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Ironically, Will Ferrell, a renowned and nimble improviser, hewed closer to the script than he might have on his newest movie ‘Casa de mi Padre’, mostly because he is not fluent in Spanish.
“A lot of it was rote memorization,” Ferrell explains. “I had probably a good month before filming, I would work with a translator three to four times a week on the script, just going over pronunciation, going over the scenes, going over the right kind of cadence with the sentences, that sort of thing. And then every day we would drive to set together and go over that day’s work so that hopefully when we began our day of filming, no one was waiting on me to learn the scene.”
“Will is undisputedly the Improv King but he couldn’t really do that on this one. It was a brave thing for him to do – like when they made Rocky fight southpaw – let’s see if you can do it with one hand tied behind your back – which he did – and then some,” says director Matt Piedmont. “Will is a total genius.
That word gets thrown around a lot but with him it’s true. His instincts are otherworldly and he is fearless and commits completely. He likes to be challenged yet he is the most generous performer I have ever seen. The thought of him speaking Spanish is insane but if you know Will, you know somehow it will become completely legitimate and logical and a blast.”
Ferrell’s dedication to his version of Spanish immersion impressed his cast mates.
“Working with Will was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had. I really like the guy. He is such a giving man and works so hard and had such a heavy weight on his shoulders. Doing a film in Spanish when he speaks the Spanish he speaks? Oh my God, it must have made him a little bit crazy. But he really went for it and was so committed, really amazing job,” Diego Luna says.
He adds that Ferrell’s limited grasp of Spanish made for some very funny cinematic moments, especially because Piedmont encouraged his Spanish-speaking cast to be spontaneous and creative.
“Matt would always allow us to do anything we wanted. The first day I realized that what was on the page was the beginning of something that was going to be completely different in the end than what was written. When you’re there, in wardrobe, you have the props, ideas start to come and Matt allowed us to explore anything.
The improvising was fun but very unfair with Will because we had to improvise in Spanish. It was very funny because Will would look straight at me with a face like, I can’t believe you are saying this, but the reality was that he was thinking, what IS this guy saying, what should I do? So he would have this very intense look when I was trying to improvise something,” Luna recalls.
Ferrell thoroughly enjoyed his foray into the Spanish language and sees it as an opportunity to expand his horizons.
“I think there’s a whole opportunity out there for me to take control of the Spanish language market in a way that’s never happened for a non-native speaker. I have 17 projects in development, mostly in Spanish, some in Korean and one in German. It’s an exciting time,” Ferrell says.
Piedmont faced an equivalent challenge in that he also does not speak Spanish – and yet agreed to direct a Spanish language film featuring some of Mexico’s finest actors.
“Matt did an amazing job of not only working on a movie in a foreign language – and keep in mind, very few people outside the actors spoke Spanish – but Matt was able to get all the actors on the same page,” Ferrell says.
Image Courtesy of Casa de mi Padre