“In a weird way, they’re almost the last two guys in the world you’d expect to see together. That’s what made it so fascinating,” muses director Adam McKay. Those “two guys”? Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, paired up for cop chuckler The Other Guys as two wannabe badass officers who make a meal of a meaty case. “The big secret we knew is that Mark’s really, really funny.”
And if anybody knows funny, it’s McKay and Ferrell. Having collaborated together on no less than three previous filmic hoots – Anchorman, Talladega Nights and Step Brothers – Other Guys marks their fourth cinematic collaboration. But it’s a partnership that could very well have never been – if it weren’t for a seat-of-your-pants sketch show by the name of Saturday Night Live.
Premiering Stateside on 11 October 1975, SNL has been responsible for bashing many a burgeoning comedy genius into shape, while single-handedly launching the careers of Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi all inside of its first year. “It provides an opportunity for comics and artists and filmmakers to get better at their craft,” says former SNL player Tim Meadows. Fortuitously, McKay and Ferrell met there on their very first day.
Now in its 35th season, the sketch show has already established itself as a near bullet-proof mainstay of US television (those 18 accrued Emmys probably helped), but it’s also quietly infiltrated numerous big screen endeavours. The programme’s various movers and shakers have had a continued presence in cinema since 1978, when the very first film directly drawn from one of its skits was released in the form of All You Need Is Cash.
Despite that flick’s lukewarm reception, Wayne’s World, Coneheads and Blues Brothers 2000/ all followed suit – and the current 13 films rooted directly in SNL lore are now responsible for an impressive box office haul of $352m.
“For the first two years I was petrified,” recalls Will Forte, who heads up this month’s MacGyver spoof MacGruber (alongside fellow SNLer Kristen Wiig), and joined SNL’s acting troupe in 2002, tag-teaming Ferrell’s George W. Bush sketch.
Ferrell himself made history by becoming the show’s highest paid actor ever, thanks in part to his portrayal of everybody’s favourite punch bag prez – an impression that remained the show’s most popular skit… until Tina Fey swooped in with her Sarah Palin parody, and bagged herself one of those Emmys.
In a sign of SNL’s ability to pluck prime talent from obscurity, it’s a safe bet that any decent comedy movie from the past few years stars a former cast member or scriptwriter (and if not, the comedy lead will have at least guested in a typically raucous SNL send-up). Jim Carrey? Yep. Tracy Morgan? Uhuh. Chris Rock? Naturally.
And the SNL movie invasion shows no sign of letting up. MacGruber and Other Guys aren’t the only skit graduate flicks hitting screens this year: in 2010 alone there are 14 films starring or scripted by the show’s alumni. Date Night, Greenberg, Grown Ups and Due Date all continue the trend – and considering the constant stream of new talent debuting on the series, we imagine that SNL will be going to the movies for many years to come.
SNL stars making it big at the movies…
Had a brief stint as a writer on five SNL shows in 1989, but left when he realised they didn’t want him to make his own short films. Has since carved a movie niche for himself playing short-fused, tightly wound characters.
Four years into her spell on SNL, Fey made her film debut with snarky delight Mean Girls, which she wrote and co-starred in. She is currently funnelling her SNL experiences into comedy TV series 30 Rock, and has lent her larynx to the upcoming CGI Megamind.
Spent seven years showing fellow SNLers how it’s done before quitting and launching comedy website Funny Or Die with Adam McKay. Opined the lack of awards attention given to comedies with John C Reilly in a musical performance at the 79th Oscars.
“I have moments where I’m like, ‘This is my job?!’” admits Wiig, SNL’s most recent success story. So far she’s been directed by Drew Barrymore in Whip It, pitched up in Apatow’s Knocked Up, and even guested in Fey’s 30 Rock and Date Night.
Joined SNL in 1990 as a writer and performer and shared a pad with Judd Apatow during his time on the show. Went on to become the movie poster boy for bad-tempered brats. Was later parodied himself on SNL by Jimmy Fallon.
Via Total Film