There's a moment when you interview a celebrity when they ask for your indulgence. "Do you mind if I smoke?" is common. "Do you mind if we do this in the bathroom?" is unique to Will Ferrell. The professional actor and comedian stars in this weekend's drama/comedy Everything Must Go, based on the Raymond Carver short story Why Don't You Dance, about a man who loses his job, his wife, his house, his car and his bank account over the course of one particularly bad day and has to sell all of his other possessions in a yard sale to get by. We sat down with Mr. Ferrell – in the bedroom, thank you very much – to discuss the unusual film, his acting style, and his roles in such diverse projects as The Office, Anchorman 2, The Beastie Boys' Fight for Your Right Revisited, Melinda & Melinda (really) and learn what his dream project really is.
Crave Online: How long have you been at this today?
Will Ferrell: …Eight?
Crave Online: Oh geez. [Editor's Note: It is now 5pm.] Is this your favorite part of the job?
Will Ferrell: (Whispers intensely) – This is my favorite part…
Crave Online: Oh god…
Will Ferrell: No, no, no, this is… I like the long form interview.
Crave Online: Me too.
Will Ferrell: So much more than the five minute TV…
Crave Online: Oh I hate that. All they want is something like, “Oh, did you ever have a garage sale?”
Will Ferrell: Yeah.
Crave Online: Let’s talk about the movie. Were you a Raymond Carver fan before this?
Will Ferrell: I had no idea who he was.
Crave Online: Oh thank god, neither did I! I knew about Short Cuts, but I’ve never seen it. I’m so embarrassed.
Will Ferrell: Right! That was based on some of his work too. But no, I didn’t know anything about him and I just read Dan (Rush)’s script. Then when I doubled back and read the short story that he based it on, it made me love the script even more. Because I think he really captured kind of the stark quality of Carver’s work, and all the kind of unspoken…
Crave Online: I was actually surprised by how stark the film was. You hear the concept and you can’t tell if this is going to be a family thing, maybe a little Capra-esque, and it’s so melancholic. I was kind of shocked.
Will Ferrell: It’s funny, I’ve talked about the movie in the short, kind of two-line pitch and people start laughing.
Crave Online: It sounds funny.
Will Ferrell: And I’m like, “Well…”
Crave Online: No, you might want to kill yourself by the end of this film! I was talking to a few people after the screening, and we weren’t entirely confident that you weren’t going to kill yourself.
Will Ferrell: That’s what I love.
Crave Online: You’ve done a couple of other non-conventional movies, but you tend to focus on the more… I don’t want to say ‘family-oriented,’ but ‘for all audiences’ kind of stuff.
Will Ferrell: Yeah.
Crave Online: Did anybody try to tell you not to do this one? Did anyone say that maybe this isn’t marketable? Or are you just that powerful?
Will Ferrell: (Whispers) – I am that powerful… (Normal) – No, you know, I’m lucky enough to kind of work with a manager and agent who are not afraid of that, and actually respect a choice like. Actually, they read it first and were like, “You should read this, it’s really good. You know, it’s pretty heavy duty, but it feels like it would be kind of cool.”
Crave Online: It’s a good role for you. One thing this required from a lead actor was a lot of commitment to character, and never letting it go jokey when it’s funny. That’s something a lot of people admire about your work. You’re very committed…
Will Ferrell: Oh, thank you!
Crave Online: Are you method, or is this coming from somewhere else?
Will Ferrell: You know, I’m not method in that strict use of the word. But I’ve always had a great amount of focus.
Crave Online: Do you stay in character on set a lot?
Will Ferrell: No, I wouldn’t… Yeah, I’m not talented enough to do that.
Crave Online: (Laughs) – Or un-talented enough!
Will Ferrell: But let’s just say that this piece of material wasn’t, like… There were definitely days when I wasn’t sitting around joking with everyone. I had to just be… contemplative.
Crave Online: Did you get really sick of Pabst Blue Ribbon [Ferrell's of choice in Everything Must Go]? Or was that not even in the cans?
Will Ferrell: We had water-filled cans, and then the real stuff. For the most part I just used water, because we’re shooting out in Arizona, I didn’t want to dehydrate. The next thing you know I’ve got heatstroke. And then sometimes I went for the real stuff, when it was at the end of the day and it didn’t matter.
Crave Online: Can you tell which takes were the real stuff?
Will Ferrell: No, I never actually had enough to cross that barrier.
Crave Online: I asked some of our readers if they had any questions I should ask you, and there’s that stood out. Here’s one: “Did existentialism start with Albert Camus or is it more deeply rooted in the works of Nietzsche?” I just wanted to give that smartass his moment in the sun.
Will Ferrell: Yeah… Camus for sure. I follow… whatever President Bush reads.
Crave Online: Let’s talk about Fight for Your Right Revisited, the Beastie Boys film you just made. That’s a monster of a short film.
Will Ferrell: Yeah!
Crave Online: How did that come together? Were you contacted by The Beastie Boys themselves?
Will Ferrell: Yeah, they literally reached out to all those people…
Crave Online: Did they approach you specifically to play Ad-Rock?
Will Ferrell: Uh… I guess, I don’t know! I guess so. I think it’s just one of those things that, as a credit to them, pretty much everyone just responded like, “What? Be in a Beastie Boys video? Done.” John C. [Reilly]’s really good friends with them. He knows them pretty well. Maybe he got to pick, but no, I was just happy to…
Crave Online: Was it a long shoot? It’s hard to tell how much you’re actually in (based on the preview).
Will Ferrell: I did everything that I did in a day. I think John, Jack [Black] and I did all of our stuff in one day. And the other guys might have been over two days.
Crave Online: Has any director ever suggested that you play a role with a limp? (Long beat) – See, I loved Melinda & Melinda [in which Ferrell played an actor who does every role with a limp]…
Will Ferrell: (Remembers) – God, that’s funny… That’s such a Woody Allen joke. Uh, no.
Crave Online: That’s never come up? No one’s ever had the balls?
Will Ferrell: That was kind of… There were some moments when I was making that movie when I was kind of like, “Really?”
Crave Online: Well, you were in the funny version…
Will Ferrell: Yeah, it was in the funny version. But sometimes…
Crave Online: Okay, I am legally required to ask about Anchorman 2. I know you’re probably sick of it…
Will Ferrell: No, no, no!
Crave Online: Not the movie! I just mean people asking questions.
Will Ferrell: No! We’re never sick of it, because it just, once again, reinforces that people would love to see a sequel.
Crave Online: We would.
Will Ferrell: We keep trying to tell that to the powers that be at Paramount, and it’s fallen on deaf ears.
Crave Online: Is there a script already? If they gave you the greenlight would you be able to just go?
Will Ferrell: No. The irony is that they were begging us for the longest time, then we were like, “Wait, we think we have a concept,” and we talked to Steve [Carrell] and Paul [Rudd], and they were like, “We’re in!”
Crave Online: Did they not like the concept? Were they like, “Oh, The Human Centipede already did that?”
Will Ferrell: No, they’re just very much driven – as is the way it’s going in Hollywood – that, “We ran the numbers, and it doesn’t work.” So they’re just have these computer models, that they plug in actors and what movies they’ve made, and how the foreign… It’s their money, though, too.
Crave Online: It’s always this perpetual struggle between people who make good movies, and the people who have to fund that. You always have to explain the movie to mathematicians…
Will Ferrell: But we love that we keep getting asked by people.
Crave Online: Eva Mendes told me that it’s like her Citizen Kane.
Will Ferrell: Yeah. I think so…
Crave Online: That’s pretty adorable.
Will Ferrell: I know. She is pretty adorable.
Crave Online: I don’t watch TV, but I hear you’re on The Office.
Will Ferrell: (Laughs)
Crave Online: That’s not a joke. But you’re only on for a brief stint and a lot of people were wondering if there was any chance you’d be coming back next season.
Will Ferrell: No, that was just a four-episode arc and that’s what I did. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but no, there’s no imminent plans.
Crave Online: Last question… Again, you have a lot of people supporting you. You get to pick and choose your own projects. What do you want to do that you haven’t done yet?
Will Ferrell: (Thinks) – I’d love… I thought it would be interesting to take something from Shakespeare and do it with all comedic actors.
Crave Online: Serious drama?
Will Ferrell: Yeah, and see if it played. Like, if you did Hamlet with a bunch of us, would it play as comedy? Would it still be serious, or would the joke be that it’s a little bit of both?
Crave Online: A lot of people might be upset and say, “How dare you?”
Will Ferrell: Yeah, but that kind of intrigues me. I don’t know if they’d give me any money for it.
Everything Must Go opens in theaters on Friday, May 13th.