It’s Step-Dad vs. Dad – and Will Ferrell vs. Mark Wahlberg – in this rollicking holiday season family comedy about a mild-mannered radio executive who must take on the ultimate “dad-versary” when his wife’s motorcycle-riding, freewheeling, secret operative ex breezes back into town. It’s just one proud papa meeting another – what could possibly go wrong? But what is supposed to be a first get-to-know-you meeting turns into all-out warfare as the two polar opposites attempt to out-dad each other, with hilarious and disastrous results. The stakes keep rising – from puppies to ponies to Kobe – but can they both survive the rivalry? Step-dad Brad just wants to be there for his new family, but he has no idea just how much it’s going to take to win their hearts when “Daddy’s Home.”
For the filmmakers, “Daddy’s Home” was a chance to embrace a modern comic sensibility while getting to the heart of what brings modern families together. “What excited us is that this is a comedy dynamic we haven’t seen on screen before: a biological dad who comes along and messes with the life of a step-dad,” sums up star and producer Will Ferrell.
Ferrell continues: “There are so many blended families today that it’s something a lot of people will relate to and it was great fun to explore that comedically. We also turn the tables on the cliché of the ‘evil step-dad.’ My character, Brad, is the sweetest guy ever and so into being a parent he just craves his kids’ approval – but then his wife’s ex Dusty comes along and pushes every one of Brad’s buttons.”
Paramount Pictures and Red Granite Pictures present a Gary Sanchez production of “Daddy’s Home,” starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg and Linda Cardellini. The film is directed by Sean Anders from a story by Brian Burns and a screenplay by Brian Burns and Sean Anders & John Morris. The producers are Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Chris Henchy and John Morris and the executive producers are Riza Aziz, Joey McFarland, David Koplan, Kevin Messick, Jessica Elbaum, Sean Anders and Diana Pokorny.
“Daddy’s Home” co-stars Hannibal Buress, Thomas Haden Church, Bobby Cannavale, Paul Scheer, Bill Burr along with Scarlett Estevez and Owen Wilder Vacarro as Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg’s shared kids.
The behind-the-scenes team includes cinematographer Julio Macat (“Wedding Crashers,” “Horrible Bosses 2”), production designer Clayton Hartley (“Anchorman 2: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”), editors Eric Kissack (“The Dictator,” “Horrible Bosses 2”) and Brad Wilhite, costume designer Carol Ramsay (“Meet the Fockers,” “Horrible Bosses” and “Horrible Bosses 2”) and music by Michael Andrews (“Bridesmaids,” “Jeff Who Lives At Home”).
The Invisible Perils of the Insecure Step-Dad:
How “Daddy’s Home” Began There are certain intimidating meetings every person dreads– meeting the in-laws, the boss, a blind date and perhaps the most stomach-knotting meeting of all: getting acquainted with your spouse’s ex, especially when he’s the father of the step-children you’re trying your best to win over. This is taken to turbo-charged proportions in “Daddy’s Home,” as determined-to-charm-the-children stepdad Brad encounters his kids’ biological father for the first time – and discovers that he just happens to be the world’s coolest dad who can seemingly out-fight any foe, out-fix any household project and out-captivate any human being, including the family that Brad will stop at nothing to keep.
Director and co-writer Sean Anders (“We’re The Millers,” “Horrible Bosses 2”), says of the story: “’Daddy’s Home’ is about a doting, loving stepfather who wants more than anything just to be a good dad to his stepchildren. When their biological father re-enters the picture, this guy is any ordinary dad’s worst nightmare. Will Ferrell’s character, Brad, is a great guy and Mark Wahlberg’s character, Dusty, is an unimaginably cool, slick and handsome badass. He’s so damned awesome that Brad immediately goes into a tailspin of insecurity. Meanwhile, Dusty, sensing his anxiety, uses it to his advantage. Yet they both really want the same thing: to win the love of their family.”
The idea behind “Daddy’s Home” began, as many of the funniest ideas do, with a real-life scenario from hell: producer and co-writer Brian Burns’ first step-dad adventures and encounter with his own wife’s alarmingly alluring ex. The concept of an ordinary but devoted step-dad waging a no-holds-battle against a daunting super-dad for his family’s affections struck an instant comedic nerve with Anders and his long-time writing partner John Morris.
Known for such broadly appealing comic hits as “Hot Tub Time Machine,” “Dumb and Dumber To,” “We’re The Millers” and “Horrible Bosses 2,” Anders and Morris, joining with Burns, found themselves crafting scenes that kept cranking up the comic stakes to outrageous proportions as the two men each vie to become the most illustrious and flawless father imaginable, no holds barred.
But the project really took off with excitement as the filmmakers began imagining the ultimate odd-couple pairing for the film’s two dad-versaries.
When Gary Sanchez Productions – the company operated by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay --came aboard, it became clear that Ferrell would take one … or the other … of the intriguingly slapstick roles. But who would be his foil? Minds reeled at the possibilities, and then came an answer that had everyone grinning in anticipation: two-time Oscar® nominee Mark Wahlberg, best known for a roster of tough-talking and searingly intense characters in major dramas. Ferrell and Wahlberg had previously starred together as NYPD partners in “The Other Guys”; but this film would do the opposite: pitting them against each other for the first time, mano-a-mano, with all of Ferrell’s bumbling likeability up against Wahlberg’s charisma and physical prowess.
Recalls Ferrell: “In the beginning, there were a lot of different discussions about whether I would even play Dusty or Brad. But things really came to life when Mark’s name came up; and we knew instantly he was Dusty. Mark is just one of those people who doesn’t ever have to worry about looking or acting cool. He was just born that way, while the rest of us have to spend our entire lives trying to do what comes naturally to him. Mark brought all that to Dusty. He’s the man who has 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 2-hour workout while I’m still in REM sleep.”
Adds Wahlberg: “I jumped at the opportunity because there are not too many guys out there like Will who are that uniquely funny and talented. We had an absolute blast when we worked together before. Yet I also thought in this story, we could have a very funny and different dynamic than hasn’t been seen before. Will and I love to throw as many curve balls 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.”
The yin and yang of the Ferrell-Wahlberg chemistry not only played perfectly into the epic antagonism of “Daddy’s Home” – but also into its exploration of what makes a great father, no matter what skills you have. “Will is like a housecat while Mark is a lion,” laughs Anders. “Yet those manly-men who drive motorcycles aren’t necessarily the world’s greatest dads. They can be. But in this case, you come to see that even though Dusty appears to be naturally cool and good at everything … in his heart, he’s actually a little terrified of the responsibility of being a father – and that’s where Brad has him beat. Really, both characters are motivated by wanting to be loved their children and I think that’s something everyone can relate to.”
That larger-than-life but relatable comic chemistry was clear from the first time the duo appeared in character together. “On the very first day that we did camera tests, Mark and Will came in, stood next to each other and already everybody was laughing,” recalls Anders. “They inhabited these opposites so well that we were off to a great start before we even rolled the cameras.”
For Ferrell and Wahlberg, part of the draw was that neither dad or step-dad in this case is an out-and-out villain – they’re just competitors going to unchecked extremes in every domestic duty imaginable to enrapture the family they share in common.
“What I love is that, in the end, ‘Daddy’s Home’ is not so much about one guy winning,” concludes Wahlberg. “It starts out that way but I think you kind of come to hope that both these guys can find a way to be in their kids’ lives. In a way, they learn to bring out the best in each other.”
A Sweet, Mild-Mannered Man Gone Manic:
Will Ferrell on Brad Taggart Although Will Ferrell pondered whether to play dad or stepdad in “Daddy’s Home” in the early stages, once he took on the role of Brad, it was clear he was going to bring something only he can – a comic persona that can swing from the awkwardly klutzy to the sneeringly clever while always staying a kind of Everyman with whom people connect on a personal level. He was able to bring Brad’s ineffably ‘Smooth Jazz’ lifestyle to a dizzying crescendo without ever losing the character’s center.
Director Sean Anders was thrilled to see Ferrell taking on a role that exposes his heart as well as his knack for fearless hilarity. “In movies like ‘Blades of Glory,’ the ‘Anchor Man’ movies and ‘ Talladega Nights,’ Will has played obnoxious, blowhard buffoons – and he’s so great at playing those cluelessly rude guys. But that’s not how he is in real life at all,” notes Anders. “He truly is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet – so it’s great to see some of his true sweetness and kind-heartedness come out in this movie in such a funny way. He fits the role perfectly -- although Will’s not quite as much of a boob as Brad can be in the movie!”
Ferrell sees the film as a bit of a change-up from his previous work as an actor and filmmaker. “A lot of the movies we’ve done have obviously, knock on wood, been funny but this one is our most story-driven yet. I love that it touches on such relatable subject matter – it’s a comedy about how modern families find a way to work.”
From the start, Ferrell understood that Brad’s fears goes far beyond Dusty’s badboy exterior. Sure, Dusty is a secret commando, fearsome martial artist, master builder, consummate athlete, brilliant storyteller and friend of celebrities – but those are not the kicker. Dusty has something else Brad doesn’t. “No matter how hard Brad tries to bring the kryptonite to Dusty, the kids can always say, ‘you’re not my real dad.’ And that is every step-parent’s worse nightmare,” notes Ferrell.
Still, while the odds seem stacked against him, Brad has his own advantages. “Dusty swoops in at first like a true-life superhero. He’s that perfect male figure men want to be in their mind’s eye. And yet, the simple task of being responsible for two young lives and nurturing them has been too much for him to handle – and for Brad that part is not that big of deal. He likes that part,” Ferrell explains. “The fun thing is that these two guys learn a lot from each other along the way.”
That learning comes through amusingly painful moments, however. One of Ferrell’s favorites is when the two dads take the kids to a Lakers game, where their battle builds to a fever pitch, involving Kobe Bryant and a half-court shot attempt gone very, very wrong.
“Kobe couldn’t have been nicer and did a whole scene with us where there wasn’t even any written dialogue and the whole thing was amazing,” recalls Ferrell. “We shot in the middle of a real game and we had a six-minute window to shoot that key half-time shot scene. It was so exciting to play it out live in front of a crowd who had no idea what was coming. We prompted them with ‘please stay in your seats as they shoot a scene for the upcoming Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg movie and watch Will Ferrell attempt a half-court shot.’ That’s all we told them… it’s rare that you get to do that stuff in real-time and it gives that scene a vitality that’s hard to recreate.”
Another memorable scene calls for Brad to reveal his unlikely childhood skateboard skills, but the ensuing gnarly visuals required a skateboard-tricks pro – and not just any pro as the legendary “birdman” Tony Hawk came aboard to double for Ferrell. “Of coures, Tony is dressed as me so no one knows it’s him but it was great to have him be me. It was very surreal,” muses Ferrell.
The physical comedy, for which Ferrell has always had a rare knack, was intensive throughout “Daddy’s Home.” Yet among the flailing and flying, a favorite for Ferrell is the more down-to-earth dad-dance-off that pits Wahlberg’s street moves against what he calls “Brad’s earnest dad-like dancing.” Ferrell adds: “In that scene, Mark summoned up some of that old school magic from the Markie Mark days and it came out in full effect. He was reluctant to do any of it but then suddenly he was nailing all these spins and kicks. I had to up my game.”
Keeping things steady as Brad and Dusty go overboard trying to outclass each other was always Sean Anders. Ferrell notes that the director always steered things towards their funniest, yet without losing sight of the film’s core family story. “Sean is just a powerhouse,” Ferrell says. “He is so conscientious and thorough and he really connected with the film’s premise. A lot of thought went into every moment and he brought so many great ideas on top of that. The cast always had jokes at the ready, but it was Sean who honed in on the emotional component all the way through.”
The Perfect-Specimen Dad Ready to Duel:
Mark Wahlberg on Dusty Mayron If Dusty Mayron hadn’t formerly been married to Brad’s wife, Brad would probably idolize the over-achieving free spirit – but under the circumstances he can only dread, fear and do everything in his power to outperform the superdad of his darkest night terrors. To play Dusty would obviously require someone with comic chops, but equally it called for an actor completely believable as a real-life, ripped-and-ready badass. Mark Wahlberg, who has played Oscar®-nominated street-tough roles in David O. Russell’s “The Fighter” and Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed,” and is a sought-after action-adventure star as well as dramatic leading man, was that rare guy who clearly fit both bills.
“Mark can be very funny but he actually is a bit of a real-life superhero,” admits Sean Anders. “One day when we were shooting on the basketball court he threw a football full-court into the basket on his first try. And the telling part about it is that he had no reaction whatsoever. I mean, who does that and doesn’t start high-fiving everyone around? But to him it was nothing.”
Once he took on the role, Wahlberg was as interested in Dusty’s defects as in his distressingly lengthy list of strengths. He saw Dusty as someone capable of impressing anyone in the short term, but not necessarily cut out for long, steady relationships, which is the missing ingredient in his otherwise stellar life.
“I think Dusty is a guy who is married to the world he lives in; he’s married to adventure,” Wahlberg muses. “And that’s why he has stayed away from his family. But I think when he starts to think about this other guy, Brad, living in his home with his former wife and his kids, that’s a big, big problem for him. That’s what motivates him to come back and show them his best. But he knows his one real weakness is his inability to commit. He can do it all except stay home and be a dad.”
Wahlberg says he approaches all roles the same way – whether serious drama, madcap comedy or a hybrid. “I always try to be as believable in any character as possible – even when the circumstances are as outrageous as in ‘Daddy’s Home.’ I believe that if I make it as realistic as I can, that’s where the humor comes from,” he explains. “In playing Dusty, Sean and Will and everyone really encouraged me to let loose and be crazy and once I got started … I never stopped.”
He continues: “But as crazy as things get, there still has to be that realism. Sean really understood that as much as we all wanted to push the envelope with humor we also wanted to hit those dramatic moments that so many people identify with. He knew that what makes the humor work is the heart in both these guys.”
That drama seemed to emerge organically from the natural chemistry between Wahlberg and Ferrell. “The fun of working with Will is that we are always seeing how far we can push each other and mess with each other -- but at the end of the day we genuinely like each other and I think that comes across,” Wahlberg sums up. “Hopefully, the audience is going to be a bit conflicted as to who root for because I think both these guys are equally great characters. They make terrific foes, but in the end the greatest thing they can do is come together.”
A Mom Caught in an Epic War of the Dads:
Linda Cardellini on Sarah Taggart Caught between Will Ferrell’s Brad and Mark Wahlberg’s Dusty is the woman who can see through both of them: Brad’s current and Dusty’s former wife, Sarah. Taking the role is Linda Cardellini, recently Emmy-nominated for her role as Don Draper’s neighbor Sylvia Rosen on “Mad Men” and seen in the Netflix series “Bloodline.”
“Linda’s the unsung hero of this movie because Sarah is a really challenging part,” points out Sean Anders. “She had to walk this very fine line where she’s a grounded, loving mother on the one hand, but she’s also part of the over-the-top comic antics that are the heart of the movie. It was a tricky needle to thread. She had to make us believe that she could have once been madly in love with Dusty but now is madly in love with Brad – yet she has a place in her heart for both of them. I think she did a really great job pulling all of that off.”
Ferrell agrees. “Sarah had to have a toughness to her because you’d have to be pretty tough to start a family with a guy like Dusty. She’s battle-tested but she also had to have a charm that would attract Brad. Linda was incredible at all of it,” says the actor and producer.
Adds Wahlberg: “Linda’s obviously very funny and very talented, but she’s also a really good sport, putting up with me being a real caveman as Dusty. I love that she gives you the sense that she’s hip to all his tricks – yet it doesn’t prevent him from trying them with everything he’s got!”
Cardellini says it was easy to understand a woman being attracted to this utterly contrasting and conflicting pair of men. “Brad is just full of heart. He is all goodness. He always finds the best thing in any situation and he’s so reliable, it’s hard to beat that. But then Dusty is incredibly awesome at almost everything on earth and has all these kind of heroic, charismatic qualities,” she comments. “For Sarah, though, I think it really comes to what they’re really made of.”
The best part for Cardellini was having the chance to witness Ferrell and Wahlberg go at each other in increasingly uproarious ways. “It was just incredible fun to be right in the middle of these two guy arguing and joking and going back and forth,” she reminisces. “They’re both so great at what they do and the constant improv kept us all in stitches.”
For Cardellini, part of the specialness of the film is that, for as much fun as it has lampooning fatherhood, it cuts to the core of just how hard parenting really is. “When you’re a parent you just want your kids to learn, so you do crazy things but along the way hopefully you learn and evolve, too,” she observes. “The truth about parenting is that nobody has perfected it!”
Comedy Gems and Authentic Kids:
The Supporting Cast of “Daddy’s Home” Surrounding Ferrell, Wahlberg and Cardellini in “Daddy’s Home” is a supporting cast of comedians, award-winning actors and young newcomers who all become part of the comedic chaos. Academy Award® nominee Thomas Haden Church (“Sideways”) came in to play Leo Holt, Brad’s manager at the Smooth Jazz radio station where he works. He says the writing was the big draw.
“This was one of the sharpest comedy scripts I’ve read in years and I was really flattered that they asked me to be Will Ferrell’s boss,” he explains. “It turned out to be incredibly fun. Will I so spontaneous and also generous. He was an absolute toast-master with the whole cast and crew.”
Says Mark Wahlberg: “Thomas is someone I’ve been a big fan of for a long time and it was great to see him come in for a few days and just kill this very funny role.”
Another award-winning actor, Bobby Cannavale (“Boardwalk Empire,” upcoming “Vinyl”), takes on the part of Dr. Francisco, the fertility expert laboring to help Brad and Sarah have a child of their own, despite an unusual reproductive accident. Cannavale reunites with Ferrell and Wahlberg, having also had a role in “The Other Guys.” The comic possibiities were irresistible. “When I read this script, I laughed so hard,” he recalls. “And knowing already how well their chemistry can work, the idea of Will and Mark in the main roles made me laugh even harder.”
As for Dr. Francisco, Cannavale describes him as “a narcissistic fertility doctor whose method involves flirting with women in front of their husbands to provoke a spike in testosterone.”
Says Will Ferrell of his repartee with Cannavale: “Bobby was out and out hilarious as this super irreverent doctor who is borderline lewd with my wife and very dismissive to me and my condition. For me, it’s one of the film’s funniest scenes.”
Cannavale says one of the great joys of working with Ferrell and Wahlberg is the spirit of improv that surrounds them. “Will just seems to pull hilarious ideas out of nowhere! He’s got a really offbeat and completely unpredictable sense of humor,” he expounds. “I found it very hard to keep it together when working with him. Mark is very good at keeping it together. I don’t know how he does it – but I couldn’t help but laugh straight up in Will’s face sometimes!”
Also joining the cast are two of today’s biggest stars of the stand-up comedy world: Hannibal Buress and Bill Burr. “We were lucky to get two of the best comics working right now,” says Ferrell. “Hannibal is hilarious, smart and has this offbeat energy where you can just throw him into a scene and you instantly get great lines. Bill Burr is another very sharp, funny guy and he plays the serious, perturbed, stiff-dancing dad to perfection.”
Buress, in his first major film role, portrays Griff, the laid-back handyman who befriends Dusty, and adds more headaches to Brad’s life. His offbeat approach to the contentious character took the whole production by storm. Observes Sean Anders, “There are some comics who will push and push for comedy but Hannibal is so naturally hilarious, he just lets it happen and it’s incredibly effective. The way he portrays Griff felt completely at home in this movie.”
For Buress it was a full-on learning opportunity that he leapt at. “It was so cool working with these guys and just seeing how they prepare. It’s a completely different world from standup so having the chance to pick their brains was amazing. My character is basically playing mental chess with Will Ferrell so you know that’s going to be fun.”
Rounding out the main cast are the family’s two awestruck kids, Megan and Dylan, joyfully caught between two warring dads out to astound them. The filmmakers went in search not of established stars but a pair of very natural, fun-loving kids who were also grounded enough to be up to the task of playing against Ferrell and Wahlberg’s non-stop pranks, pratfalls and boasting. They found that rare combo in Scarlett Estevez and Owen Vaccaro.
“We were looking for realistic kids who don’t feel like they’re acting and that’s how we chose Scarlett and Owen,” explains Ferrell. “They’re very sweet and earnest kids to begin with, which sets up you with a perfect canvas for feeding them lines to say horrible things to Brad! Best of all, they both have that innocence that lets you believe they would get swept up in Dusty and Brad telling these competing bedtime stories, loving every minute of it.”
“These kids are amazing,” adds Anders. “Scarlett is a prodigy who knocked us out with her ability. And Owen is incredibly funny, especially when being trained by Mark to fight off bullies.”
The production of “Daddy’s Home” took place in New Orleans, Louisiana, where cinematographer Julio Macat and production designer Clayton Hartley collaborated on creating the Taggart family’s warm family home – and then proceeded to wreak chaos throughout it.
Every design detail of the film was set up to let the comedy – and the film’s two inimitable stars – shine in their completely opposite ways.
Concludes Sean Anders: “As different as these two are, one reason they make such a great pairing is that they both are very funny yet they both feel honest at the same time. Mark is known as a badass and a serious actor who can get at real emotions but he’s this rare breed who is naturally comedic, too. Will -- even in his craziest and most insane characters – always has that sincerity underneath that only makes him that much funnier. Put them together … and you never can never fully predict what’s going to happen.”