Behind the scenes of ''Elf'' with Will Ferrell. He's becoming Hollywood's go-to comic actor -- but he also misses ''Saturday Night Live''
Will Ferrell
Credit: Will Ferrell: Dennis Van Tine/LFI

In Nov. 7’s ”Elf,” Will Ferrell gets one of his biggest laughs just by picking up a phone. Ferrell plays Buddy, a human raised by Santa’s elves, who thinks answering etiquette dictates yelling, ”Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” That sweetly unhinged quality, always evident in Ferrell’s too-bright blue eyes, is making the ”SNL” alum an unlikely A-list leading man (also thanks to his occasionally nude performance in the $75 million-grossing ”Old School”). The actor — whose many upcoming roles include playing Darrin to Nicole Kidman’s Samantha in Nora Ephron’s ”Bewitched” remake — shared Buddy’s womanizing tips and other elfin info with

What kind of changes did you ask for before agreeing to star in ”Elf”?
I knew it would be a family movie, but I wanted to make sure it didn’t take itself too seriously. We tried to focus on the way this guy would view New York City, because he has no preconceived notions. He’s like a kid, how they say things like: [in obnoxious voice] ”Why is that man so fat?” They just spit it out. He has those instincts, so we tried to come up with things like, if Buddy sees a sign that says ”World’s best cup of coffee,” he takes it literally. Or one of the images I thought of is he would see the revolving door of an office building and think, God, that looks like fun. Why isn’t anyone else doing it?

Was Tom Hanks’ performance in ”Big” a touchstone for this movie?
It absolutely was. In talking to [writer] David Berenbaum last night, he also said it was in his head. We always talked about making a movie close to or reminiscent of a movie like ”Big,” where it’s funny and touching in a way that’s real and not too sappy. That was exactly the specific movie we’d reference.

As in ”Big,” the childlike lead gets a beautiful woman. Aren’t you giving men unreasonable optimism by showing a man like Buddy getting a woman like Zooey Deschanel?
No, I don’t think so. If you’re earnest and honest with your intentions, men would have a higher success ratio. There will probably be a book out called ”The Buddy Dating Technique.” [laughs]

Like: Ask out a girl by saying: ”Wanna go eat food?”
Exactly. You’ve got to keep it simple.

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