Will Ferrell hardly needs an introduction. Last year he won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor for his "impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th century novelist," which is to say he can pull off a heartwarming performance as an innocent elf as well as a boorish fraternity has-been, all while influencing the American electorate and cracking up his colleagues on SNL.

Ferrell's newest film, Casa de mi Padre, is a Spanish-language comedy that casts him as Armando Alvarez, a simple rancher who must defend his family's land from drug traffickers, while he wins the heart of his brother's fianceé. We spoke to Ferrell about dreaming in Spanish, his spate of non-mainstream projects, and what is up with those Old Milwaukee ads.

Christina Aguilera sings the theme song for Casa de mi Padre. Were those her actual lips in the beginning of the movie? Or were they stunt lips? They were! Believe it or not she actually allowed us to come and film her lips. We pitched a whole thing to her. I think it was Matt [Piedmont], the director's idea, to focus on her lips throughout the opening credits. It worked!

Most of the cast are native Spanish speakers. Was it intimidating at all to work with Diego Luna or Gael García Bernal on their linguistic home turf? It was, but I just kept telling myself, "it's okay. It's a comedy." But yeah it was incredibly intimidating. Just the first day of filming was this two-page monologue. It was the scene where I talk about my ideal woman and that she must love the scent of the cactus flower and the wind blowing, all that stuff. That was the first day of filming and I had to deliver this whole thing in front of Pedro Armendariz Jr., who's the Marlon Brando of Mexico. Our script supervisor is bilingual, all the producers from Nala and they're all hispanic. It's just like, "How's he gonna do? What's gonna happen?" So I was just like, okay, be careful what you wish for! Because this was all your idea so now you've got to do it.

I kind of made my way through that first day and people were like, "Oh you sound good! Your Spanish sounds good!" And I thought if I can make it through that day then I'll be good. But yeah, it was incredibly intimidating because I wanted to sound as authentic as I possibly could and I didn't want the joke to be "gringo speaking bad Spanish." At least to my face everyone was very sweet.

Did you have any tricks or was there any way they helped you out at all? No, it was just rote memorization and I worked tirelessly with the translator who translated our script into Spanish. He just offered to work with me so I would literally drive with him to the set and we would go over that day's work. We would drive home and work on the next day's work. That was the only way I could do it. It was like a 24-day shoot so it was like a 24-day fever dream.

Did you start dreaming in Spanish? Yeah! I totally did, which was crazy. I'm sure if I was talking in my sleep I was talking in Spanish. It was crazy. Total immersion. I don't know if my dreams, though, if I spoke or if I was just listening in Spanish. I don't know, I don't know, but I know there was a lot of Spanish in my dreams.

Your ass steals a scene in the movie, as it tends to every time it's on the screen. Is it time to pull a J-Lo and take out an insurance policy on that thing? I've looked into it. I don't know what it says about my ass, but the rates are very cheap for me. I can get full coverage for about $1,500, no problem.

The movie's a super silly comedy, but I enjoyed the moral at the end: "All Americans aren't bad, all Mexicans aren't drug dealers." With the election ramping up, immigration and the War on Drugs are huge issues, and I thought that was a pretty topical, wholesome thing for people to walk away from the theater with. Was that the idea or was that just an appropriate tag-line? It's funny. That kind of satirical quality was something that snuck up on us when we developed the script because initially it was just about a silly idea. That's one of the things we kind of discovered that this would be a great opportunity to show, as Americans, that we understand that it's a two-way street and that's why I think we were able to get Diego and Gael. They saw it as a chance to be funny but they also felt like it was very respectful.

In fact, Diego said he was mad when he first read the script and I thought, "Oh okay, well...." And he said no, he was mad because he didn't think of the idea first! He said he couldn't believe we were telling the Mexican side of this story this way. I think it's great to have a silly comedy and at the same time have it sneak up on you and go, look, we understand it's a two-way street and we have cliched views of Mexico and vice versa and let's talk about that. Yeah, that is kind of the message.

Ashley Schaeffer is really bizarre and dark this season on Eastbound and Down. How much of that is you and how much of that is the writers looking for something really specific? That's all them. That's Danny and and Jody and those guys. They were like, "We want to bring Ashley back but it's gonna get crazy." He's a messed up dude. To the point where I was watching with my wife and she was like, "That's the most awful character I've ever seen you play!"


You were also in Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie. Was shooting and killing John C. Reilly cathartic in any way? It was heartbreaking! Are you kidding me? I was like, do we have to do this?

Your affinity for Top Gun: was that you or the writers? [Ed: Ferrell's character owns a strip mall and insists on watching the movie several times before selling it to Tim & Eric] That's Tim and Eric, even though in the first script out of the can that I ever wrote—called August Blowout, which was kind of like Glengarry, Glen Ross meets a car dealership—my character Jeff Tanner loved Top Gun. He loved watching Top Gun and he'd watch it ten times a day. Not that those guys had any knowledge of that, but it was fun that finally, Top Gun got its due.

North Carolina is sort of getting its due too, right? The Campaign is set in North Carolina, so is Eastbound and Down. What's the North Carolina connection? North Carolina is just...we all have ties to North Carolina. Those guys obviously went to school there and then both Zach [Galifianakis] and I grew up there, all my family is from there, and that became just a great setting. It's such a purple state, it's such a battle ground state, so we thought let's just set this movie in North Carolina.

Did you eat any Bojangles when you were there? I drove by it all the time. The best billboard I saw during Thanksgiving was, "Get your deep fried turkey here before it's too late." I texted Zach that and he was like, "It's too late I already have mine sitting in front of me."

So you're doing all these comedies—are you looking to do something more dramatic like a Stranger Than Fiction to cleanse your palate? Or is this just too much fun? Well I did one last year, Everything Must Go and I'm kind of always looking at whatever's out there. There are a couple of scripts that have come my way that are a little more serious. That's kind of a fun thing to play around with, so we'll see. It's not like a mission, like "take me seriously!" But I love doing it at the same time.

Any plans to host SNL in the near future? Possibly, maybe? You never know. I'm always on the short list. It's always kind of a possibility every year and it's just a question of schedule.

Old Milwaukee. Is this something that you've been enjoying for a long time or is this something you just discovered? Old Milwaukee. It's a great beer if you're going to have a bunch. Not if you're going to have one. Don't waste your time. But if you're going to have six or seven or 30, get yourself some Old Milwaukee. I just love Milwaukee and I love that it's old. That's it.


In the Super Bowl commercial, you get the beer can and you start to say Old Milwaukee. Did you finish it or is it just Old Milwaukee. I think the country deserves to know the full sentence of what was said. I can't remember. I know I started to go on a whole thing but you know, we just didn't edit it the right way and we had to sent it out.


Did you fire that editor? Does he still have a job? We couldn't.

The union? He's my step brother.

It's been said that your portrayal of George W. Bush made people want to have beer with him. Did people actually want to have a beer with Will Ferrell? Have you tapped marketing gold here? I'm constantly offered free liquor, I do have to say. Whenever I'm walking through—I was just meeting some writers the other night here at the Greenwich Hotel and I walked by these guys and they were like, "Come have a drink! I'll just buy you a drink!" And I'm like, "I'm good."

They want to see Frank the Tank or something. They want to see amazing exploits that they can record on their phone and put on the Internet. That's what they want.

You recently announced the New Orleans Hornets lineup at a game. Was that off-the-cuff? How much research did you have to do? That was a thing where the Hornets had asked me, during the course of filming down there, numerous times to come to games. Then they asked if I wanted to do the opening lineup and I just got there half an hour before and just jotted down a little tidbit, which was hilarious because I could not tell if it was getting any laughs. At least it did not feel like it was getting a laugh.


I guess it's hard to register laughs— In a massive auditorium. The players did not look like they were enjoying it.

They looked embarrassed! Some of the Hornets smiled but one guy on the Bulls was game face and I was just making him laugh so hard. Afterwards too, it wasn't like anyone from the Hornets marketing group was like, "That was hilarious! Come anytime!" And I thought, oh, that totally bombed, which made me laugh even harder. Then the next day it went crazy so maybe it did work.

Your recent projects are all sort of off the beaten path, do you enjoy doing them more than the bigger stuff? Do you try to keep a mix of things? It's fun to just do things that make people go, "Why did he just do that?" Just to kind of do fun little side things outside of the norm. I guess that's as good an explanation as I have!

Casa de mi Padre opens Friday in New York