Will Ferrell unleashed countless impressions during his Saturday Night Live days, yet never zeroed in on Robert De Niro. That changes with new comedy The House, which finally gives the comic actor a chance to do his own riff on Bob’s Casino mogul.
The House reunites Ferrell with fellow SNL alum Amy Poehler to play Scott and Kate Johansen, suburban parents in crisis mode after their daughter loses her college scholarship. Desperate to raise $50,000 over a summer, the pair teams with their ne’er-do-well neighbor Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) to convert his house into a casino — and it’s not long before Ferrell is making cheaters and debtors play with pounds of flesh, De Niro-style.
The collaboration between two of comedy’s biggest stars was a long time coming; despite their shared status as two of SNL‘s recent greats they only appeared in one season (and one skit) together.
In a sitdown with Yahoo Movies, Ferrell talked about recruiting Poehler as his screen wife, the secret to acting drunk, and why, despite his recent run of sequels, we may not see another Step Brothers-style wine mixer.
Yahoo Movies: I think you’ve accidentally made a very political movie. This might be the best argument yet for free public college tuition.
Will Ferrell: [Laughs] It is a funny afterthought. It obviously is true [how expensive college tuition is], but that was a total happy accident.
Look what these maniacs had to do to get their kid into college.
Exactly. Bernie Sanders is right, we need free college. And no Trump University.
How are we supposed to buy that you and Amy Poehler are old enough to be sending a kid to college in the first place, though?
Well, thank you. We got busy early. I think that’s the other message of the movie [laughs]. Have kids early. Well, it’s a movie.
Obviously you and Amy go way back to your SNL days. Have you long been conspiring to make a movie together?
Yeah, it is funny. For two people who’ve known each other as long as we have, who love each other’s work, it took a while to get the band together. There’s this perception that we were on Saturday Night Live together. Yes, but we only overlapped one season. That was Amy’s first year, so she’s just getting her sea legs, and that was my last year, so I was already like, “I don’t have to be in too many sketches.” [Laughs]
In fact, we got to the end of the year and we were like, “We haven’t written anything [together].” So we wrote a sketch together, which was a delight, where we’re the worst background players in a movie. We’re bad extras. Kirsten Dunst was the host, and she’s also an extra. We keep being told, “Don’t look at the camera. Just act natural.” And we can’t do it.
We did Blades of Glory, but we were in separate story arcs, so we didn’t really intersect. So it was just one of those things where we would always run into each other and [say], “We gotta do something.” This came along and I thought, “Let’s reach out to Amy.” She was my No. 1 [choice] to play my wife. And thank God she said yes.
So you roped her into this.
Because [co-writers] Andrew [Jay Cohen] and Brendan [O’Brien] came and pitched the whole idea to me first. I loved the premise, I loved the thought of a big ensemble comedy. And I loved the fact that Scott and Kate would be a team together. Not only a team, story-wise, but a team comedically. A lot of these movies typically fall into the wife going, “What’s going on? Scott? You’ve got a lot of explaining to do!”
And I hear you also roped your son into this. He plays the 11-year-old DJ at the pool party.
Yes, Magnus my son. As the movie goes on, Frank continues to upgrade the casino. We’ve got a spa, he’s converted his pool into the way all Vegas places have the cabanas, and a DJ. And we thought it’d be so funny to have this 10- or 11-year-old kid from the neighborhood as the DJ. And my son had taken some DJ classes with his buddy Nicky… So Magnus got to come and miss a day of school and be the DJ.
Was this the first thing he’s done?
No, I put all three of my sons in Anchorman 2. They’re actually in the beginning of the movie where Ron Burgundy is announcing the dolphin show at Sea World, and kind of down-and-out. There’s a cutaway to these three tired kids and those are all three of my boys [laughs].
There are some moments of intense intoxication in The House. What is your secret to playing drunk?
Probably just remembering the times I’ve been drunk [laughs]. And what that felt like. And it’s pretty natural.
So you think you’ve gotten better at it over the years, with more experience to build on? You’ve perfected it beyond Old School?
Sadly, yes. I did that Everything Must Go, a smaller movie where I was kind of a beer-drunk alcoholic, but it was serious in tone. So there I had play the slow-burn of just drinking beers all day. I had to slow everything down.
The Daddy’s Home 2 trailer dropped recently. What do Mel Gibson and John Lithgow bring to the equation?
They were awesome. John plays my dad; Mel plays Mark’s dad. With John we see why Brad is the way he is, and with Mel we see why Mark is the way he is. John and I have a relationship where we overshare, we’re way too connected with our feelings. I think he’s the funniest storyteller, and he tells these horribly long, boring stories. We’re openly affectionate with each other. And Mark is very much estranged from his father, who was the deadbeat dad who was making out with the neighborhood hussy at the school pageant while Mark was always looking for just an ounce of attention from his dad. So you kind of have these two dynamics going on. We had a great time, it was great to work with those guys.
You mentioned the affection. There’s a long kiss between you and John in the trailer. How much time did you have to spend kissing John Lithgow?
An entire day. We just got into the habit of it, where we’d even kiss off-camera while Mark was doing his coverage [solo angles]… But no, what a sweetheart. He just approached everything with such excitement. Obviously he’s a great actor, but to have him be in a big broad comedy was great.
We’ve seen Anchorman return, we’ve seen Zoolander return, we’re going to see the daddies from Daddy’s Home return… when are we going to see Step Brothers 2?
That I don’t know. That was a [conversation at one point], then we chose to do Anchorman. And then John [C. Reilly] and I subsequently did Holmes and Watson. And we’re talking about doing another one. So I don’t know. That one may just sit up on the shelf.
What about the rap album? Wasn’t there supposed to be a Step Brothers rap album?
There was. Yeah, we talked a mean game. We were like, “OK, we’re going to do one. Let’s start thinking about songs!” And then everyone got busy with their own stuff.
The House hits theaters Friday. Watch the trailer:
Read more on Yahoo Movies: