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Will Ferrell Explains Why He Turned Elf 2 (And A Huge Paycheck) Down

Will Ferrell as Buddy in Elf
(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Pre-2003, along with being well known from his time on Saturday Night Live, Will Ferrell had also assembled a solid collection of film credits, from the first two Austin Powers movies to Zoolander. However, 2003 proved be an integral year for his movie career. In addition to being part of Old School’s ensemble cast, Ferrell starred as Buddy in Elf, which was so critically and commercially successful that there were talks about making a sequel. Ferrell was even offered a huge paycheck to return for Elf 2, but he had an understandable reason for turning down the project.

During an extensive interview with THR, it was noted that an Elf sequel was written following the first movie pulling in over $223 million at the worldwide box office, and Will Ferrell would have reportedly collected $29 million to reprise Buddy. However, Ferrell ultimately wasn’t interest in Elf 2’s “rehashed premise.” As he told the outlet:

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.'

$29 million is a lot of money, but it wasn’t enough to convince Will Ferrell that doing Elf 2 was a worthwhile endeavor, let alone do press for it. As such, the antics of Will Ferrell’s Buddy remain a one-and-done entertainment offering, although in 2014, a stop-motion adaptation called Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas aired on NBC, with The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons voicing that version of Buddy. The only cast member from the original Elf who returned for the special was Ed Asner, who reprised Santa Claus. 

It’s worth noting that Will Ferrell’s dissatisfaction with Elf 2’s story might not be the only reason he wasn’t willing to tackle the project. In September 2020, James Caan, who played Walter Hobbs in the original movie, claimed that Elf 2 fell apart because Ferrell didn’t get along with director Jon Favreau. Apparently the contracts were drawn up in a way that both Ferrell and Favreau needed to be involved, but according to Caan, the former wasn’t willing to work with the latter again, so Elf 2 was shelved.

Still, at least Elf has become a staple Christmas movie when the holiday season comes around. It’s also not the only Christmas-related movie on Will Ferrell’s resume anymore. 2017’s Daddy’s Home 2 took please during the holidays, and Ferrell also has Apple TV+’s Spirited coming up, a modern musical retelling of A Christmas Carol. Ferrell plays The Ghost of Christmas Present opposite Ryan Reynolds’ Ebenezer Scrooge, and Reynolds announced earlier this month that production had wrapped.

Will Ferrell can next be seen starring alongside Paul Rudd, Kathryn Hahn and Casey Wilson in the Apple TV+ miniseries The Shrink Next Door, which premieres on November 12. And with Christmastime fast approaching, you definitely won’t have any trouble finding Elf repeatedly playing on TV soon.

Adam Holmes

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.