"Well, obviously I'm a chauvinist pig, so for sure I'm Ron Burgundy in that respect, but apart from that, I'm not sure any of them are me. They're my licence to act like a kid. That's my job."
Will Ferrell may be celebrated for his enduring ability to spin his unworldly catalogue of unreconstructed male characters out of control in films from Zoolander to Anchorman, but at the BAFTA retrospective of his work last night, he was almost surreally normal, daunted even by the prospect of discussing his career:
"It's always slightly awkward to talk about yourself in a way, but it should be fun... I think."
Ferrell is not what you expect. He has a soft, friendly face, impeccable manners but is softly-spoken, obviously shy and definitely happier hiding behind his less retiring characters.
Reassuringly, he doesn't have ready, slick answers to questions that must have been at thrown at him forever - for example, if his Anchorman antics get us through a wet winter afternoon, where does he seek his own giggly comforts?
"Erm, err, I hang out my kids, very, very normal things, but they kind of excite me. I'm sorry if that's not really an answer to the question, but it is true, I hope it's some kind of insight."
He seemed genuinely humbled that BAFTA would be interested in celebrated his back-catalogue. And, in a sweet touch, one of the world's most successful comedy actors had with him to share the moment... an adoring entourage? A throng of publicists? In fact, just his equally polite mother Ferrell had invited to London to share the moment, and take her place in the second row of an appreciative audience.
Fans were treated to a Q&A with Ferrell, followed be a screening of his new film, Everything Must Go, co-starring Rebecca Hall and Laura Dern. Based on a short story by Raymond Carver, it tells the story of career salesman Nick Porter whose life goes into freefall one day - back on the bottle, sacked, abandoned by his wife, and the locks changed on his home.
His ensuing yard sale of all his possessions becomes a metaphor for his battle for survival. As other professional funnymen like Jim Carrey, Ferrell has seized the chance to widen his repertoire and play something less obviously amusing:
"I loved that this was someone who has to disentangle his life and figure it all out, and from that create this incredible world.
"Stranger Than Fiction was the first movie I got to do which was outside the comedy box, and this has really been the only other thing that has come along similar to that. It gave me the chance to be creative, stretch, do something different.
"It's really challenging, but at the same time it's kind of freeing, you get to exercise different muscles. And it's frightening as well, but that's what has made it one of the highlights of my career."
Which, judging by the reception of Will Ferrell by last night's audience, and the laughs garnered by clips from his career, is really saying something.
Everything Must Go is in cinemas from 14 October. See trailer below:
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