While we now know Saturday Night Live was merely the beginning of a lifelong career in comedy for actor Will Ferrell, back in 2003 even the star himself wasn’t too sure about his future. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Ferrell opened up about the years directly following him leaving the late night comedy sketch show — and how he was worried his career might have been coming to a close.
After filming Old School and learning director Todd Phillips had to fight to keep Ferrell’s role in the film, Ferrell began filming the now iconic Christmas comedy Elf with quite a bit of doubt about the performance. Ferrell even revealed he distinctly remembers “running around New York in his silly yellow tights, thinking, ‘Boy, this could be the end,’” while the movie was filming. According to Ferrell, both he and his manager kept a pretty close eye on the reactions to the film’s screening leading up to its release, with his manager calling to provide him with updates on the audience’s reactions. While the family screen test reportedly “went great,” Ferrell’s manager told the actor they might get “eviscerated” by a group of USC frat boys who were next to review the film. However, Ferrell said shortly after the USC frat test ended, he got a call saying, “no, that group actually liked it, too.”
When the film finally opened at the box office, it raked in a whole lot of praise as well as a massive $220 million — a substantial profit for the $33 million dollar film. It also helped cement Ferrell as a movie star and was merely one film in a string of iconic movies the actor would star in the mid 2000s, preceding Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
Following the success of Elf, Ferrell says that a sequel film was written. However, while the film would have paid the actor a whopping $29 million, Ferrell said he ultimately turned it down after balking at its “rehashed premise” and subpar quality.
“I would have had to promote the movie from an honest place, which would’ve been, like, ‘Oh no, it’s not good. I just couldn’t turn down that much money.’ And I thought, ‘Can I actually say those words? I don’t think I can, so I guess I can’t do the movie.’”
While Elf 2 ultimately didn’t work out for the star, thankfully we can’t say the same about his career. Even today, the literal comedy giant continues to work both in front of and behind the camera, producing 11 upcoming projects and starring in six. His most recent endeavor, The Shrink Next Door, features Ferrell alongside Paul Rudd and premieres on Apple TV+ on November 12.