Clearly the highlight of visiting the set of any Will Ferrell movie–which doesn’t happen that often mind you–is getting to sit down with Ferrell himself, and this time he was teamed with Wahlberg to give us some idea of their rapport, which seemed just fine.
Q: There have been a lot of buddy cop comedies over the years. What made you and Adam decide to do one? Will Ferrell:: We just were big fans of Mark’s and just thought that no one’s really used him in a comedy this way. If he was up for it, we thought it’d be a fun kind of thing to do. That’s it specifically. Mark Wahlberg:: I’ve been dying to do a comedy, and these guys took me to dinner and bought a bunch of nice wine and said, “Do you want to do a movie?” I said, “Are you kidding me?” If you do the wrong kind of comedy you never get a chance to do it again if you come from my background. Having an opportunity to work with these guys was a real dream come true. Then they actually went through with it and wrote this part that was right up my alley, and I get to work with this guy so it’s a no-brainer for me.
Q: Was it intimidating for you? Wahlberg:: No, because they were very clear that they would take me under their wing and protect me. I’d always had this fear… the first time I went to California I saw a comic who I had watched on television. I thought, “Wow,” and I said “hi” to him, he gave me the finger and drove away. I don’t want to name any names. I always thought comics are completely different from what they appear to be onscreen. You hear stories of how serious they are, how they try to be funny during a take but in-between takes it’s weird and awkward. These guys aren’t like that.
Ferrell:: We’re more weird and awkward. (laughs) We just thought it would be a great opportunity to comment on the genre. To do what we do and put the spin on the buddy cop movie.
Q: Who’s good cop and who’s bad cop? Wahlberg:: I try to get him to play good cop/bad cop in the movie. We’re confronting this guy. I say, “I go hard, then you come in.” I tear into this guy, and next thing you know this guy goes twice as bananas as me.
Ferrell:: I mishear him, I think he says “bad cop/bad cop”.
Wahlberg:: He says to me, “I saw you go crazy, how am I going to top that?” He goes bananas. To see Steve Coogan’s face when Will went nuts was pretty damn funny.
Q: Mark, what are you learning from Will about comedy improv? Wahlberg:: These guys go non-stop, and not only Will but anybody, whether it’s a bit part or a dayplayer, everybody that comes in is on fire. You got to be on your toes and they let me riff. Every time they do a scene, you get a couple takes that are written then you go nuts. I’m always trying to learn from every single person I work with. If I was ever the most experienced person on set that’s when I’d be nervous. That’s when I’d be concerned. When you have guys like these around you, you feel like you can do anything you want to do and still come off looking good.
Q: This cast is huge. When you say, “Be in my movie,” does everyone come a-runnin’? Ferrell:: This one was so cool because we started making these movies and said, “Wouldn’t it be fantastic to get that person?” and there was no way in hell. With this movie the people we actually wanted were like, “Of course, we’ll do it.” It’s nice to see that our work has been liked to the point where you picture Eva Mendes and she’s like, “Sure, tell me when.” Everyone was really looking forward to being a part of this.
Wahlberg:: And she plays his wife! (laughter)
Ferrell:: Which is a natural conclusion; I don’t know why you’re all laughing. (laughter)
Wahlberg:: I didn’t care, I signed up that day. They said, “We’d still like to tell you about it.” I was like, “If you insist,” but it was still a no-brainer.
Q: Is this the first time you’ve shot in New York? Ferrell:: “Elf” for two weeks, and Woody Allen for “Melinda and Melinda.” But yeah, on this scale… We love it. It’s such an energy to shoot here. Definitely when you’re doing an exterior in a big crowded part of the city there’s some issues with people constantly yelling. “HEY ENTOURAGE! I LOVE ENTOURAGE!” (laughs)
Wahlberg:: Or you tell people to wait for a minute and they just walk right through the shot. Even old ladies! They’re like, “I don’t give a f*ck.”
Ferrell:: It is a living organism, the city, that you have to deal with. It’s just making us laugh that these characters are in a scene with the Empire State Building in the background. It’s so great to feature the city as a character in the movie.
Q: I think we heard Adam on the set treating you like the coach’s son. Is that what your working relationship is like right now, you’re kind of one and the same? Ferrell:: A little bit. I’m more like a coach’s son who was never good at basketball, not allowed anywhere near the court, I just got to fill the water bottles, wash the towels. We don’t even really think about what it is we do because it’s our fourth movie; we kind of know what the other guy is thinking. It’s pretty open territory. It’s not just me, though, he’s open with everybody. It’s best idea wins. He’s one of the few directors to say, “Frank the sound guy had a good idea, we’re going to do this.” He’ll give credit; he takes no ownership of anything. The biggest thing you want to set up is a feeling that if you fail it’s okay. At least 50% of the stuff we come up with, and probably 80% on some days, is terrible (laughter) but the 20% is so good it’s worth it. As long as you have that going in and everyone feels comfortable and it’s a great working environment. Adam sets that up.
Q: Mark, who’s Jimmy and why was he trying to direct you before you began rehearsing? Wahlberg:: Jimmy’s the prop guy. (laughs)
Ferrell:: One of the more famous prop masters in the city, right?
Wahlberg:: Yeah, I mean he’s worked with Scorsese, all of Woody Allen’s movies. We’ve been fighting constantly since the movie started. Physically fighting. He ripped my jacket yesterday; I punched him in the back of the head.
Ferrell:: It gets uncomfortable.
Wahlberg:: I kind of shoved a chair out of the way with my foot. We hadn’t started shooting yet. He said, “Oh, they would never do that on a crime scene.” I was like, “Dude, we’re rehearsing, it’s a comedy. This ain’t “CSI”!” My character doesn’t give a sh*t, he smashes everything. Smash sh*t, break sh*t. Will gets me in his car, first thing I do is rip the visor off, smash the dashboard. That’s what I do.
Q: How realistic is this? Your movies have gotten pretty wacky in the past… Ferrell:: This might be the most realistic thing we’ve done in terms of creating… we are real detectives, and we want this stark, real, gritty background so when we throw in these jokes they bounce even higher.
Wahlberg:: Every time we’re doing something we’re trying to make each other laugh and say something funny. Adam’s always like, “Make sure you say something about the case…” (laughs)
Ferrell:: There aren’t any broad portrayals or super-over-the-top characters.
Wahlberg:: Certainly with me I’m trying to stay as committed as possible no matter how absurd it is, and hopefully that’ll translate as funny as opposed to doing pratfalls and sh*t.
Q: Mark, can you talk about shooting Derek Jeter? Is that something you wrote into the script? Wahlberg:: That was something they were nice enough to write in for me, and he was dumb enough to do it. No, I took great pleasure in that, especially after them winning the World Series.
Ferrell:: (laughs) We had to openly root for the Yankees this year.
Wahlberg:: We wanted them to show up in a good mood. The Red Sox were already out of it anyway, so I was okay with that. I got to have my cake and eat it, too. We were sitting there talking and laughing and I told him, “Do you know how this movie’s going to play like in Boston when I shoot you in the leg?” Just that is enough to cement me in Boston for the rest of my life.
Q: Do you and Adam go to a cottage for a few weeks to write the script? Ferrell:: This is actually the first movie we’ve done where I didn’t write the script with Adam. Chris Henchy and Adam wrote it. I kind of doubled back and did a rewrite with Adam. This was probably over the course of two-and-a-half months of writing, rewriting. Did a couple table reads of it just to focus it, then I joined in and we did two weeks. Three or four months. We spitball as many ideas as possible, whether they relate to the story or not. I would just e-mail these guys, “How about a scene where my character becomes convinced that he can shoot his gun in the precinct once.” They were like, “That’s going in the script.” (laughs)
Q: Are there action scenes and car chases? Ferrell:: Yeah. When you talk about what made you guys want to do a movie like this that was the whole other component. To get to add super-realistic, exciting action. Oliver Wood, our DP, shot all three “Bourne” movies. It’s the intense action you’ve come to expect along with the comedy.
Q: Will, is there a serious role in your future? Ferrell:: I am doing “Julius Caesar”… at my house. (laughs) I may do a smaller independent drama next year called “Everything Must Go,” that may start in March. That is a little closer to “Stranger Than Fiction.” It’s about a guy who lives on his front lawn. It’s drama with comedy infused.