index magazine
grayindexed gray

Read Bjork's2001 interview with Juergen Teller from the index archives.

Kathleen Hanna discusses writing and making music in this interview from 2000 with Laurie Weeks.

Isabella Rossellini spoke with Peter Halley in this 1999 interview.

Check out our interview with Crispin Glover by Richard Kern from 2000.
Alexander McQueen's 2003 interview with Bjork.

Will Ferrell,2004



David O. Russell (film director/index correspondent) met Ferrell and Adam McKay (friend/ Anchorman co-writer) at his fabled Hollywood estate. In this soul-searching roundtable, director, actor, and writer reveal the closely-held secrets of the creative process. But first, they address a nasty rumor.

DAVID: I've been hearing that you had a great time with the Hilton sisters at a water park last week.
WILL: That is so not true.

DAVID: Will you at least admit that you went to a water park?
WILL: Yes, I was at a water park with the Hilton sisters.
ADAM: I heard the remains of the roast beef sandwiches you ate clogged up the water filter.
WILL: They had to shut down the park for six hours.

DAVID: Wasn't it a sexual aid that clogged the filter?
WILL: I'm not going to lie to you — things did get freaky. Things went down between the Hilton sisters and me that people shouldn't have had to see. But we couldn't control ourselves, so we just kept going. We drew quite a crowd.
ADAM: I heard there were something like three thousand people in a circle watching the three of you having sex.
WILL: Right.

DAVID: Is it true that kids were there?
WILL: Mostly kids. Just families and kids.

DAVID: And you were getting freaky on the water slide.
WILL: The water slide, the wave pool, everywhere.
ADAM: Dragging that threesome around to whatever attraction would have you.
WILL: We were all connected in a weird way.

DAVID: I guess you were. I remember visiting you and Adam in that hotel room in West Hollywood when you were writing Anchorman. You had these big index cards covered with ideas tacked up on a wall.
WILL: When we wrote the script, we holed up in a room at the Wyndham Village Hotel for weeklong stretches. We started by brainstorming, just thinking of ideas — small ideas or big ones — for stories and scenes. We'd sit with a pen and paper and write them all down.

DAVID: You and Adam have been writing together since the mid-'90s when you were both with Saturday Night Live.
WILL: Yeah. We got hired at the same time and became friends right away. Adam became the star writer within a year. Everyone thought he was just amazing. By the second season, he'd been made head writer.

DAVID: How did the two of you get the idea for Anchorman?
WILL: I came up with the basic premise.
When I was a kid, I loved watching the news on TV. The news teams fascinated me because I thought they all hung out together. It certainly sounded that way from the stupid banter between stories — "Boy, Pete, that looks like your golf swing. Ha ha ha."
So I wanted to write a story about a male newscaster in the '70s, when the feminist movement was emerging, who has to work with a female newscaster for the first time. He's a big fish in a little pond, and he's really close to his news team. I was asking myself, what kind of petulant behavior would result?

DAVID: Did you do a lot of performing when you were a kid, Will?
WILL: I really didn't do anything until after college, when I started doing stand-up.

DAVID: Here in LA?
WILL: Yeah. I was taking classes at The Groundlings. You have to go through all these levels in order to become part of the main company.

DAVID: Like the colored belts in karate?
WILL: It's a little bit analogous to that. First you go through the school, then you perform in the Sunday show, which is like the B team. After you've done that for about a year, you can be voted out, voted into the main company, or asked to stay on the Sunday show.

DAVID: Geez. That sounds like the Manson family. Who else went through The Groundlings that we would know?
WILL: Phil Hartman, Pee-wee Herman, Jon Lovitz, Lisa Kudrow, Laraine Newman — and more recently, Cheri Oteri, Chris Kattan, Maya Rudolph, and Jennifer Coolidge.

DAVID: So it's a pipeline to SNL. You both defy the perception that Harvard is the only pipeline to SNL.
ADAM: It does seem like all the SNL writers come from Harvard. I'm going back to school to get a Harvard degree. [laughs] The cast members used to come from Second City, but about five years ago they started coming from The Groundlings.

DAVID: The comedy in Anchorman is so freewheeling and surreal. But you've managed to strike a balance between performance art and narrative film. You've written just enough of a story so the audience doesn't get bored.
WILL: A lot of people who read the script said, "It's funny, but it's weird."
ADAM: The movie has more in common with The Simpsons than with your standard Hollywood comedy. The writers on that show combine really stupid and really smart comedy. That was our goal — we wanted to be smart-dumb.
WILL: Anchorman has the broadest jokes in the world.
ADAM: It does have boner jokes. It also has references to Tennyson and existentialism. Ron Burgundy plays jazz flute. It's kind of all over the place.
WILL: We were going to make Ron Burgundy a big, broad, balls-to-the-wall kind of character, but we discovered that it was funnier to see him get emotional — to see him talking in a whisper. You can't have a character on the ceiling all the time.
ADAM: We were looking for Burgundy's emotional range. We thought it was important to let him be sensitive and get distraught.
WILL: The audience is laughing at him, but they also experience that pang — "I hate to say it, but I feel sorry for the guy."

DAVID: Who are your comedy heroes?
WILL: I love Andy Kaufman. When I first heard about him reading The Great Gatsby from cover to cover on stage, I was like, "God, that would be so much fun to do!" I love that kind of thing.

DAVID: How come?
WILL: It's really fun to make people laugh, but there's a small part of me — about twenty percent — that doesn't care if the audience thinks something is stupid. I get almost as much pleasure out of that kind of reaction. In a twisted way, I enjoy it when I'm doing a sketch and it's just bombing. It makes me want to slow down and take my time, like, "If you hate it this much, I'm going to make it last even longer."

DAVID: What was the first thing you did on TV? Did you ever do an episode of Law and Order or something like that?
WILL: Yeah. I had a crazy little run that led up to my SNL auditions in 1995. Larry Mark Hirschfeld, who is now head of NBC casting, cast me in this evening of one-act plays at a theater in the Valley. Then, in one week I got three sitcom jobs — Grace Under Fire, The George Wendt Show, and Living Single, which was Queen Latifah's show. Later that year, the SNL scouts showed up at The Groundlings looking for new cast members.

DAVID: And you got an SNL audition.

WILL: It was in Studio 8H, where the show is filmed. There was a spotlight, a camera in front of me, a guy operating a boom mike, and people like Lorne Michaels just sitting there in the dark.
ADAM: It's a really big deal.
DAVID: What did they ask you to perform?
WILL: A political impersonation, a celebrity impersonation, and a character of my choice. And if you didn't have any of that, you were supposed to just do whatever you thought was funny.

DAVID: What character did you do?
WILL: Harry Carey, the late Chicago Cubs announcer. I had written a sketch about him at The Groundlings that worked pretty well. I also did a really hack impersonation of Ted Kennedy performing stand-up. That was bad. Then I pretended to be an angry parent yelling at his kids to get off the shed.
ADAM: I think we put all the stuff from your auditions into SNL sketches.
WILL: In the second audition, I tried to impersonate Clinton. I figured they would definitely hire someone who could do Clinton. But I don't really do impressions.

DAVID: You're very famous for doing Bush. Who else is there...
WILL: Janet Reno.

DAVID: Yeah, it kills me when you say, "I don't do impressions." You're not like most star comedians. You don't do movies that are built around you doing your shtick for ninety minutes. You're breaking the comedy mold because you work collaboratively.
WILL: To put it simply, if there are many funny characters, it makes for a more interesting movie. If you have only one funny character or situation driving a movie, then it sinks or swims on that alone.
ADAM: Will would never think, "God, this is one of the funniest things in the script — shouldn't I be doing this?" There are great bits in Anchorman that are performed by other actors. As Lorne Michaels used to say, "When you're the star, sometimes you've got to leave the scene and come back." Will is so not desperate. That's what's fun about his style.

DAVID: Who do you think of as your audience?
WILL: I definitely have what you could call the Saturday Night Live audience, the high-school and college-age kids. But it's more all over the map. When we were writing Anchorman, one day we went over to the Rainbow Room, which is a total heavy-metal club on Sunset. These heavy-metal guys were going, "Will Ferrell, what's up, man?" I also get people saying, "I just want to tell you, my grandmother is your biggest fan."

© index magazinegelatin1
Will Ferrell by Terry Richardson, 2004
© index magazinetobias
Will Ferrell by Terry Richardson, 2004

© index magazinegelatin1
Will Ferrell by Terry Richardson, 2004
Copyright © 2008 index Magazine and index Worldwide. All rights reserved.
Site Design: Teddy Blanks. All photos by index photographers: Leeta Harding, Richard Kern, David Ortega, Ryan McGinley, Terry Richardson, and Juergen Teller