Warner Bros. is betting big on Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart. Individually, either star has a claim to being one of the most popular comedians of our time. Together, they form an oddball pairing in the new movie Get Hard, a hopeful blockbuster about a white-collar criminal who naively turns to a Black friend for advice about surviving a prison bid.
In conversation Ferrell and Hart riff off each naturally, poking fun as much as paying respect. Speaking with The Urban Daily during a SXSW media blitz for Get Hard, the actors open up about their new movie and recent public appearances, from Ferrell’s extended MLB cameo last week to Hart leading the charge in roasting Justin Bieber for Comedy Central on Saturday.
“I think SXSW is the type of festival that a movie like this fits perfectly in terms of what we do comedically and the excitement to see us together,” Ferrell says of screening Get Hard in Austin this week. “It’s a fun place to be for this movie.”
The movie is another big one for Ferrell’s Gary Sanchez Productions company, the force behind the website Funny Or Die and movies like Step Brothers and Anchorman 2. Get Hard hits the same notes and folds a still-peaking Kevin Hart into an already winning formula.
“Man, I gotta be honest with you, I came in with the expectation of this thing being great from the start,” Hart says of working with Ferrell’s team. “These guys, this is what they do. When it came time for me to jump in I said, ‘Uh, time to bring the comedy!’”
Like the movie itself does on its actors, Get Hard banks on two characters coming from entirely different backgrounds. Ferrell treads carefully when talking about the racial politics—it’s a laughs-first affair he suggests—but allows that there’s plenty more going on.
“It’s always fun to do a comedy where you can comment on things as well,” the Saturday Night Live alum says. “Even though the focus of this movie is just to be super funny, that’s the main intent. Which it is. While you’re laughing we’re able to sneak some of this stuff in.”
Ferrell also admits that his character is a bit of a jerk, a trope he’s played up plenty as Ron Burgundy in Anchorman, a quickly-classic example of the love-to-hate-him prototype.
“He is kind of an asshole who doesn’t realize he’s one,” Will says of his Get Hard character James. “Yeah, he’s someone who along the way as my relationship with Kevin’s character grows he becomes educated. Likewise so does Darnell about my character. We kind of shatter the misconceptions we have about each other.”
The movie also promises a heavy dose of raunch and both actors seem unhinged by the R-rating.
“We just knew that if we were gonna do a comedy about this subject it had to be R-rated,” Ferrell says. “It would have just felt a little bizarre trying to do a PG-13 movie about someone being instructed how to survive in prison. It just gave us the comedic freedom to really go for broke.”
Off the set both actors did just that in a recent roast of Justin Bieber for Comedy Central, an event filmed on Saturday but set to air later this month.
While he’s mum for now on the Bieber roast, Ferrell is proud of his epic charity appearance on the baseball field last week, a stunt that saw him suit up for ten different MLB teams and try his hand at every position in a single day.
“I lucked out with all the infield positions that a screaming ground-ball wasn’t hit to me,” he says. “I have to say my favorite position was probably getting to pitch. I kept my dignity intact. That was an amazing day. Thanks to the cooperation with Major League Baseball and HBO we were able to raise a million dollars for Cancer For College.”
The MLB gag was the first collaboration between HBO and Ferrell’s website Funny Or Die, a new partnership that proves the older Get Hard comedian is still on the cutting edge. Hart seems to agree, and in his own way is mining the Internet to build his brand.
“I think we’re in a better place,” Hart says of comedians transcending the movie theater or TV screen. “Right now people are in position to build their own brand for free. The beautiful thing about the Internet is you can get out to people however you see fit. You can create your own content. You don’t have to go and ask and request and need. You can be creative and do things on your own. Right now the power of marketing I think has definitely been upped a little bit. For comedians the best thing we can do is expose our own selves. Nobody knows you better than you so you’re your best promoter which is why I think it’s an amazing thing right now.”
Get Hard hits theaters nationwide on March 27. Watch a trailer for the movie below.