Adam Markovitz
April 16, 2010 AT 04:00 AM EDT

STARRING Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg
WRITTEN BY Adam McKay, Chris Henchy
DIRECTED BY Adam McKay

When director/co-writer Adam McKay was prepping this Will Ferrell — Mark Wahlberg buddy-cop comedy, he made sure to rewatch the classics of the genre, like The French Connection and All the President’s Men. Wait a second. No Lethal Weapon or 48 HRS.? ”When you do a comedy, it does no good to reference comedies,” says McKay. ”You want to treat it like a drama 80 percent of the way. Then, at the last 20 percent, you f — – it up.”

One look at McKay’s track record with Ferrell (Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers) and it’s clear he knows that last 20 percent. In The Other Guys, Ferrell and Wahlberg play B-level cops who run into trouble when they get a chance to crack a big-time financial fraud case. ”You have your star cops who have the car chases and the shoot-outs,” says McKay. ”These are the guys at the desks next to them.” After supporting parts in I [Heart] Huckabees and Date Night, Wahlberg is cautiously excited about his first starring role in a comedy. ”I’d been looking to do a comedy for quite some time,” says the actor. ”But coming from a dramatic background, if you don’t do the right thing [the first time], you don’t get too many other chances.”

Wahlberg was a natural playing off Ferrell’s improv-heavy style, says McKay, who let the cameras roll as both actors went off script, resulting in such gems as a Ferrell monologue about a tuna fighting a lion. ”I was just apologizing over and over again because I’d ruin a take by laughing,” admits Wahlberg. ”It’s so hard to keep a straight face looking at Will. And then he gets upset, and it’s really funny.”

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