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Will Ferrell Talks About Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Will Ferrell Feels the Need for Speed in this NASCAR Comedy


Will Ferrell Talks About Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Will Ferrell in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

© Sony Pictures
Will Ferrell stars as fictional NASCAR racing sensation Ricky Bobby in the comedy film, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, co-starring John C Reilly and Sacha Baron Cohen. Ricky Bobby's a NASCAR favorite whose entire life is defined by his motto: "If you ain't first, you're last." But when a terrible crash sends the champion racer into a downward spiral, he must find a way to suck it up and get his life back on track (pun intended).

The Origin of Talladega Nights: “This whole thing was actually a by-product of having a lot of difficulty getting Anchorman made," said Ferrell. "We knew nothing about NASCAR. Every studio passed on Anchorman our first time around and then it really wasn't until Old School came out and it was the usual game of, 'We always loved that script…' But it was just difficult for them to wrap their heads around all of it, that it was a comedy about newsmen. We were just like, 'No. Think of them as crazy characters.' In commiserating over that we would just pick a topic that everyone knows about and is really accessible - like NASCAR. It was like, 'That's a good idea.' That's kind of how it started out.

Of course we gained a little more insight after going to the track and races and that sort of thing. But I think that in a weird kind of backwards way our ignorance about the sport allowed us to feel free about creating outlandish scenarios and characters that, had we known too much, might have edited us in a way. So by the time that we started learning about it, we had already written a lot of it and so it enhanced what we already had.”

Sacha Baron Cohen as Will Ferrell’s Racing Adversary: “A lot of the basic setup of how that character was written, and then what we usually like to do is just take a week of rehearsals to work on the scenes. We improvise them and kind of put that on tape, and try to go back and film all the options that we thought of in an improvisational setting. And of course we just kind of let Sacha run with it. We almost have to warn a lot of the cast members. In some way it looks like a wonderful opportunity, though a lot of actors are intimidated by it. 'What am I supposed to say now? What if it's not funny?' We're like, 'Don't worry. It doesn't have to be funny. If it happens, it happens. We still have our script here.' So it can be a hard thing to let go of, but this cast was really open to doing that.”

Ferrell says he always pictured the villain as French. “We were really, as we were writing it were like, 'Who's going to be the villain?' First it was Cal [Johnson’s] character that was going to be my arch-nemesis and this, that and the other. Then we started making Cal more of a buddy and it was like, 'What would be the one thing that would be a real threat to this world? Maybe it's someone who is Formula One? Oh, that's good and it makes sense on a sports level. What about making him from France and he's gay? Okay. I think that covers it.' So that was all thought of ahead of time.”

Will Ferrell's George Bush/Texas Accent in Talladega Nights: “That did come out subconsciously. When I actually saw the film I was like, 'God. I sound just like the Bush thing.' It wasn't a conscious thing, but I do agree that it does come out a bit. I should've said that it's my smart little twist that I put on the whole thing, but it just kind of happened.”

The Underwear Clause in Will Ferrell’s Contract: “I committed a crime that I can't talk about when I was in high school and it's part of this work release program that I have to honor with the state of California,” joked Ferrell. “I think that I only have three more films that I have to do that and then I don't have to do it anymore, so rest assured.”

Ricky Bobby Isn’t Based on a Real Driver: “No, it was more just someone who would be fun for me to play, and cocky and Southern were one of my goals. I mean it was also, at the same time, something that's always fun to have, however idiotic the character is or brace, to have some underlying thing of humanity. Ricky is cocky, but there is a part of him that's still needs his friends to tell him he's on the right track. He doesn't even know for sure.”

Page 2: The Target Audience for Talladega Nights and Working with Kids

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