Will Ferrell

Active - 1997 - 2022  |   Born - Jul 16, 1967 in Irvine, California, United States  |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Rebecca Flint Marx

Another member of the Saturday Night Live Screen Actors Guild, Will Ferrell made his major film debut as Steve Butabi, one of the spectacularly clueless brothers who serve as the protagonists of A Night at the Roxbury (1998). The character originated on SNL, where Ferrell had been a regular since 1995, entertaining audiences with his celebrity impressions and such characterizations as Craig the Spartan Cheerleader and junior high-school teacher Marty Culp.

Born in Irvine, CA, on July 16, 1967, Ferrell attended the University of Southern California, graduating with a degree in sports information. Following graduation, he worked as a sportscaster on a weekly cable show, but he soon found his interests leaning toward acting and standup comedy. He enrolled in classes and workshops given at a local community college, and after only a year of training, he was invited to join the Groundlings, an infamous L.A. comedy improv group. Ferrell's involvement with the Groundlings led to his SNL discovery; from that point on, the previously unknown comic found himself enjoying growing recognition and a steady paycheck.

Although A Night at the Roxbury turned out to be a complete and utter flop, it did little to prevent Ferrell from finding more screen work; the following year, he could be seen as journalist Bob Woodward in Dick and as the object of fellow SNL castmate Molly Shannon's unwanted affection in Superstar. A series of scene-stealing supporting roles followed for Ferrell in such films as Drowning Mona, Zoolander, and, most-notably, Old School. In the 2003 Todd Phillips film, Ferrell sunk his teeth into the role of Frank "The Tank", delivering several lines that would forever be quoted by frat guys the world over.

But it was Ferrell's other 2003 film that truly announced his arrival as a Hollywood star. As the oversized titular character in director Jon Favreau's holiday comedy Elf, Ferrell delighted audiences and critics alike, making the modestly-budgeted film a surprise box-office smash.

In the wake of Elf's success, Ferrell's 2004 plate was full, starring as fictional '70s TV newscaster Ron Burgundy in Anchorman (a film which had enough outtakes to merit an entire second feature upon being released to home video), taking a role in the Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda, and signing on for lead roles in two long-anticipated projects: the filmed adaptation of John Kennedy Toole's cult novel A Confederacy of Dunces and the big-screen version of the classic sitcom Bewitched. Though the curse that had plagued the big-screen adaptation of Confederacy seemed to persist when, by mid-2006, there still seemed to be no signs that the film would be going before the cameras anytime soon, Ferrell continued to crack-up audiences with a hilarious cameo in the popular Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson comedy Weddng Crashers, as well as a memorable turn in The Producers - a big screen adaptation of the smash Broadway hit that was inspired by Mel Brooks' 1968 comedy classic of the same name.

As the 2000's unfolded, it became clear that Ferrell's comic fame could not be matched. He would score box office gold with many movies to comes, such as Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Stranger Than Fiction, Blades of Glory, Step-Brothers, Everything Must Go, and The Campaign, in addition to popular runs on TV series like The Office and Eastbound & Down.

Movie Highlights

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  • Read public address announcements in high school and often imitated other students.
  • Worked as a sportscaster on a weekly show broadcast on a local cable-access channel.
  • Was a member of the Groundlings comedy group.
  • Was inspired by the comedy of Chevy Chase, and admires the versatility of Bill Murray's career.
  • Ran in several marathons, including the Boston Marathon in 2003.
  • Launched the Web site "Funny or Die" along with Adam McKay and Chris Henchy in April 2007.
  • Made his Broadway debut in 2009 in the political spoof Will Ferrell: You're Welcome America---A Final Night With George W. Bush.
  • Spent time in the Swedish tundra to appear in a 2009 episode of Man vs. Wild.
  • Was a guest on Conan O'Brien's first and last episodes as host of The Tonight Show (he also appeared on O'Brien's final episode of Late Night); his third son was born mere hours after he and his wife donned hippie garb and performed "Free Bird" to close out O'Brien's stint on The Tonight Show.