SNL veterans Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell team up for suburban comedy The House – and it’s a winning combination.
When Amy Poehler promptly pulled down her pants and took a pee on a lawn while filming her latest comedy movie The House, nobody could quite believe their eyes.
“Amy comes up with so many great ideas. So when she asks, ‘Shall I pee on the lawn?’ I immediately go: ‘Yeah, absolutely!’” reveals The House director Andrew Jay Cohen when STACK meets with him and his cast in West Hollywood.
“As a director, you’d be an idiot not to listen, so it’s just about getting out of the way and letting them go down the rabbit hole because its far more fun that way.”
Likewise, the ladies sunglasses which Will Ferrell rocks is the actor’s own invention, courtesy of his wife.
“I love wearing my wife’s Jackie O sunglasses and pretending that it’s a cool look for a man,” says Ferrell, who first wore his wife’s shades as a guest on the Conan O’Brien show. “They look so beautifully ridiculous but if you were in the French Riviera and saw a guy wearing them, you wouldn’t think twice. You would go: Well, that guy can pull it off.”
Despite the obvious lure of wearing women’s sunnies, persuading Ferrell to sign on for The House was not easy for first-time director Cohen, best known for his work co-writing scripts for comedies Bad Neighbours and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, and defining his genre as “suburban crime revenge”.
“But once I pitched Will with my take on The House as Martin Scorsese’s Casino in the suburbs, he was interested,” says Cohen, who sent Ferrell a look-book of how his suburban dad would appear once he’d embraced his bad-ass new persona as a casino boss. “I literally superimposed Will’s face over pictures of Robert De Niro in Casino.”
Pairing Ferrell and Poehler as a suburban couple who hit on the idea of opening a basement casino to pay for their daughter’s college tuition, the lengths parents will go to pay for their kid’s college fees is a concept not lost on either actor.
“College in the US is expensive,” muses Ferrell, 49, who helped pay his way through a degree in sports business at University of Southern California by taking a work-study loan. “I worked in the Humanities audio-visual department, checking out cassette tapes.
“But I still had a lot of student debt and was writing cheques for $50 a month which was barely paying off the interest. It was only when I got to SNL that I was able to write the final cheque and pay off my debt.”
Likewise, Poehler, 45, recalls how her school teacher parents re-mortgaged their home twice to pay for her to attend Boston College.
“They are awesome parents and education is really important to them, but I remember a lot of late-night hushed conversations about how they were going to pay for school. So it was completely in my realm as to the stress of: what will you do to get your kid into a school that they really want to attend?” says Poehler, who will be looking to put two sons through college in the years ahead, while Ferrell has three sons.
“My wife tells me we have a college fund. But it’s getting so expensive, I hope it’s enough by the time they’re ready… it’s crazy,” he deadpans.
Both alums of US TV’s SNL – the quintessential proving ground for comic talent – it’s remarkable that Ferrell and Poehler have not worked together on the big screen prior to The House, with their characters in 2007 ice-skating spoof Blades of Glory barely sharing any screen time.
Ask why it took them so long to co-star, they both enter into a riff. “We couldn’t agree on the terms,” volunteers Poehler. “It was an endless negotiation – the terms, we just couldn’t agree on the terms, it was all about the terms. We’d get to the five yard line and then: Nope!” sighs Ferrell.
“It just became a thing where: Guess what? Amy capitulated – she’ll do it for what you want, and then I’d be like: It’s off! I was just so used to the back and forth.”
“We liked the dance more than the movie. And I guess people were afraid to put us together in a film – too much! Too hot!” laughs Poehler, cracking up as Ferrell adds, “Too much fire power!”
The House is in cinemas June 29.