How Frat Boys Helped Convince Will Ferrell Elf Was Going To Be A Winner

Will Ferrell in _Elf_

It’s hard to imagine the 2003 classic Elf as anything but just that - a classic. Before its release though, there were some doubts on if the modern day Christmas movie would take off, with some even thinking it may crash and burn. Buddy the Elf himself, Will Ferrell, was even concerned as to whether the film would be the end of his career. Apparently all doubts were erased right before the film was released, and it’s all thanks to a group of frat boys.

In an interview he did for The Off Camera Show, Will Ferrell recollected on the uncertainty he felt before Elf was released and became an instant cult favorite. Luckily, Ferrell says the frats bros came in clutch. In the actor's words:

So here I am in this Christmas movie, like ‘Oh my God, am I just going to be killed on this?’ Are people going to just go, ‘Wait, what is this premise? What’s going on here?’ I had no idea. The first time we tested the movie, we did two screenings. We did one that was more of a family-focused audience and it worked great with them. Then, my manager Jimmy called me and said, ‘Hey, so we just had the first one and it went really well, but I’m looking at the lineup for the second screening and it’s like a bunch of frat boys from USC, and we might get eviscerated in this.’ But it played for that audience too. That’s when we knew, maybe this will work as one of those rare movies that works for everyone and you throw your cynicism aside.

Elf really is a rare one, too. For how unsure Will Ferrell was about how it would be received, it’s difficult to say if Elf would have been such a hit without him. It’s also hard to say where Ferrell would be if he hadn’t played Buddy the Elf, as it was the role that showed the comedian as being more versatile than previously thought.

For an actor to take a film outside the realm of what they are known for can be a career maker or breaker, and that’s just what Will Ferrell did when he accepted the role of Buddy the Elf. Previously known for his crude and adult humor, it’s a wonder how he even landed the role of the oversized, fun-loving elf. In the same interview, Ferrell spoke on the uncertainty involved in filmmaking, one that was maximized in the making of Elf by Ferrell playing a type of role that fans had never seen him play before. As he put it:

It’s all an educated guess and you find it with every movie. The scene that the crew was falling out on the floor about, it I would say more times than not is a scene that doesn’t play for the audience, in my experience. The smaller, weird things that you were just doing and no one noticed, those are the big laughs a lot of times. So, you truly never know, I’ll say that, as it regards to Elf, you know prior to that point I was kind of known for a certain style of comedy coming off of Saturday Night Live. I had just filmed Old School -- which hadn’t come out yet -- but I think I was known for edgier, provocative kind of comedy.

Well now I want a crew reaction video of Elf! What are these comedic gold moments we blew over in favor of the small one? For me, it’s the fact that Will Ferrell got to sit on Bob Newhart’s lap. I think it's time for a post holiday rewatch.

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Carlie Hoke
Content Writer

Constantly thinking about books, coffee, and the existential dread I feel from Bo Burnham’s Inside.  While writing I’m also raising a chaotic toddler, who may or may not have picked up personality traits from watching one too many episodes of Trailer Park Boys.