‘Downhill’ costars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell— she dishes on flirty men, he talks about being ‘un-male’ (Conclusion)
LOS ANGELES—In part 2 of our column on “Downhill,” a comedy filmed in the Swiss Alps, we focus on Will Ferrell, who costars with Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Adapted from the Swedish drama “Force Majeure,” Will, Julia and directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash mine the dramedy in the story of how the skiing vacation of an American family is altered by an avalanche incident.
In our interview last year with the comedian on location in Ischgl, an Austrian town near the Swiss border, he shared with us an interesting incident. Leave it to the comedian to see the humor when he got lost while skiing.
“I decided to go skiing on my own,” Will began. “Tomorrow when you see this mountain here, you take the gondola up to the top. You take another one and you can actually be in Switzerland and have lunch there. Don’t take the run that says, ‘Duty free (laughs).’ I was like, I’m going to take the duty-free run. I thought, this looks like a great little trail. There’s no sign that says, ‘There’s no way to get back (laughs).’ It’s just, ‘Duty free this way.’”
“So, I started going down, having a lovely little time, and noticing that there are no other lift lines (laughs). I had to take a bus to go back and found myself on a bus with my ‘fellow’ Austrians (laughs). A bus ride then on to a double-decker gondola. It took several hours out of my way to get back. But I sold so many cigarettes that I made so much money. Watches, vodka, yes (laughs).”
Excerpts from our chat with Will:
If the avalanche scene happened to you and your family in real life, what would you do?
That’s the question the movie raises when you watch it. I think everyone takes a moment afterward to internally examine the prospect of being in a situation like that. I’d like to think that I would do the right thing and protect my family. I think I would. I really do. I’m not just saying that (laughs).
Your character tells his side of the story and other people contradict him. How relatable was that for you?
I’m pretty good at right away acknowledging that OK, that was a mistake, I’m sorry, in my own personal life. But it was really interesting from a character standpoint because you have two choices in that scenario. One, coming clean right away—oh my gosh, I don’t know what happened, I can understand if you hate me. I made the worst decision, and I will never live it down.
Or, gosh, everyone’s OK, no one got hurt, so maybe everyone will wake up the next day and just be like, that was a close call, whatever, let’s just continue our trip. And Pete makes that choice to keep suppressing it.
Is that from the male ego?
The film examines that, for sure. Pete has such shame, as he admits later, that he didn’t want it to be true, and he just kept digging himself deeper and deeper. It’s also a reflection on how we are suffering from a truth deficit in our society nowadays.
This is more of an afterthought. It wasn’t something we talked about during the filming, but now that I’ve seen it a couple of times, I’m like, oh this is really reflective of what’s coming out, whether in politics or media. It’s getting harder and harder to examine what’s true and what’s not.
How different would this movie be if it was the mother who ran away from what looked like an avalanche coming and the father stayed with the kids?
The film examines all of what you’re bringing up, in a way. I’m typically un-male in that regard. Obviously, I love doing what I do professionally, but I take just as much pride being involved in my family, being a father and a husband. I’m constantly telling my wife, because she’s more of the stay-at-home mom, “Is there something you want me to do? Do you want me to be more around?”
She always says, “No, get out of here (laughs).” But I don’t know if I feel the pressure of what it means to be a man today. It’s all constantly evolving for the better. Men are encouraged to be much more involved than they ever were. I see it with a lot of our friends and family.
Your kids in this movie are quite well-behaved. Are your own kids also well-behaved?
No, of course not (laughs). No, like any kids, it ebbs and flows. We’re just happy that when they go on a play date or sleepover, the usual report is like, “Oh, what nice kids. They were polite and well-mannered.” They can yell at us all they want, as long as they’re nice with other people (laughs).
Do they speak Swedish very well?
Pretty well, yeah. It’s impressive.
You attend NBA Games. What are your memories of Kobe Bryant?
I watched the game last night, which was so emotional. The Lakers did such a beautiful job honoring Kobe. It’s something that surprised us—how emotional we all feel (about Kobe’s passing). We got the news at Sundance (Film Festival) on a lunch break when it happened.
We had to continue doing our interviews and our premiere of this movie that night. We all took pause and wondered how we were going to get through the day.
Luckily, it was a bit of a distraction to get to talk about this movie. It was a nice release to get to have a movie, to sit down and get lost in the fantasy of that for an hour-and-a-half.
I met Kobe a handful of times. He actually did a cameo in the first “Daddy’s Home” movie. We had been instructed like, look, Kobe wants to get this done in a certain amount of time. He’s got a game that night. It was just the opposite. He was there for as long as we needed, and he couldn’t have been nicer.
If I remember correctly, at a press conference, he actually said he wanted me to play Kobe Bryant in the Kobe Bryant story (laughs). And he said, how hilarious would that be? So, I will be forever flattered by that.
You have to remember, getting drafted as a 17-year-old, Kobe grew up in front of our eyes. He grew up in the NBA, and that couldn’t be an easy thing to do. So, to evolve and become the man, husband and father that we all saw that he was is pretty extraordinary, along with obviously, his professional accomplishments.
It’s almost like you are becoming an American ambassador in Europe because after this movie shot in Austria, you have a film on Eurovision.
Yeah, I know, it always happens this way (laughs). Once again, back to Sweden. I discovered Eurovision on one of my trips 20 years ago. My wife’s cousin was like, “Should we watch Eurovision?” I said, “OK, what is that (laughs)?”
And proceeded for the next three hours to watch the craziest thing I’ve ever seen (laughs). I thought, gosh, this would make a fun movie, all along thinking someone was going to do it. Four years ago, we started going to Eurovision, meeting with all the people who ran that and got their permission to do that, so that will come out in May.
Can you give us a little preview?
Yeah, it’s myself and Rachel McAdams. We are from Iceland and we are of the band, Fire Saga (laughs). It’s a lovable loser story. We get into the competition on a technicality, and we’re way in above our heads.
The broader themes are art versus commerce, that winning isn’t everything and that you really should be true to yourself as an artist. So, all in the insane world of Eurovision.
You have great costumes, I am sure.
Yes. And I have beautiful hair (laughs).
Did you get to film in Iceland?
On our last four days of filming, we got to finish the movie in Iceland. It was very similar in getting to shoot in Austria (for this movie) in the sense that it’s so important that we got to go to Austria, just to capture how stunning those vistas are, the scenery and also just to have to deal with the elements.
It was the same with Iceland. We got beautiful sweeping shots of these small fishing towns and things like that, as well as cast a lot of Icelandic actors. When you’re able to do that, it just adds so much to the project. We sing mostly in English, because unfortunately, most of the Eurovision acts now sing in English. But then there’s a twist, so maybe we do sing in Icelandic, OK (laughs)?