Will Ferrell as Villain and Good Guy
By Krystle Ralston
Will Ferrell is known for his hilarious and outrageous characters in film and television, including impressions of former president George W. Bush on Saturday Night Live and starring roles in such comedies as Anchorman and Elf.
Most of the time, he plays the hero – though often an unlikely one. But in a new holiday season movie targeting kids 12 and under, Ferrell, who has three children himself, is working the other side of the fence.
“It’s always fun to play the villain,” he says in a recent phone interview about Megamind, his new animated movie from Dream Works (opening Nov. 5 and rated PG). “One of the things that was so appealing to me about this movie was that through the course of this journey, Megamind [the character] gets to do both.”
In the new picture, Ferrell plays the eponymous super-villain, an egomaniac alien who suddenly gets a second chance to make things right after nearly destroying the world in his attempt to control it.
This chance at redemption comes after a fierce battle over the world’s future between him and Metro Man, a superhero voiced by Brad Pitt. At first, Megamind’s attempts to wreak havoc on Earth’s inhabitants are thwarted. But when he ultimately wins the battle, things take an unexpected turn.
Suddenly, with no one to stop him, the arch villain discovers he is actually obsolete. His persona of evil requires a mirror image of good if he intends to continue his climb up the bad ladder. So he enlists a young nobody to serve as his new enemy. When the new superhero (Hal, voiced by Jonah Hill) decides to join him – instead of fight him – Megamind has no choice but to step up and save the day.
Good and Evil
This twist on the good versus evil theme has parallels to another recent animated film. In Despicable Me, a character initially portrayed as evil turns out to be a halfway decent guy.
“I think it’s a theme that connects with people,” says Ferrell. “Despite how bad you may think you are, there’s always hope for redemption.”
his being an original story, he was able to put his own spin on the wacky Megamind.
“It was an open, blank slate,” he explains. “I thought it would be funny to do someone who over-enunciates and articulates his speech … . He’s a guy who is supposed to be menacing and evil, but he’s really just very silly.”
For Ferrell, who has always used physical action to emphasize his comedic talents, the challenge of the role lay in having to rely only on his voice.
“It’s kind of hard; it takes getting used to in a way,” he says. “I found it challenging when you have to convey a certain degree of emotion or subtle changes and just do it with your voice.”
Once a Class Clown
Before he became a stand-up superstar, Ferrell was a class clown in Irvine, Calif., where he attended University High School and gave the morning announcements – putting his comedic gifts to work and giving fellow students a preview of his future in slapstick comedy.
“I never imagined when I was doing sketches over the intercom for the school that it would lead to starring in a Dream Works animated movie,” he says.
With only his voice, Ferrell was able to take his experience in sketch comedy and apply it to his animated character. No stranger to improvisation, he honed his skills on Saturday Night Live, performing live action skits and embracing the constant varying of the material.
“Working on a show like Saturday Night Live for seven years … it was comedy and performance boot camp,” he says. “You always had to think on your feet and be ready to adapt to any sort of change.”
That training served him well in Megamind, allowing him to “think of new jokes as [I was] recording [my] voice.”
So what would Ferrell be if he were a superhero?
“I would be Vegetable Man,” he says, “and my superpowers would be to get children to eat their vegetables.”
Krystle Ralston is contributor for Dominion Parenting Media.