Will Ferrell Turned Down Over $29 Million Offer to Return in One of the Most Iconic Roles of His Career

The actor had his cinematic breakthrough with the cult classic Christmas film, Elf.

Will Ferrell Turned Down Over $29 Million Offer to Return in One of the Most Iconic Roles of His Career

Actor Will Ferrell is best known for his comedic roles in the late ‘90s and 2000s, starring in films such as Old School, Stranger Than Fiction, Step Brothers, and Daddy’s Home. The actor has his own brand of loud and over-the-top comedy that no other actor could imitate, which was also why he is probably one of the most proud alumni of Saturday Night Live.

Ferrell’s breakthrough film after his SNL days was the Christmas film Elf. Starring as the titular Elf who goes to the real world to find out their biological parents, Ferrell became a bonafide star after the film earned $225 million at the box office against a $33 million budget. However, the actor reportedly turned down a sequel despite a huge payday.

Production Of Will Ferrell’s Elf

Will Ferrell
Will Ferrell

After seven years on SNL, Will Ferrell was ready to move on from the sketch-comedy show and begin an acting career in Hollywood. While the actor had already featured in supporting roles in films such as Old School, Night at the Roxbury, Zoolander, and more, Elf was touted to be his first film post-SNL and expectations were high.

Elf was written by David Berenbaum, who had reportedly written a much darker version of the story. But the story underwent many re-writes, where even Ferrell and his writing partner Adam McKay added their touches. However, it was director Jon Favreau who finally cracked the tone of the film as he was inspired by the Christmas specials by Rankin/Bass animation.

Will Ferrell in ElfWill Ferrell in Elf

Though it was a star vehicle with Will Ferrell in the lead, there was much skepticism from the studio that the film would be a miss. Ferrell recalled in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that the makers would be apprehensive at the beginning of every test screening, only to be proved wrong after it tested well with different age groups. He said,

“[My manager] was like, ‘Well, the family one went great, but we could really get eviscerated in this next one. I’m looking at a bunch of what look like USC frat boys about to go in.’ Then later I hear, no, that group actually liked it, too.”

However, despite all the skepticism, the film was a huge hit. According to Box Office Mojo, the film earned over $228 million globally. It is widely regarded as one of the best Christmas films of all time and it was also adapted into a stage musical.

Will Ferrell Refused To Star In A Sequel Despite A $29 Million Offer

A still from ElfA still from Elf

Studios do like that franchise money a lot and after the surprise hit of Will Ferrell’s Elf, the natural thing to do was to develop a sequel. The film had earned $225 million and the USP was, of course, Will Ferrell. So, the studio was willing to shell out a huge paycheck just to get the SNL star on board. However, Ferrell refused to star in the sequel, despite being offered $29 million.

The actor stated that he refused the offer as he was unsure of the script and felt like it was rehashing the original. Hence, he could not bring himself to endorse the film in any way. 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.’ And I thought, ‘Can I actually say those words? I don’t think I can, so I guess I can’t do the movie.’”

Though director Jon Favreau expressed his desire to make a sequel for the film and has stated multiple times that it might happen, Ferrell refused to work on it as he was not sure if a story justified a need for a sequel. The actor has starred in sequels of his other films such as Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Zoolander 2, and Daddy’s Home 2.

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