James Caan Was Not Amused By Will Ferrell While Filming ‘Elf’

James Caan Was Not Amused By Will Ferrell While Filming ‘Elf’

James Caan wasn’t exactly acting when he seemed annoyed with Will Ferrell while filming Christmas classic Elf.

In an interview with Christina Applegate and Jamie-Lynn Sigler’s Messy podcast, Ferrell revealed that his late co-star Caan didn’t “get” his humor at first. Instead, Ferrell drove Caan “crazy,” just like his character.

“James Caan, may he rest in peace, we had such a good time working on that movie,” Ferrell said. “He would tease me. Christina, you know: I like to do bits, but I’m not like ‘on’ all the time. In between set ups, [Caan] would be like, ‘I don’t get you. You’re not funny.’ And I’m like, ‘I know. I’m not Robin Williams.’ And he was like, ‘People ask me: “Is he funny?” And I’m like, “No, he’s not funny.”‘ It was all with love, but at the same time….”

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That changed when Caan saw the full edited cut of Elf.

“And then we were walking out of the theater at the premiere, and we walk out together, and I take it as the best compliment because it’s coming from James Caan. He was like, ‘I’ve got to tell you: I thought everything you were doing while we were filming was way too over the top. Now that I see it in the movie, it’s brilliant,’” Ferrell said. “But I love that the whole time, he’s not acting. He’s truly annoyed with me. He’s like, ‘Can this guy shut the fuck up? Jesus.’ I literally drove him crazy in that movie, just acting like that kid. But that was the funniest thing, him walking out of the theater and shaking his head and going ‘it’s brilliant.’”

Caan was so annoyed while filming, he changed his character arc to have a more explosive argument with Ferrell’s Buddy.

“It was scripted a little more that he would get more frustrated and lose his temper with me. And he didn’t want to do any of that,” Ferrell said. “He wanted to save it until that moment in the boardroom when he kicks me out. He wanted it to be a slow build, and he was totally right.”

The 2003 film was Ferrell’s first big feature post-SNL.

“One of my managers had given me this script about a human raised by elves in the North Pole, and it was a great concept, but the script really needed some work. I left [SNL] with the concept, but not necessarily a great script,” Ferrell said. “Old School hadn’t come out yet, so it was just like, ‘Let’s just try to make [Elf] better, because if we can get it to a certain place….’ We could see what the one sheet was, but boy, we had to figure out how it would work. [But] I knew it definitely wasn’t going to work without committing fully to [being a] fish out of water.”

He added, “It was very strange to come off of Saturday Night Live, where I was known for doing edgy, not necessarily R-rated stuff, but pushing the envelope. I just remember the first two weeks of shooting, we did all the New York exteriors up front. We kind of did the end of the movie first, and then we shot the rest of it in Vancouver. I’m in my little trailer in the middle of December, it’s cold, I’m literally in my elf outfit just staring at the mirror. I was just looking at myself in the mirror in the elf costume going, ‘Oh, boy, buddy, this better work. This could be your last movie.’ Then they’d be like, ‘What happened to that guy? What the heck happened? This movie about an elf and the North Pole?’ I literally had no idea. I was like, ‘This is either going to really work or this is just going to be disastrous.’”