For Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, fame has been a generous gift. The duo, who are paired up yet again in the summer comedy "Step Brothers," are good friends and seem to have an almost telepathic comedic bond.
Both Ferrell and Reilly sat down to chat about their latest film, the pleasures of working together and the pitfalls of comedy on "Popcorn with Peter Travers" on ABC News Now. All that and an a cappella rendition of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton's "Islands in the Stream."
Ferrell and Reilly have taken much different roads to fame. Reilly has starred in the critically acclaimed dramas of Paul Thomas Anderson ("Boogie Nights," "Magnolia") while Ferrell's impressions of President George W. Bush, James Lipton, Alex Trebek and others on Saturday Night Live brought the fans. The two first appeared together in a movie in 2006's box office smash "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby."
"We had so much fun on 'Talladega Nights' that Will and director Adam Mckay graciously said to me 'we should do something again' and I held them to their word," said Reilly.
"John was vigilant about this actually happening, so we got together for dinner a couple of times, spit-balled a bunch of ideas, had a nice little lift going," added Ferrell. "And then Adam called us the next day and said 'I got one more idea.'" And so the idea of two forty-year-old developmental adolescents living with two single parents was born.
The film pits Ferrell and Reilly against each other as middle-aged underachievers who still live at home with their parents, played by Richard Jenkins and Mary Steenburgen, who meet, fall in love and get married. The two engage in a turf war of sorts over their newfound situation.
"When we create these characters we take great pride in the creation of these names," said Ferrell. "Brennan Huff [Ferrell] and Dale Doback [Reilly]. To admit, arguably the worst names in cinema."
Reilly described Ferrell's character as "A momma's boy, a little bit more sensitive and a little more shy about the world. I live with my father so I'm a bit of a tough guy."
Ferrell, Reilly and McKay came up with the concept, but producer Judd Apatow was also involved. "He would leave you little notes in your dressing room, notes of inspiration. Like 'Today I think you're really gonna be good,'" recalled Ferrell. At which Reilly admitted that even he wasn't aware who was leaving him the notes: "I got one that said, 'You are not ugly.' I was like, 'who said I was ugly in the first place?'"
His serious drama credentials notwithstanding, Reilly has taken pleasure in the comedies Ferrell has introduced him to. "The truth is an actor's life is about fielding opportunities, and I wish I could say Martin Scorsese was knocking at my door every week to offer me another movie," said Reilly. "At least I got to say it once or twice. The chance to work with Will and with Adam on Talladega Nights was a great opportunity. You'd be a fool, no matter what kind of actor you are known as, to pass up the chance to work with these guys because they're the best in the business in my opinion."
"Will is better at just taking something and making it funny somehow. He just puts magic dust on it or something, I don't know how to do that," admitted Reilly. "I know how to get deep into the character and if the character's ridiculous then it's funny, but he's got that special thing."
To which Ferrell added, "I think we both have the same views on comedy. It's play it straight, and you know put yourself into it, commit, don't wink at the camera, and full steam ahead. So it makes it easy to work."
In April 2007 Ferrell launched "Funny or Die", a streaming video website where short comedy films are uploaded and voted on by users. The site features viral hit The Landlord, starring Ferrell and Funny or Die co-founder Adam McKay. Ferrell's character is harassed for the rent by his landlady, a swearing, beer-loving, 2-year-old girl (played by McKay's daughter, Pearl).
"It's nice to have this outlet to kind of do these ideas that maybe aren't big enough for a movie or this and that. To kind of have a place to do a three-minute short," Ferrell said.
The site has served as yet another medium for collaboration between the two actors. In 2007 they released a sketch entitled "Pepperbee's," which follows the odd tale of a restaurant owner. "The guy's fetish is he enjoys watching people get good customer service," explained Reilly. "So he's behind a two way mirror and he gets very aroused when he sees somebody getting extra napkins that they asked for or some ketchup."
Reilly recalled the surprise he found upon arriving on set. "I came and everybody said 'hey do you want to do this thing?' and I showed up and all of a sudden I'm mock masturbating behind a two-way mirror."
"Stepbrothers" opens in theaters nationwide on July 25th.