindeer.

Ferrell made a comical debut as a relief pitcher for the Round Rock Express, the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros, on May 6, 2010. He was introduced as "Billy Ray 'Rojo' Johnson", and was brought in to relief pitch for the sixth inning. He then entertained the fans by bringing a sack of beer cans to the mound, as well as being ejected and getting chased by the opposing batter. He revealed himself to the fans when his moustache fell off during the chase. The appearance was cooked up by Ferrell and the Express, who sent out a press release announcing Johnson's "signing", to promote The Will Powered Golf Classic the following day at the nearby Cimarron Hills Country Club, which benefits Cancer for College, an organization that provides scholarships to cancer survivors.

He appeared in the 2011 video for " Make Some Noise" by the Beastie Boys, in the front of a limo, playing a cowbell.

In August 2012, whilst in Australia promoting The Campaign, Ferrell made a guest appearance on the Ch-10 live-panel news/comedy show The Project. He found himself speaking via video link to Australian Prime-Minister Julia Gillard. Unsure of how to address her, Ferrell asked 'can I just call you Jules?' and Gillard cheerfully agreed. Ferrell then asked her if she had any advice to how to improve the state of his hair, a reference to Gillard's partner Tim who is a hair-dresser, saying 'I have horrible split-ends'. The Prime-Minister's reply was 'Will, I can give you some very clear advice, and I'm sure Tim would endorse it. You need to get yourself to a hairdresser straight away; you need to spend buckets and buckets of money on in-salon treatments and you need to buy everything that they recommend for you to take home.'

Ferrell supported Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election. In February 2013 Ferrell endorsed Eric Garcetti for mayor of Los Angeles.

Awards and nominations

Emmy Awards


  • 2001: Outstanding Individual Performance In A Variety Or Music Program (for Saturday Night Live)

ESPY Awards


  • 2007 ESPY Awards, Best Sports Movie (for Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby)
  • 2008 ESPY Awards, Best Sports Movie (for Semi-Pro)

Golden Globe Awards


  • 2006: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (for The Producers)
  • 2007: Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (for Stranger than Fiction)

James Joyce Award

  • 2008: James Joyce Award from University College Dublin's Literary and Historical Society in recognition for "excelling in his field".

Kids Choice Awards

  • 2011: Favorite Buttkicker (for Megamind)

MTV Movie Awards


  • 2007: Best Kiss for Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (with Sacha Baron Cohen)


  • 2003: Best Comedic Performance (for Old School)
  • 2003: Best On-Screen Team (with Luke Wilson and Vince Vaughn for Old School)
  • 2004: Best Comedic Performance (for Elf)
  • 2005: Best Comedic Performance (for Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy)
  • 2005: Best On-Screen Team (with Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and David Koechner for Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy)
  • 2005: Best Musical Performance (with Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Steve Carell for Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy)
  • 2007: Best Comedic Performance (for Blades of Glory)
  • 2007: Best Fight (for Blades of Glory)

Razzie Awards


  • 2005: Worst Actor for Bewitched and Kicking & Screaming

Satellite Awards


  • 2006: Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical (for Stranger Than Fiction)

Spike TV Guys' Choice Awards


  • 2007 Spike TV Guys' Choice Awards, Funniest Mo-fo
  • 2007 Spike TV Guys' Choice Awards, Most Viral Video

Teen Choice Awards


  • 2007: Choice Movie Actor – Comedy for Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Blades of Glory


  • 2004: Choice Comedian
  • 2004: Choice Movie Actor – Comedy for Elf
  • 2005: Choice Comedian
  • 2005: Choice Movie Actor – Comedy for Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Kicking & Screaming
  • 2005: Choice Movie Hissy Fit for Kicking & Screaming
  • 2005: Choice Movie Rumble for Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
  • 2005: Choice Movie Sleazebag for Kicking & Screaming
  • 2007: Choice Comedian
  • 2007: Choice Movie Chemistry (with Jon Heder), for Blades of Glory
  • 2007: Choice Movie Dance (with Jon Heder), for Blades of Glory
  • 2007: Choice Movie Hissy Fit for Blades of Glory
  • 2008: Choice Comedian
  • 2008: Choice Movie Actor – Comedy for Semi-Pro
  • 2009: Choice Movie Actor – Comedy for Land of the Lost

Tony Awards


  • 2009: Best Special Theatrical Event (for You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush)

Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

Ferrell was selected as the 2011 recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.


Year Movie Role Notes Worldwide gross (Domestic gross)
1995 Bucket of Blood Young man Made-for-TV
Criminal Hearts Newscaster
1997 Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery Mustafa $67,683,989 ($53,883,989)
Men Seeking Women Al
1998 A Night at the Roxbury Steve Butabi Also writer $30,331,165
The Thin Pink Line Darren Clark
1999 Superstar Sky Corrigan/God $30,636,478
Dick Bob Woodward $6,262,878
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me Mustafa $312,016,858 ($206,040,086)
The Suburbans Gil $11,130
2000 The Ladies Man Lance DeLune $13,743,212 ($13,616,610)
Drowning Mona Cubby the Funeral Director $15,906,764 ($15,506,764)
2001 Zoolander Mugatu $60,780,981 ($45,172,250)
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back Federal Wildlife Marshal Willenholly $33,788,161 ($30,085,147)
2002 Boat Trip Brian's Boyfriend Uncredited $15,020,293 ($8,600,126)
2003 Old School Frank "the Tank" Ricard $87,055,349 ($75,585,093)
Elf Buddy $220,443,451 ($173,398,518)
2004 Melinda and Melinda Hobie $20,085,825 ($3,826,280)
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy Ron Burgundy Also writer $90,574,188 ($85,288,303)
Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie Ron Burgundy Straight-to-DVD
Also writer
Starsky & Hutch Big Earl Uncredited $170,268,750 ($88,237,754)
Oh, What a Lovely Tea Party Himself
2005 The Producers Franz Liebkind $38,058,335 ($19,398,532)
Wedding Crashers Chazz Reinhold Uncredited $285,176,741 ($209,455,921)
Winter Passing Corbit $113,783 ($107,492)
Bewitched Jack Wyatt/Darrin $131,426,169 ($63,313,159)
Kicking & Screaming Phil Weston $56,070,433 ($52,842,724)
The Wendell Baker Story Dave Bix $153,169 ($127,414)
2006 Stranger Than Fiction Harold Crick $53,653,224 ($40,660,952)
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby Ricky Bobby Also writer/executive producer $162,966,177 ($148,213,377)
Curious George Ted/The Man in the Yellow Hat Voice $69,834,815 ($58,360,760)
2007 Blades of Glory Chazz Michael Michaels $145,708,642 ($118,594,548)
2008 Semi-Pro Jackie Moon $43,884,904 ($33,479,698)
Step Brothers Brennan Huff Also writer/executive producer $128,107,642 ($100,468,793)
2009 Land of the Lost Dr. Rick Marshall $68,777,554 ($49,438,370)
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard Craig McDermott Uncredited
Also producer
$15,294,910 ($15,122,676)
SpongeBob's Truth or Square Himself
2010 The Other Guys Detective Allen Gamble Also producer $170,432,917 ($119,219,978)
Megamind Megamind Voice $321,885,765 ($148,415,853)
Hubworld Himself Guest star
Season 1, Episode 1
Everything Must Go Nick Halsey $2,711,643
2012 Casa de Mi Padre Armando Alvarez Also producer $8,041,667 ($5,909,483)
Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie Damien Weebs Also producer/co-producer $201,436
The Campaign Cam Brady Also producer/co-producer $103,430,245 ($86,907,746)
2013 Three Mississippi Also producer
Anchorman: The Legend Continues Ron Burgundy Also writer
2014 The Lego Movie President Business Voice role


  • Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) $20,000,000
  • Bewitched (2005) $20,000,000
  • Kicking & Screaming (2005) $20,000,000
  • Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) $6,900,000
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