There are usually a handful of new Christmas movies opening in theaters every holiday season. Most of them are rather forgettable, but every now and then one becomes an almost instant classic that you can watch over and over again. Elf seemed to land in that sacred category right out of the gate with Will Ferrell and director Jon Favreau giving audiences one of the goofiest Christmas movies ever.
The script had been floating around Hollywood for years and originally was a much darker PG-13 version, but after a re-write what emerged was a man-child destined to save Christmas, and annoy as many New Yorkers as possible in the process. Here are twelve facts you might not know about Buddy’s rampage through the Big Apple.
1. Will Ferrell had prior elf experience. Will might not have actually portrayed as an elf, but he did have experience working with them — or one in particular. In his pre-SNL days, Will and fellow SNL cast member Chris Kattan had a brief stint working as a Santa and elf at a mall in California.
“I have some experience playing Santa Claus…Chris Kattan was my elf at this outdoor mall in Pasadena for five weeks, passing out candy canes. It was hilarious because little kids could care less about the elf. They just come right to Santa Claus. So by the second weekend, Kattan had dropped the whole affectation he was doing and was like (Ferrell makes a face of bitter boredom), ‘Santa’s over there, kid.'”
There’s no photographic evidence of Will’s stint as a mall Santa, but to give you an idea of what those poor kids were dealing with, here’s his Santa Apple ad from 2007.
2. Jim Carrey was originally supposed to play Buddy. The script for Elf had been floating around Hollywood for 10 years before it finally went into production, and in 1993 Jim Carrey was the biggest comedy star in America. As the years went by and Jim Carrey headlined The Grinch That Stole Christmas and A Christmas Carol, he lost interest in doing yet another holiday movie and the script made its way over to Will Ferrell.
3. Will Ferrell didn’t have to fake his surprise at the jack-in-the boxes. Will’s surprise and terror is for the most part genuine. Jon Favreau had the jacks wired so that he could control them with a remote to scare Will at the precise moment. The sound used for the laughing jacks is the same laughter used for the laughing Lion King hyenas at Disney World.
4. Will’s body suffered from Buddy’s sugary diet. Granted, Will’s body was never quite an Adonis of perfection, but all the sugar that he was shoving into his mouth as Buddy took its toll. After devouring the Elf food pyramid and nearly a hundred cotton candy balls the actor reported being stricken with headaches during the movie’s filming.
“I ingested a lot of sugar in this movie and I didn’t get a lot of sleep. I constantly stayed up. But anything for the movie, I’m there. If it takes eating a lot of maple syrup, then I will – if that’s what the job calls for.”
5. Producers had to fire a baby. The baby in the movie was actually the second casting after the first babies — a pair of twin boys — had to be canned. The boys were reportedly crying the whole time instead of crawling, smiling, and being adorable. As a replacement, the production in brought in happy triplet girls that took their chance at Hollywood stardom far more seriously than the whiny twins.