John William "Will" Ferrell (/ˈfɛrəl/; born July 16, 1967) is an American actor, comedian, producer, and writer. He 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 comedy films such as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights, Blades of Glory, and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. 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.
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 English, German, and Irish. He has a younger brother named Patrick. When he was eight year sold, 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 and captain of the basketball team, as well as serving on the 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. 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, but 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 a job as a hotel valet where, 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, but 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.
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 decline 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 US 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 favored 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 Jesse Ventura, U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and Cuban President Fidel Castro.
His original characters included Morning Latte co-host Tom Wilkins, Ed the Horse's twin brother Ned, fictional Blue Öyster Cult member Gene Frenkle (physically modeled after the band's 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 was turned into a feature film in 1998's A Night at the Roxbury. Ferrell became the highest paid cast member of Saturday Night Live in 2001 with a season salary of $350,000.
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 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.
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 after his departure from SNL was as 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, while Talladega Nights remains his highest grossing live-action opening ($47 million). 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 were the first two installments in the Mediocre American Man Trilogy. The third film in the trilogy, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, was released in 2013.
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' center 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 favor of dramas.
In May 2009, it was announced that Ferrell was in talks to star in Neighborhood 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 appeared in the 2011 video for "Make Some Noise" by the Beastie Boys, in the front of a limo, playing a cowbell. He 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 is told in melodramatic telenovela form and features English-language subtitles.
Ferrell and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, who have had a long running joke feud over how both look like each other, appeared on the May 22, 2014 episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon for a charity drum-off battle. Despite Smith clearly giving the better performance, Ferrell was named the winner and awarded a giant gold cowbell. Both were joined by Smith's Chili Peppers bandmates for a performance of "Don't Fear the Reaper" with Ferrell playing cowbell. On June 10, 2014, Ferrell and Smith challenged Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich to a drum-off with Ferrell saying Ulrich looks "eerily similar" to the two of them. Ulrich accepted the challenge two days later.
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 as well as President Business in the LEGO movie, released in 2014.
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.
Ferrell played in 5 games of MLB spring training on March 12, 2015 as part of promoting a Funny or Die comedy special. He played for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, and the San Francisco Giants, playing all 10 positions, including designated hitter. According to Baseball Reference, Ferrell faced and retired one batter - pitching on behalf of the Los Angeles Dodgers who then traded him to the San Diego Padres. The memorabilia from his one-day professional baseball career is to be sold at auctioned and the proceeds being sent to 2 cancer charities. Ferrell went 0-2 with two strikeouts over the day, but managed to foul off a 92 mph fastball from the Giants Jean Machi.
Creating and producing:
Funny or Die:
In April 2007, Ferrell launched "Funny or Die", a streaming video website where short comedy films are uploaded and voted on by users. The site features The Landlord, starring Ferrell and Pearl McKay, the toddler daughter of Funny or Die co-founder Adam McKay. Ferrell's character is harassed for the rent by his landlady, a swearing, beer-loving, two-year-old girl (played by McKay's daughter, Pearl). Child psychologists have criticized Ferrell and the McKay family for child exploitation, to which McKay responded:
Fortunately she is in this great stage now where she repeats anything you say to her and then forgets it right away, which is key. She has not said the 'B-word' since we shot the thing.
They followed with the release of a video entitled "Good Cop, Baby Cop" which also starred baby Pearl; the end of the video stated that this would be her final appearance and wished her a happy "baby retirement."
In September 2008, Ferrell released another video entitled "Will Ferrell Answers Internet Questions" where he takes some pressing questions and comments from his fans.
Another Ferrell appearance on "Funny or Die" is in the video called "Green Team," featuring also McKay and John C Reilly. It shows militant ecologic activists terrorizing the crew on a filming set.
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.
The Chris Gethard Show:
Ferrell will be one of the executive producers on the Fusion show The Chris Gethard Show.
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 Orange County 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).
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 Premier League team Chelsea, representing Chelsea as honorary captain in the coin toss before the Chelsea-Inter Milan match at the Rose Bowl on July 21, 2009. He also 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 stated: "I don't know how I got on the list. I sign a lot of autographs." He has, however, 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 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.
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, during which they had a humorous conversation about hairdressing. Ferrell supported Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election. In February 2013, Ferrell endorsed Eric Garcetti for mayor of Los Angeles.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997),
A Night at the Roxbury (1998),
The Thin Pink Line (1998),
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999),
The Suburbans (1999),
The Ladies Man (2000),
Drowning Mona (2000),
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001),
Boat Trip (2002),
Old School (2003),
Melinda and Melinda (2004),
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004),
Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie (2004),
Starsky & Hutch (2004),
Oh, What a Lovely Tea Party (2004),
Wedding Crashers (2005),
The Producers (2005),
Winter Passing (2005),
Kicking & Screaming (2005),
The Wendell Baker Story (2005),
Stranger Than Fiction (2006),
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006),
Curious George (2006),
Blades of Glory (2007),
Step Brothers (2008),
Land of the Lost (2009),
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (2009),
The Other Guys (2010),
Everything Must Go (2010),
Casa de Mi Padre (2012),
Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie (2012),
The Campaign (2012),
The Internship (2013),
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013),
The Lego Movie (2014),
Get Hard (2015),
A Deadly Adoption (2015),
Daddy's Home (2015),
Zoolander 2 (2016),
Awards and nominations:
2001: Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety Or Music Program (for Saturday Night Live),
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),
2005: Worst Screen Combo (with Nicole Kidman) for Bewitched,
2005: Worst Actor for Bewitched and Kicking & Screaming,
2009: Worst Actor for Land of the Lost,
2009: Worst Screen Combo (with any co-star, creature or "comic riff") for Land of the Lost,
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,
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.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license