Most of his fans wouldn’t realize it, but Will Ferrell is an actor who takes chances. The “SNL” vet has cultivated a strong career in solid studio comedies such as “The Other Guys,” “Step Brothers,” “Blades of Glory” and “Old School,” but he hasn’t been afraid to put himself on the line in unconventional roles. Ferrell has appeared in dramatic films such as the underrated “Stranger Than Fiction,” Woody Allen’s “Melinda and Melinda,” the indie “Winter’s Passing” and he’s even sung and dance in the movie musical version of “The Producers.” The 44-year-old even won over theater critics who questioned the timing of “You’re Welcome America” on Broadway and put his face on a fledgling web investment you may have heard of called Funny or Die. This week, Ferrell’s latest dramatic departure opens in limited release with Dan Rush’s “Everything Must Go.”
Adapted from the Raymond Carver short story “Why Don’t You Dance,” Rush’s picture find Ferrell as Nick, a salesman who is both fired form his job and kicked out of his house by his wife on the same day. The source of Nick’s problems are rooted in his alcoholism and he has battled trying to remain sober (as has his wife) for most of his adult life. At a literal crossroads, Nick spends most of the film living with all his stuff on the lawn trying to determine what to do next knowing the local police will only let him squat for a few days. The film has much less comedy than you’d expect based on the scenario and Ferrell does everything he can to show the many shades of a man unsure of his future. First time director and screenwriter Rush doesn’t deliver a screenplay that always helps Ferrell in this effort, but you can’t fault Ferrell for the film’s shortcomings.
I spoke to Ferrell a few weeks ago about what made him want to tackle an indie where he’d spend much of time onscreen alone, outside around someone’s junk, er, stuff. Listening to his responses, it’s clear the challenge of something truly different is what appealed to Ferrell. His reaction only proves that this won’t be the last time he steps out of his expected comfort zone.
Ferrell also talked about reuniting with his “Anchorman” co-star Steve Carell on the latter’s last season of “The Office.” I asked him if he’d seen Carell’s finale episode the night before our interview which he was a small part of and he praised how Michael Scott’s departure went down as well as explaining how his four-episode arc came to be.
“I loved Steve’s last show. I thought it was so artfully done and kind of just a beautiful example of why that show is so great with the humor and how much empathy you felt for Steve and really kind of lovingly done. A loving send off,” Ferrell says. “And I got involved because I called up my agents and said ‘I wanna do something with Steve on his last season’ and that’s how it started.”
“Everything Must Go” opens in limited release Friday.
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