He’s the hottest name in fashion design, has a long standing problem with world leaders who attempt to abolish child slavery, and invented the piano necktie: it can only be Will Ferrell’s Jacobim Mugatu, the megalomaniac stylist from “Zoolander,” 2001’s hugely successful take on the world of male modeling.
Now with a sequel, “2oolander,” set to be released February 12, Ferrell will surely steal the show.
From his beginning on “Saturday Night Live” to his star turn in the hugely successful “Anchorman” movies, Ferrell has become one of Hollywood’s premier funny guys. His decades-long career has cemented his place in the “Frat Pack,” a group of comedians and actors which also includes Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller (the “Zoolander” star) and brothers Luke and Owen Wilson.
It may come as a surprise to many, therefore, that becoming one of the world’s most recognizable faces in comedy was never high on Ferrell’s to-do-list.
Having seen the trials and tribulations of a life in show business through his father’s career as a musician with The Righteous Brothers, the young Ferrell wanted nothing more than to have a stable profession.
In his acceptance speech for the 2011 Mark Twain Award, Ferrell remembers having “one singular focus” when he was young—“to sell insurance.” When the insurance game came to an end, for the eventual benefit of comedy fans around the world, Ferrell “moved back home and didn’t pay rent.”
He remains indebted to his mother—“she instilled a great work ethic in me”—and his mundane surrounding growing up in Irvine, California. As he told the Orange County Register in 2008, while he “didn’t have the survival mode instinct like other comics who grew up in tough neighborhoods,” he was forced to use his newfound comedic sensibilities to dispel the boredom of growing up in “master-planned Irvine.” Ferrell’s ability to make people laugh at their commonplace existence in a safe Orange County town appears to shine through in his larger than life portrayal of characters such as Ron Burgundy, or Mugatu.
However, it wasn’t until 1995 that Ferrell began to make his name as part of a new cadre of comedy talent involved in the enduringly popular “SNL.” He quickly became known for his impersonations and over the course of his successful seven-year tenure on the show, Ferrell parodied everyone from George W. Bush to Saddam Hussein, eventually becoming the highest paid cast member in 2001 with a season salary of around $350,000.
It was during his “SNL” stint that Ferrell made his first foray into movies, starting out with a bit part as the evil, yet hapless, Mustafa in “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” in 1997. Despite the relative lack of screen time, Ferrell’s death-defying henchman character provided a glimpse into his future career; no matter the size
of the role, Ferrell’s quality makes him recognizable.
Four years after “Austin Powers,” Ferrell was included in “Zoolander,” which Stiller also wrote.
Ferrell effortlessly stood out in a stellar cast of now iconic fashion characters as the bizarrely coiffured and maniacally bitchy Mugatu.
“Oh, I’m sorry, did my pin get in the way of your ass?” he says.
The release of “2oolander” sees the original model clique return along with a plethora of celebrity cameo appearances, including Justin Bieber and Usher. The return of Derek Zoolander brings up the problematic process of making a comedy sequel, especially with something like “Zoolander,” where the original set the bar so high. The first film has achieved cult comedy status; so why make a sequel after 14 years? Stiller explains that they “wanted to do a sequel, but no one was clamouring for it” until the DVD release snowballed the movie’s popularity. Stiller also wanted to wait until the original cast, who were all “really important to it”, were finally all available to complete a read through.
Ferrell’s trademark angry man shtick is as endearing as it is ridiculous, and his ability to take a supporting role and craft an immensely popular and recognizable character from it remains unrivaled. As the rumours began to circulate about Derek Zoolander’s return, the first question on most fan’s lips was whether Ferrell’s Mugatu would be involved. He’s the seasoning in any true Frat Pack flick, occasionally limited to a cameo performance, but nevertheless perennially smashing Hollywood cliché’s in a flurry of big hair, big personality and big laughs.