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America’s funniest actor is an avid runner and three-time marathon finisher.
Funny man Will Ferrell has starred in some of the most successful comedies of our time, including “Old School,” “Blades of Glory,” “Talladega Nights,” “Step Brothers,” “Elf” and “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” Just before “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” hit theaters last December, Competitor’s founding editor, Bob Babbitt, caught up with the 46-year-old movie star about his career, his running—yep, he runs 4 to 6 miles every other day and has completed three marathons and a few half marathons—and some of the hilarious videos on his comedy website, “Funny or Die.”
Will, you’ve run three marathons. Your first was in 2001 in New York City, where you ran 5:01. Then you ran the Stockholm Marathon in 4:28 in 2002 and a year later you ran your 3:56 PR at the 2003 Boston Marathon. If you kept that progression going, taking 30 minutes off every time out, four marathons from now, you’d be the world record-holder.
(Laughing.) I think I’ve slowed down a bit since my last marathon in Boston in 2003. Last October, it took me more than 2 hours to run the Rock ’n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon. That was a fun day though. We had 40 runners from “Funny or Die” run in that race.
Do people run up to you in a race and figure you’re going to be funny?
People are terribly underwhelmed when they recognize me in a race. There’s nothing funny going on. It’s just a lot of silence and pain.
At the Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon in Los Angeles, you were also a tad incognito with your hat, glasses and mustache—was that a real mustache or glue-on?
Real. I grew it for the filming of “Anchorman 2.” It’s funny … this is one of the first films in history to actually have a release day set before we had shot one frame of film!
I love Ron Burgundy. In your films you have played Frank the Tank, Chaz Michael Michaels, Buddy the Elf, Ricky Bobby and Ron Burgundy. Do you have a favorite?
I get kind of flabbergasted when people go through the list. To think that I’d even get to be on “Saturday Night Live” to begin with is unreal. A lot of people think that being on SNL is the golden ticket into movies. It has been for some people, but it’s kind of a crap shoot because sometimes it’s hard to make that transition. The fact that I’ve had some success and people watch our movies over and over again is pretty great. But if I had to pick one character, it would be Ron Burgundy. He became a legend in San Diego, which, of course, was discovered by the Germans in 1904.
And to think, if you hadn’t failed as a valet and as a bank teller, you might have had a real job by this point. As a bank teller weren’t you short $300 on day one and $200 on day two?
Which is why it became very apparent to me early on that I wasn’t suited for many lines of work. If I hadn’t made it in comedy, I don’t know what I would have done.
When we talked back in 2003, you had just played Mustafa in the Austin Powers films and co-starred in “Night at the Roxbury.” But your film career hadn’t really taken off yet. You told us about a movie you were working on at the time called “Old School.” You were excited about it, but you weren’t sure if and when it was coming out.
(Laughing.) That’s right. I was still at “Saturday Night Live,” and I hadn’t fully committed to movies. The studio had decided to delay the release of “Old School” from November to February, which is never a good thing. At that point, “Old School” was in the can and I really didn’t have any scripts lining up. Adam McKay [his longtime friend and writing partner] and I had pitched “Anchorman” to a bunch of studios, but they didn’t get it. There I was leaving Saturday Night Live and the only script that had come my way was about a guy who was a human but had been raised by elves and lived at the North Pole. As we’re shooting “Elf,” “Old School” came out and was a bit of a hit. So my first three films out of the gate were “Old School,” “Elf” and “Anchorman.” That was pretty great.