You put comedians at the level of Will Ferrell and Tina Fey together at a press conference, and you might not get a whole lot of hard news. However, it’s an A-list comedy event. Imagine, these two get paid millions to be funny. For a journalist prompting them with a question, they’ll be funny for free.
The two former Saturday Night Live alums provide voices for Dreamworks latest animated movie, Megamind. Megamind (Ferrell) is a supervillain who finally gets a chance to rule the city. Roxanne Ritchi (Fey) is the reporter he usually kidnaps. She’s usually rescued by Metro Man (Brad Pitt) but finds herself on her own to deal with Megamind.
Fey and Ferrell sat under a tent in the courtyard of the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills. Joined by rows of journalists, they just riffed off every question like you might imagine an A-list improv session would be.
Q: Will and Tina, I would like to first start by saying thank you for inviting me to your wedding and I am really surprised to receive the invitation. Can you talk a little bit about when you guys first fell in love because I really thought you guys were in a relationship and both of you were married before this?
Will Ferrell: We both engaged in what are called staged weddings for publicity purposes and obviously my marriage of 10 years has not been real. So today is our official union.
Tina Fey: We had put ourselves on a waiting list for the Four Seasons like 16 years ago and yeah, we kind of got married in between but as long as we came up to get this space obviously we’re just going for it.
WF: Real quick, I just want to thank Jensen’s Tenting Service. They’re so hard to get as well and as you can tell they’re literally the best in the business. That’s Jensen’s – J-E-N-S-E-N-apostrophe-S. Jensen’s.
Q: Will, what does it mean for you to be front and center of an animated movie and what were some of your favorites growing up?
WF: Well, let’s see. It’s very exciting to be. I don’t really consider myself front and center of this fine cast but I guess I am. I guess I am front and center. I really haven’t done a lot of this stuff before so it was just exciting to get to work on a Jeffrey Katzenberg movie and I love this premise which I felt was so original and to get to be in a film with this cast is the most exciting part in a way for me.
Q: Will, it seems like you adopted a little bit of a British accent in this? Was that because Brits are traditionally cast as villains?
WF: It’s so disappointing and it’s not your fault, I’m actually doing a Lithuanian accent and it just shows how bad a mimic I am. But no, it’s just the accent of someone who thinks they’re important. We just kind of landed on that and felt like it would be appropriate to this guy who’s really, when you get down to it, just completely insecure. So someone who speaks like that who’s insecure kind of is a great combination.
Q: Improvisation has played a large role in all three of your careers. I’m curious if improvisation was able to play a role in what you did with this film or if you stayed pretty close to script?
TF: [Director] Tom [McGrath] really encouraged us to improvise. Will and I were lucky because we got to do sessions together and improvise together. I didn’t know David [Cross] was in the movie until just now. I’m still not sure, but yeah, Tom was very welcoming of it.
Q: Will, what did your kids think of this movie?
WF: My kids haven’t seen it yet. I think they’re excited about it. It’s the first time they’ve commented on something I’ve been in. There’s one poster that has the Megamind baby that’s featured. My 3-year-old is really fascinated with the Megamind baby.
TF: It’s really cute.
WF: Yeah, it’s a very adorable baby.
Q: What traits do you share in common with the Megamind character?
WF: I have a lot of tight leather pants that I keep in a vault. I don’t wear them but I just keep them there. And there is a part of my body that I cannot go into detail on that is blue. That’s just like a genetic defect. That’s what I share with the character.
Q: There’s a scene in the film where Megamind finally has everything he’s ever dreamed of but he is still miserable. Have you ever had an experience like that in real life?
WF: Personally? I’ve always wanted to sail around the world in a handmade boat and I built a boat. I had a boat built for me, I mean, and my second day out to sea I realized that A, I’m not a sailor and B, I have no knowledge of basic navigation. I didn’t bother with any sort of supplies and in that moment I was miserable. I felt like I had everything and it turns out I didn’t. So that would be my one example to illustrate. Right from the beginning I screwed up. That’s what I’m trying to say. We’ll get to Tina. Nevermind. I’m wasting valuable time.
Q: If you lived in a world where Megamind and Metro Man are real people, which one would Tina go for?
TF: I think I would go for Megamind because he’s very smart and I really do find the purple undertone of this blue skin very attractive. I really do. I think he has beautiful, beautiful skin and he’s smaller than me. I like that. He physically dominates.
WF: He’s more petite.
Q: Will and Tina, can you talk about the nemeses that you might have had that helped forge your character and made you a better person as a result?
TF: I don’t really have a nemesis but I have a series of hundreds of small enemies that fuel me. Everyone I meet I assume is out to get me and that fuels my fire on a daily basis. Who’s your nemesis?
WF: My nemesis prior to this working experience oddly enough was David Cross. But, through this process, we were able to basically hash that out.
Q: How much did your children have to do with your decision to make this movie and do they recognize anything of the character in you?
WF: This was a decision based pretty much on wanting to try to do another animated movie and getting a chance to work with Tom, and like I said, DreamWorks solved it. My children were not consulted in this decision. Nor are they ever consulted about anything.
TF: They will speak when spoken to.
WF: They will speak when spoken to. It’s a very strict household. Like I’ve said, they’ve seen some of the advertisements and some of the trailers and stuff and I think they’re intrigued by the fact that I do the voice of this guy with the blue head.
Q: Do you recognize yourself when you see the character?
WF: No, not really. I don’t think he looks like me. Maybe the mouth.
TF: I think when he’s moving he does.
WF: Really? I wish I had his waistline. Right everyone? Shake your heads. Right? Because it’s hard to keep the weight off when you get older. Right? Yes.
Q: Tina, you play a reporter and you have an extensive track record with Weekend Update. Is it hard to shake the reporter role or is it something you enjoy because you’re so good at it that this type of role just keeps coming your way?
TF: Okay, I am one of America’s foremost fake reporters and I am going to have a fake show on CNN. No, I’m not. It was fun to step into this very archetypal Lois Lane type of character and I really like that in this story she’s a modern version of that, that she’s active and intelligent and she looks like Sharon Osborne.
Q: Is the Sarah Palin ghost still chasing you in any kind of way?
TF: It was a ghost? That would be terrifying. I don’t think of it as a ghost. I think of it as one of the luckiest things that ever happened to me. I’m going to milk that forever. I’m going to be doing that, God willing, when I’m 70 years old. I’ll be doing that at an auto show if things go right.
Q: Megamind wants it all. Do you ever feel like that in real life in terms of your career because you seem to have it all? Or do you want to retreat into obscurity like Metro Man?
TF: I think I would be escorted back to obscurity pretty soon. I don’t think it will be a retreat. It’ll be a police escort.
WF: You’ll be taken away in plastic handcuffs. I don’t really think about those things.
Q: Tina, you’re about to receive the Mark Twain award and you’re the third woman to do so in the history of the award. How do you feel about that?
TF: I would say I’m very, very honored to the point of embarrassment at receiving that award and I’m very much looking forward to the ceremony in a couple of weeks. Mark Twain is a great American humorist who is taught in schools. That is a big deal. I hope that some day Hal Holbrook has a one man show about me. I would be honored. I can’t even quite understand why it’s happening.
Q: Have you recovered from the live performance of 30 Rock? How do you think it went and would you do it again?
TF: I have recovered. We were all very tired the next day. Will always says when you do SNL you wake up the next day and you feel like someone hit you with a piece of luggage. I think it was a very big challenge and I think it went well. I don’t know if we’ll ever do it again. I think it weirdly costs a lot of money to do so it’ll be up to NBC as to whether we ever try to do it again. It certainly was a very positive experience on my end.
Q: Tina, can you talk a little about the recording process? Is it hard to get used to only having the booth to work with. Also, was there anything that surprised you about how your character looks? Do you like how your character turned out or would you have liked something different?
TF: No, I really like how she looks. I like her short hair and I like that she’s brunette and I like that she has an ample can. I’m not going to lie to you. I really like how she’s drawn. I found the recording sessions very freeing because you can really try things. When you’re filming something, if you’re improvising a film and you’re wasting film and wasting a cameraman’s time, but when you’re recording stuff first, you can try a bunch of stuff and it doesn’t matter how you look while you’re doing it. There’s a complete absence of vanity during it. I found it really fun.
Q: Can each of you talk about what exciting projects you have coming up next?
TF: I am emptying out a storage unit in New York. That’s a project I’m in. Will?
WF: The first thing that comes to mind is I’ve got to be here until 9 tonight to wait for Jensen’s tent rentals to come pick up the tent and make sure that happens.
Q: Tina and Will, what would Sarah Palin and George W. Bush say if they ran across Megamind?
TF: He needs to be destroyed. He’s a danger to freedom.
WF: Right. I think George Bush would think he looks funny. That guy looks funny. He’d probably say something like that.
Q: What were some of the pros and cons and likes and dislikes for a voice action role as opposed to a live action role?
WF: As Tina was mentioning, there is a great amount of freedom in terms of getting to come up with stuff on the spot, improvising, that sort of thing. I think, at least from my perspective, what is lost on these projects is how hard it is to articulate any sort of emotional kind of gear shift just with your voice. Those were the hardest parts for me. Playing the comedy is one thing but I think there’s a real skill for any of these actors that can effectively do that consistently. That was the hardest part for me.
Q: Do you enjoy roles like this and would you consider doing something like this again?
WF: I really enjoyed working with Tom. I mean, I’ve only had one other experience and that was on Curious George. But anyway, yeah, I haven’t done a ton of this type of work. But this experience was really gratifying to the point where it’d be fun to do another one for sure. The other thing, I didn’t show up just in some T-shirt and sweats. I had a three-piece suit on. I did full hair and make-up for every recording session because I view myself as a professional.