Interview: Will Ferrell & John C. Reilly Talk Comedy Roots and Sherlock Schtick

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Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly take on Sherlock Holmes in Holmes & Watson


Comedy collaborators Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, co-stars of the new Sherlock Holmes spoof Holmes & Watson (in theaters Dec. 25), talk to Parade about bringing their movie mojo into the Victorian era—and the fine art of funny business.

Comedy Roots. Ferrell figured he might have a thing for comedy when he found out he could get laughs in elementary school: “I learned that if you kicked the door and snapped your head back at the same time, it looked like you smacked into the door,” he recalls. “I tried it, and it got rave reviews.” Reilly got his start as an extra in the 1989 drama Casualties of War, later merging into meatier roles—and funnier ones as well.

Tag Team. Fans already know them—and how funny they are together—from their two previous cult-classic collaborations, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Step Brothers. “I always get asked, ‘Do people come up [and ask you] about Step Brothers all the time?’ And I say, ‘Only when I’m in public,’” says Reilly. “They appreciate it. It’s not lost on me.”

Sherlock Schtick. For Holmes & Watson, they stayed true to the roots of the iconic source material by filming in London—and even reciting some of the original prose by author Arthur Conan Doyle. “I didn’t want to change the language,” Ferrell says. “I memorized a lot of long passages. At times it was limiting, because it hampered my improv brain.”

Funny Matters. Even though they’ve done more serious roles, both appreciate the power of humor. “I have a special affection for comedy,” Reilly says. “There’s something special about alleviating people’s suffering with laughter.”

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