Will Ferrell admits he feared 'Elf' would ruin his movie career

Will Ferrell wasn't sure that everyone would fall for Buddy the Elf.

The 51-year-old actor stopped by The Late Late Show With James Corden on Thursday where he revealed that "there were moments" when he thought his now-iconic Elf role would ruin his career. In the 2003 holiday comedy, Ferrell plays a human that was raised by Santa's elves in the North Pole, who goes off to New York City to find his birth father, who is played by James Caan.

"The first two weeks of shooting were kind of all the exteriors in New York. So, still kind of discovering what this movie's gonna be and running around New York City in yellow tights," Ferrell recalled. "People recognizing me from Saturday Night Live going, 'You OK? What's going on?'"

Ferrell said his thought at the time was that it was either "going to be a home run or people are going to go, 'Whatever happened to you? Why did you do that one about the elf?'" 

Will Ferrell out and about
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Will Ferrell out and about
Comedian Will Ferrell sings as he delivers the commencement address at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Actor Will Ferrell and Viveca Paulin arrive for the state dinner in honor of the Nordic Summit at the White House in Washington, May 13, 2016. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert
Actor Will Ferrell performs during the American Film Institute's (AFI) 44th Life Achievement Award honoring composer John Williams at Dolby theatre in Hollywood, California U.S., June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Actor Will Ferrell (L) and Viveca Paulin Ferrell pose at LACMA's 50th anniversary gala in Los Angeles, California, April 18, 2015. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
Comedian Will Ferrell is presented with an honorary doctoral degree by USC President C. L. Max Nikias before delivering the commencement address at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Actor Will Ferrell poses after his star was unveiled on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California March 24, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Comedian Will Ferrell shakes hands with USC President C. L. Max Nikias after delivering the commencement address at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Comedian Will Ferrell arrives for the GQ Men of the Year Awards at the Royal Opera House in London, Britain September 8, 2015. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett
Mar 12, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Film actor Will Ferrell plays third base coach for the Chicago Cubs during a spring training game against the Los Angeles Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 29: Will Ferrell performs onstage during Full Frontal With Samantha Bee's Not The White House Correspondents' Dinner at DAR Constitution Hall on April 29, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for TBS)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Actor Will Ferrell poses with Eden Hazard of Chelsea after the Premier League match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on February 4, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
US actors John C. Reilly (R) and Will Ferrell (C) attend the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in London on February 4, 2017. / AFP / Ian KINGTON / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 09: Actor Will Ferrell attends a game between the Los Angeles Kings and the Nashville Predators at STAPLES Center on March 09, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 14: Actor Will Ferrell takes in batting practice before an MLB game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 14, 2017, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In the end, it worked out more than OK, with the film now a clear holiday favorite. "It was just obviously one of those where the stars aligned and 15 years later, it's crazy," Ferrell said of the instant classic.

Ferrell went on to recall how, at the premier for the film, he was approached by his co-star, Caan, who had a hilarious confession to make.

"He's like, 'Hey, I gotta tell you something. Every day on set I thought you were way too over the top, but now I see what you were doing. Great job,'" Ferrell said through laughter. "I just love the thought that there we were, working every day, and he's going back to his hotel room going, 'Geez, get me out of this one.' That was fun."



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