In the comedy Semi-Pro, opening nationwide this Friday, Irish American funnyman Will Ferrell plays Jackie Moon, the one-hit wonder singer who's also owner and coach of the fictional Flint, Michigan basketball team The Tropics. Faced with the disbandment of his squad he must take drastic - and hilarious - action. CAHIR O'DOHERTY talks to Ferrell, and co-stars Woody Harrelson and Andre (3000) Benjamin.
FROM the moment he joined NBC's Saturday Night Live back in 1995, Irish American funnyman John William "Will" Ferrell, 41, has been a star. Famed for his dead-on impersonations of Jeopardy! host Alex Trebeck, Attorney General Janet Reno and President George W. Bush, in recent years Ferrell's added a host of brilliant film roles to his rapidly filling roster in movies like Wedding Crashers, Starsky and Hutch, Blades of Glory and Zoolander.
Raised in Irvine, California in what he calls a typical Irish American family, after graduation from USC Ferrell worked for a short time as a sportscaster on a weekly cable channel show. But comedy and acting were in his blood, and as soon as he could he enrolled in a stand-up comedy workshop at a nearby community college - where he was eventually discovered for Saturday Night Live.
Nowadays he's one of the most famous actors in the world, but not many people know that he's from an Irish American family, or that he recently visited Ireland with his father to trace his family roots.
Just last month in Dublin Ferrell accepted the prestigious James Joyce Award, presented by University College Dublin, whose previous recipients have included political activist Noam Chomsky and UN weapons inspector Hans Blix.
Speaking to the Irish Voice on Tuesday about the unexpected Irish award Ferrell joked, "I've already lost it. No, I haven't. I've just misplaced it.
"Actually I was over in Ireland with my dad and my brother - the three of us had taken a trip in 2007 - and that time we explored parts of the country that we hadn't seen before. We always love going back to kick around. The James Joyce award happened when the kids at UCD took a wild stab and invited me, and since it turned out we were going to be there anyway we thought why not?"
Asked if he was an admirer of James Joyce's work Ferrell deadpanned, "I have always been a fan of his films like Titanic and Terminator. But I think they're always too long."
Seriously, Ferrell admits he was flattered to be asked by UCD to accept the honor, regardless of the fact that there was - he says - no reason to have selected him. On the trip he made an extended visit to Dublin, Connemara and Donegal and was so taken with it that he vows to return again later this year.
At the UCD ceremony, to which he wore a full Irish rugby kit, Ferrell delighted the audience by telling them, "In my library at home, when I peruse my leather bound volumes of Ulysses, Finnegan's Wake, Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, a lot of feelings ran across my mind. Like, 'Damn, I should have read these books,'" he joked.
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