Will Ferrell’s new comedy The Campaign — about a slick, smarmy long-term congressman (Ferrell) who becomes enmeshed in an ugly campaign against a highly unlikely political newbie (Zach Galifianakis) — raises a few questions that would make any politician squirm. Like, to what extent would you be willing to sell out yourself and your values to win an election? Or how would you handle it if, in the middle of a heated campaign, in front of the entire press corps, you accidentally punched a baby in the face?
With the movie rolling out in theaters Aug. 10, we figured we’d hit Ferrell with a few of our own awkward questions for our new issue on stands this Friday. Here is the full exchange — beard piñata, K-Stew scandal, and all.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Zach Galifianakis is one of the fastest-rising comedy stars around. I assume that, as competitors in the field of comedy, your bitter rivalry extends beyond this movie. So what are you better at than him?
WILL FERRELL: Well, first of all, I’m a better Greek-American than Zach. He really could care less about his heritage. I, on the other hand, am fiercely proud of my Greek-American heritage. I go to Greek restaurants and break plates. I’ve memorized My Big Fat Greek Wedding from beginning to end. I’m also better at eating hot dogs than Zach. I can eat about 23 in one sitting. Zach can maybe eat 19. Maybe.
Zach shaved his prodigious beard for this movie. What were the most interesting things that fell out of it during the process?
Ironically, a couple of coupons to Chick-fil-A and a refrigerator magnet for a place called The Little Shrimp, which is a gay bar.
What did you guys do with all of the leftover hair?
There was so much hair that we made a piñata in the shape of a beard and stuffed it with beard hair — and we still had leftover hair.
Your character, Congressman Cam Brady, punches a baby in this movie. What sort of training did you do for that scene?
The thought of punching a baby is so horrifying to me. But I had to get over that, so in preparation, I punched adorable puppies and other cute infant animals.
If you were actually running for Congress, what could opposition research discover about you that would torpedo your campaign?
That I came up with the phrase “You go, girl!” and the [catchphrase] “Winning!” for Charlie Sheen.
Tom Hanks is widely considered the mayor of Hollywood. If you were running to unseat him, what sort of negative attack ad would you run about him?
First of all, that Tom Hanks is not his real name. His real name — and this is not a joke — is Chip Pharttman, pronounced “Fartman.” I’m not trying to be crass — this is a fact.
Mitt Romney is refusing to release his old tax returns to the public. Will you release yours?
No way! Are you crazy?
So what are you trying to hide?
Here’s the thing: I have absolutely nothing to hide. Did I forget to pay taxes from 2000 to 2008 because Wesley Snipes was my business manager? Yes. And do I shoot most of my movies in northern Albania so that my income is non-taxable? Of course. But I have done nothing wrong. [pauses] Wait, I forgot that I also own five Nike factories in Upper Mongolia where I’ve trained goats to make shoes for pennies on the dollar — all non-taxable.
Anyone aspiring to higher office needs to take a stand on the world’s most pressing issues. So should Rob Pattinson forgive Kristen Stewart?
I can’t stop crying about this. What they had was so magical, so special. I’m still shocked and appalled and heartbroken. I haven’t slept in days. [pauses] Wait, what was the question?
The Olympics are capturing everyone’s attention right now. Would you ever consider doing a comedy involving sports — for example, figure skating or soccer or basketball or NASCAR racing?
No, that’s dumb. Those are all terrible ideas for movies.
Your last movie was the $6 million independent film Casa de Mi Padre, which was filmed entirely in Spanish. What other kinds of similar blatant sellout paycheck roles can we expect from you in the future?
I know, I couldn’t help myself. Currently, I’m working on a $500,000 biopic about Napoleon’s fifth mistress’ brother, entitled The Man Napoleon Never Knew, in Burbank. It’s looking like another tentpole movie for the summer of 2013. What can I say?
Many films about politics have been nominated for Academy Awards: The Manchurian Candidate, All the King’s Men, Primary Colors, Bulworth. Let’s start your Oscar campaign now. Why do you deserve a Best Actor nomination for this movie?
Here’s the thing: I’m so funny in this movie that, at a certain point, you stop laughing. You stop laughing and start thinking to yourself, “Am I watching one of the greatest performances of all time? No, I’m not.” But still, I should be nominated for an Oscar just so one can see me sitting next to Helen Mirren while I smoke a pipe.
The red polyester suit you wore as Ron Burgundy in Anchorman is currently up for auction. The bidding starts at $2,000. What could you tell us about the suit that would drive the price higher? For instance, did you “accidentally” leave anything in the pockets?
There’s actually $2,000 in twenties sewn into the lining of the jacket. So if you get the jacket for a bid of $2,000, you will get your money back.