Whilst It’s a Wonderful Life is well known as perhaps the most timeless Christmas film of all time, it is the modern festive classics that are certainly more popular with contemporary audiences. Including The Muppet Christmas Carol, Klaus and Home Alone, the modern festive favourites are frenetic, fun-filled joy rides, with Jon Favreau’s Elf being a quintessential example of this.
Starring the ever-charming Will Ferrell in the lead role of Buddy the overgrown elf, Favreau’s film follows the young man’s travels from the north pole to New York City to find his long-lost dad. Joining an ensemble cast of Zooey Deschanel, Ed Asner, James Caan and Peter Dinklage, Elf is an ode to the pertinence of Will Ferrell’s timeless comedy that rides the perfect line between charming and puerile.
A favourite among general audiences and even film stars such as Jack Black, Elf is recognised as this generation’s Christmas classic. With a potential sequel to the film destined to do well worldwide, such was proposed to Will Ferrell shortly after the release of the original back in 2003, though despite a $29 million paycheck, the actor turned down the role as he didn’t believe in the film’s story.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Ferrell explained why he felt compelled to turn down the sizeable paycheck, noting that the potential sequel was simply too similar to the original. Clarifying his stance he said, “I would have had to promote the movie from an honest place, which would’ve been, like, ‘Oh no, it’s not good. I just couldn’t turn down that much money’”. “‘Can I actually say those words?” he thought to himself before deciding that he indeed could not, ultimately turning the movie down.
An established film star of the likes of Zoolander and Old School when Elf was released in 2003, unusually Ferrell describes how he feared for his career on the set of the film, when speaking on The Late Late Show. Shooting the film across New York City, the actor remembers people coming up to him in the street and recognising him from his time on Saturday Night Live. At such moments Ferrell recalls thinking “this is either going to be a home run or people are going to go, ‘Whatever happened to you? Why did you do that one about the elf?’”.
Elf remains a modern Christmas staple despite the film being released 18 years ago, marking a turning point for Will Ferrell’s career that saw him star in bigger and better projects including Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Blades of Glory and Step Brothers. Despite his many roles since his predicted cinematic failure of Elf, his character of Buddy remains one of his most beloved roles.