“It was an amazing acting feat, acting while speaking in a language he doesn’t know at all. People don’t want to risk failure, and he could have fallen flat on his face, so it was a brave choice. I was impressed.”
Will Ferrell evidently impressed director Matt Piedmont so much that he was able to persuade his fellow Saturday Night Live alumnus to take the reins of Casa De Mi Padre, his homage to the Mexican telenovellas that are the backbone of afternoon US television – all stomping horses, heaving bosoms, firing revolvers and family intrigue. It’s obviously stuff ripe for Ferrell’s singular type of attention, but he decided to keep things interesting for his crew and cast, by making the whole thing in Spanish…
Will Ferrell plays it straight in Casa De Mi Padre
“We had a translator standing by,” remembers Piedmont. “So we’d film a scene looking for emotion, humour and wit – all those subtleties you take for granted in English – and we’d look at the translator hopefully. And he’d say, ‘You got seven words wrong.’”
Plus, as it was a gentle send-up of those films, complete with material backdrops, stilted Spanish and bad acting, there were many instructions for the cast (all Spanish-speaking, with the exception of Mr Farrell), and a worried translator.
“He’d say ‘this is done badly.’ We’d shout, ‘It’s supposed to be.’”
Piedmont could be excused for putting this project firmly in the too-hard basket, but for two things – his shared history with Ferrell, and his whole approach to comedy-making, honed during his years on the writing team of Saturday Night Live.
“The thing is, even when it’s way out of the box, if I can see the possibilities of something, I get kind of giddy, and then I commit. I approach my whole career with a sense of mischief.”
Will Ferrell is the only non-native Spanish speaker in the cast
Mischief-making has served him well. Piedmont was only 25 when he found himself on the team of America’s flagship comedy house, having to produce a segment featuring a slightly bigger name…
“My very first night on SNL, Tom Hanks was the host, and I got a sketch on the air, and I had to tell him he was playing too big. That was pretty daunting.
“You learn everything you’re going to need in your entire career at SNL. It’s comedy boot camp, but also somewhere you get to do something original every week, if you have the courage to stick with it.”
Courage to read reviews too – critics have not been wholeheartedly positive in their praise of Casa De Mi Padre, something Piedmont takes in his stride:
“It’s had either four stars or zero, nothing in between, so that cheers me. All zeros would obviously suck, and all fours would leave you wondering what you missed, but to garner such a polar reaction – that’s great.
“And I remind myself that some of my favourite movies – think of The Big Liebowski – were ones no-one knew quite what to make of when they came out. So, hopefully it will be a grower.”
More importantly, has his creative partnership with Will Ferrell survived what Ferrell described as “trying to wrap en entire movie every single day”? It seems so:
“He’s the greatest guy to work with. He always surprises me, he’s fearless. His sense of mischief knows no bounds, so none of the trappings of being such a great movie star come into play, his sense of fun is defining.”
Casa De Mi Padre is on release in the UK from tomorrow. Watch the extended musical clip below…