As the race for the White House hots up between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, American comics Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis are back with The Campaign, a timely movie about duelling Southern politicians. They play two hopefuls on the North Carolina State campaign trail in this new comedy from Austin Powers director Jay Roach. TOAD exclusively caught up with the stars of Anchorman and The Hangover to talk about the problems facing modern day politicians.
Tell us about your characters
Will: I did the George Bush thing for so long it had to be completely different. There are similarities with their buffoonery but Cam Brady needed a different voice and the kind of hair that could lift a baby. He’s a Blue Dog Democrat and proof that going to law school doesn’t stop you being stupid.
Zach: Marty Huggins is the effeminate black sheep of a political family who becomes a pawn to battle Brady’s incumbent. But he’s just a simpleton who runs a tourist office for a small town that nobody visits. Marty struggles with the real world – someone who can’t work a door is pretty clueless.
Are they based on any real politicians?
Will: We took inspiration from them. Cam’s hair is taken from John Edwards [former Vice-Presidential candidate from North Carolina].
Zach: Marty Huggins’ moustache is from Olympia Snowe [a Republican Senator]. She’s a Greek lady. That was a hairy Greek joke. But really, the truth is stranger than fiction when people like Sarah Palin get plucked from obscurity and then their ego gets in the way and they start believing their own hype.
Will: When we were writing the script there was a campaign ad on TV with a guy dressed up as a sheep. He pretended to be eating grass with the sheep and then he looked up and had bright red eyes because he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing… And this was a guy running for the United States Senate with a demon sheep ad. It’s become a circus!
Is there a policy you would focus on if you were President?
Will: Make it legal to turn left on a red signal. We need that freedom.
Zach: And Will has privately mentioned that he wants to make all Canadians go back to Canada.
Will: And I’m a big advocate of free healthcare – for people over 97.
Why do you think modern politics has become so shameless?
Zach: It’s all down to money. It’s become like professional wrestling. The intellect has gone and now it’s all about the pageantry and the mudslinging. I think people are attracted to it for the wrong reasons. You have media on the left and the right of the debate just yelling at each other.
Will: The 24-hour news cycle perpetuates it. If we were like other countries and restricted campaigning to 90 days you’d get to the issue right away. But it runs over two years and doesn’t help the process of running a country when the trash-talking begins. Community organizers get called communists while business people are labeled capitalists. It’s crazy. Like Ross Perot [billionaire philanthropist and former Presidential candidate] said: ‘War has rules, mud wrestling has rules – politics has no rules.’
If you were running for political office in real life, what would your slogans be?
Will: Keep partying all night long.
Zach: My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns. I don’t know how that translates in the real world. It doesn’t make sense but it rhymes!
Are you two as competitive as Cam and Marty in real life?
Zach: We were when modeling on the runways of Milan… But really if you’re competitive as an actor it makes things tough. On set you have to be helpful because it’s a collaborative process when you’re improvising around the predicaments laid out in the script.
Will: I’ve never understood why you wouldn’t just want to entertain the best idea in the room as opposed to keeping score. At the end of the day we just want to make the funniest movie possible so everybody wins.
You broke the golden rule and worked with children and animals. What was the most challenging moment?
Zach: There was a python I had to work with that chose to use me as a toilet and then tried to strangle me. That didn’t make the movie.
Will: There’s always the DVD. The animal trainer told me, ‘Don’t worry Will, these snakes never bite.’ But the guy playing the preacher in a scene with me was really scared and got bitten. Twice!
So you’ve enjoyed working together?
Zach: I don’t know how I scammed my way into this. It’s bizarre… I was telling diarrhoea jokes in coffee houses five years ago!
Will: I just hope Zach lives up to his end of the deal and makes people laugh. Because I know I’m funny.
Zach: It’s easy working with Will because he’s so open and giving and has no ego. I sound like I’m in love with him. Will is the great comic actor of our time.
Will: It’s true. I’m ego-less. In fact I suffer from low self-esteem. Zach has helped me with that.
The Campaign is in cinemas now