Will Ferrell Reveals That He Originally Thought ‘Elf’ Would Ruin His Film Career

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Will Ferrell revealed Thursday that he originally feared that one of his most iconic roles – that of Buddy the Elf in the 2003 comedy Elf – would completely derail his career, ET Online is reporting.

The 51-year-old comic stopped by The Late Late Show With James Corden on Thursday night to promote his latest release, the upcoming Holmes and Watson, and the conversation turned to the early-aughts holiday film.

Though it’s considered a holiday classic now, at the time of filming, Ferrell wasn’t so sure. In fact, Ferrell, who at the time was fresh off of his seven-year stint as a fixture of Saturday Night Live, and filming his first major role post-SNL, said that it was in the early days of filming that he realized he might have made a mistake. What tipped him off? The costume.

“The first two weeks of shooting were kind of all the exteriors in New York. So, still kind of discovering what this movie’s gonna be and running around New York City in yellow tights. People recognizing me from Saturday Night Live going, ‘You OK? What’s going on?'”

He realized immediately that the movie could go one of two ways: it could either be a “home run,” as he described it. Or he could join the long list of once-promising actors (including many SNL alums) whose careers were done in by a singular bad choice.

“People are going to go, ‘Whatever happened to you? Why did you do that one about the elf?'”

Ferrell also admits that another actor in the movie acted as if he had doubts about the film, although the actor in question, unlike Ferrell, was well-established in Hollywood, a bankable star taking just another job in the midst of a long and successful career. We’re of course referring to James Caan, who played Buddy’s cantankerous biological father. Will says that Caan ribbed him for his over-the-top performance of Buddy.

“I just love the thought that there we were, working every day, and he’s going back to his hotel room going, ‘Geez, get me out of this one.’ That was fun.”

Of course, Elf didn’t sink Ferrell’s career – Ferrell admits that “the stars aligned” and made the film a holiday classic, if not a cultural touchstone.

As for Will, he’s since gone on to be a Hollywood leading man, putting in iconic comedy performances in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and the Anchorman franchise, among others.