Will Ferrell has been the comedic genius behind classic laugh riots such as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Step Brothers. But you’ve never seen him speaking fluent Spanish in a Mexican western – until now.
Ferrell stars in Casa De Mi Padre, a priceless parody of a Spanish soap opera plot. Ferrell came to the Four Seasons Hotel in Miami Feb. 28 with two of his co-stars, Diego Luna and Genesis Rodriguez, to promote the film and fill reporters in on his dramatically different new role. The trio then appeared at the Mexico versus Colombia soccer game at Sun Life Stadium the following day to surprise fans with a cameo.
“Not being a native speaker, it was extremely difficult. But the whole concept was my idea, so I was happy to do it,” Ferrell said. “But those were intense days. The translator would show up at my house at 6 in the morning, and we’d spend an hour driving out to the set going over scenes. We’d work all day, drivehome together, and then go over the next day’s lines. I wanted to be as authentic as I could be.”
In the film, Ferrell’s character attempts to save his father’s ranch from one of Mexico’s most notorious drug lords. Ferrell’s brother in the film, who is played by Luna, shows up to help, but everything gets more complicated when Ferrell falls for his girl (played by Genesis Rodriguez).
“He was very impressive,” Luna said of Ferrell. “I remember goinghome and saying, ‘I have to do something. I can’t just gohome and relax and open a beer.’”
Ferrell’s love interest in the film (Rodriguez) was also a bit star struck working with the accomplished Ferrell, who still gets laughs from his wacky skits on “Saturday Night Live.” “My knees buckled in the audition, because I didn’t know he was going to be there and I was such a huge fan,” Rodriguez recalls. “It was a set with a lot of creativity, a lot of passion. We were extremely excited to be there, and keeping a straight face sometimes was very hard. I remember I had this horse scene and had to keep getting on the horse. I did so many takes. One time I was laying over the horse, and the horse just took off. It was really funny.”
Rodriguez, who was born in Miami and has starred in several telenovelas, was also excited to be part of such a pioneering project. “The thing I really want to stress about this movie is this is the first time anyone has ever done this,” Rodriguez said. “It’s history for Latinos and America that such an icon would take on such a huge risk.”
The leap of faith came naturally for Ferrell, who admits he feels “obligated” to take risks and keep his audience guessing.
“The script was originally written in English and then translated,” Ferrell explained. “Sometimes Diego would tell me ‘That’s a weird way to say that.’ But that was kind of the point, that my character spoke in this weird, formal way. And these brothers are from the same family, yet Raul is slang – and they love each other – but I’m this square weirdo. But I wanted the English-speaking audience to sit back and say, ‘Whoa, he sounds pretty good.’ I just thought that was a funnier choice.”
Speaking Spanish off the set to stay in character was another necessary challenge Ferrell faced with this film. “I had to continue speaking Spanish. I literally started dreaming in Spanish,” Ferrell said. “We shot this thing in about 23, maybe 25 days, and I think I had one day off for some odd reason and I got to just drive around, run errands and speak in English all day long. And I thought, ‘English is so easy!’ But I don’t want to make it sound like it was a chore, because obviously this was my whole idea.”
Although the film is a satire, keeping the Latino authenticity of the film was essential to Ferrell. “The most exciting day was when Matt Piedmont, our director, talked to Diego on the phone and said, ‘Diego, loved the script and thought it was smart, funny and satirical, and he has definite interest.’ And I thought, ‘Wow, that’s crazy. If we can get Diego Luna to be in this movie, it gives us a legit movie in terms of the Latino audience,” Ferrell said of his Mexican co-star, who is well known for his lead role in “Y Tu Mamá También.” “We had Diego in mind from the beginning for this.”
Casa De Mi Padre hits theaters March 16. Visit CasaDeMiPadreMovie.com.
Contact or follow Joanie Cox at Twitter.com/joaniecox.