Will Ferrell: Armando Gallo/Retna
October 15, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

How Will Ferrell gained power in 2004

AGE 37

A year ago Ferrell was best known to film audiences as that naked guy running through the streets in Old School. But with back-to-back hits Elf and Anchorman, the former SNL comedian proved he needn’t take off more clothes to get ahead (and we thank him for that). Virtually overnight he’s moved into the high-priced company of Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler, and everyone in Hollywood — plus Woody Allen — wants to work with him. ”Will’s going to have a long career,” says Russell Schwartz, domestic theatrical marketing president at New Line, whose Elf grossed $173 million. ”He’s just so innocent, and…he did everything we asked him to do — that’s so rare.” Ferrell has almost a dozen projects in the pipeline, including remakes of Bewitched and The Producers, both with Nicole Kidman. Studios now believe that his name attached to virtually any comedy all but guarantees profitability. Which explains why, amid a major bidding war, Columbia snapped up Talladega Nights based on a six-word pitch: ”Will Ferrell as a NASCAR driver.”

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