'We couldn't keep straight faces making this movie'
Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg reunite to play a battling stepdad and biological father. They talk fatherhood, schoolboy fights and the importance of laughter.
Five years ago, in buddy cop comedy The Other Guys, Will Ferrell met his match in Mark Wahlberg - not physically, but verbally, as the two tried to outdo each other in ridiculous hyperbole.
So it's with some fanfare that the pair are back sharing screen space in Daddy's Home, just in time for the holidays. But did they actively seek to work together again?
"Er, yeah!" says Wahlberg, sarcastically. "Yeah, I was dying to work with him again."
"Truth be told, we weren't necessarily actively looking," admits Ferrell. "However, it goes without saying that at the end of that movie, after it was released and the reaction to it, we both were like, 'If there's another opportunity, then, for sure', and this came along."
In Daddy's Home, Ferrell plays weedy step-dad Brad, who dotes on his two step-kids, even though the feeling's not mutual. When their real father, the macho but unreliable Dusty [Wahlberg], suddenly returns - and moves in - the gloves are off to see who can win the kids' affections.
"Mark is one of those people who doesn't ever have to worry about looking, or acting, cool," says 48-year-old Ferrell through gritted teeth. "He's the man who already has a perfectly faded leather jacket in his closet. It's not something he bought at Banana Republic to try to look cool.
"And every morning, Mark is already doing a two-hour workout, while I'm still in REM sleep."
Not to be outdone in the compliment stakes, Wahlberg, the all-action star of The Departed and The Fighter, adds: "There aren't too many guys out there like Will, who are that uniquely funny and talented.
"We had an absolute blast when we worked together before," continues the 44-year-old. "We love to throw as many curveballs as we can at each other, so that was going to work great for these guys taking their one-upping game to the nth degree."
Cue some crazy stunts on a motorbike and a skateboard - as well as very funny bedtime story scenes, where the two take turns in telling a tale that's ultimately about them, dressed up as baddies and goodies.
Neither actor found it easy to keep a straight face.
"We're trying to top each other, that's the scene we had trouble keeping it together," confesses Ferrell, star of Elf and Anchorman.
"When we start talking about our swords and everything else - and the king of the castle," notes Wahlberg.
Both are fathers in real life; Ferrell has three sons with actress wife Viveca Paulin and Wahlberg has four children - two sons and two daughters - with his wife, model Rhea Durham.
As Ferrell's voice-over at the beginning of the film explains, there's a difference between just being a biological father and being an actively involved dad, so what do they think makes a good dad?
"Someone who cares. Someone to give you a hug and give you a spankie," says Wahlberg, grinning.
"Not afraid to be silly, yet firm," adds Ferrell.
In one scene, their characters disagree over whether to teach their son how to beat up the school bullies - something they haven't had to worry about in real life.
"My kids, they're naturals," jokes Wahlberg.
"Yeah, my boys just fight each other regardless," agrees Ferrell.
Turning more serious, Wahlberg, who had a troubled childhood before he started modelling and found his way into acting, says: "Thankfully, my boys haven't been in a fight, there have been issues at school, but nothing serious.
"I remember when I was in the first grade, I got in a fight with two kids, got my head split open, had to get stitches, was in the hospital, but I kinda won. I was proud."
"You stuck up for yourself!" quips Ferrell.
Due to an unfortunate incident in a dental clinic, Ferrell's character Brad is unable to have children - and there's a brilliantly funny scene in a fertility clinic, where he and Wahlberg compare the size of their manhoods (with a nod to Wahlberg's early film Boogie Nights, in which he played well-endowed porn star Dirk Diggler).
"Will had to be in his underwear, so he was a bit uncomfortable," admits the Massachusetts-born star.
"Yeah, it was strange, I don't know if I was laughing so much that day," says Ferrell, before Wahlberg adds: "I was a bit uncomfortable, too, with Bobby Cannaval [as the doctor] poking around down there, but it's a funny scene."
They make a brilliant double act - and surely in these uncertain days, we need comedy heroes to make us laugh more than ever.
"There's always a need for comedy," says Ferrell. "But especially in times like this, it's a great release, a chance to take your family and put aside 90 minutes where you can sit through what is a very entertaining, very sweet and funny, charming film, and I think movies like this really do help people."
As for whether Wahlberg's biker, tough-guy, DIY-savvy dad, or Ferrell's soft, smooth Jazz-listening pops wins over the kids, you'll have to see the film.
"Hopefully, the audience is going to be a bit conflicted as to who to root for, because I think both these guys are equally great characters," says Wahlberg.
"They make terrific foes, but in the end, the greatest thing they can do is come together."
- Daddy's Home is in cinemas provincewide now