In ''Casa de Mi Padre,'' the actor plays a dim-witted rancher caught in a drug war. A typical Ferrell role — except this parody of Mexican soap operas is entirely in Spanish. We spoke to Señor Ferrell

By Josh Rottenberg
Updated March 09, 2012 at 05:00 AM EST

Casa de Mi Padre

  • Movie

My editor initially thought we should do this interview in Spanish, but I’m not sure that would have worked out too well.
It would be a very short interview — just nouns and verbs…. When we wrapped the movie, I thought, ”The noble thing to do would be to submerge myself in Spanish so I’d be semifluent by the time I had to do interviews.” But I obviously got way too lazy.

Where did the idea to do a movie in Spanish come from?
I wish I had the eureka moment documented, but somewhere along the line I was glancing at one of the telenovelas and it just struck me that if I were to place myself in a Spanish-language film — with the joke not being that I spoke poor Spanish but that I spoke as well as I could — that could make for an interesting movie.

What was the extent of your Spanish-speaking ability before this?
I had three years of high school Spanish and then I was fired in my senior year by my Spanish teacher. He said, ”You know what — why don’t you take another class? You’re not that into this, are you?” Then I think I had two semesters at USC I was required to take.

So how did you master your dialogue for the movie?
I holed up with a translator for about a month before filming…. It was a 23-day Spanish fever dream. I’m so glad I did it. People keep asking me, ”Did it cut down on your ability to improvise?” I’m like, ”Hell, yes!” I was just trying to make sure my Spanish [was good]. There’s no question I should be nominated [for an Oscar] just based on the degree of difficulty. I don’t have to win, but…

On top of speaking Spanish, you also have an incredibly bizarre, over-the-top sex scene with your costar Genesis Rodriguez.
[Screenwriter] Andrew Steele literally wrote in the script, ”Sonia and Armando kiss and then there are multiple shots of butts. Way too many shots of butts.” At some point somebody came up with the idea: What if, for no reason, I’m then just rolling around with a mannequin? Yeah, that was one of the strangest things I’ve ever shot.

Was it difficult to find a distributor for the film? I imagine not everyone saw a Spanish-language Will Ferrell comedy as a slam dunk.
[Laughs] You are very perceptive, yes. I have to say, when we started screening it for distribution, I was pretty sure one of the studios would jump at the chance — especially since the movie only cost 5 or 6 million dollars to make. I thought they’d see it as a unique opportunity to reach out to the Hispanic moviegoer, in addition to the fact that I’m in it. But it’s a crazy movie, so on the other hand it doesn’t surprise me.

If this movie succeeds, could you see it leading to a whole new side career?
We’ll see what happens. If this caught on, it would be hilarious that we pulled it off — and it could finally give me a foothold in Latin America. And yeah, maybe a Chinese film could be next.

Casa de Mi Padre

  • Movie
  • R
  • 84 minutes
  • Matt Piedmont