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02nd May 2014

JOE meets SNL comedian and star of new Irish film Run And Jump, Will Forte

We compare beards, proclaim our mutual love for both Will Ferrell AND President Michael D, and we find out just why the heck he's been trying to constantly avoid Steve Coogan...

Eoghan Doherty

We caught up with the awesomely-funny actor the morning after the night before…

Ahead of the release of Irish film Run And Jump (in cinemas Friday 2 May), our man Eoghan Doherty met up with Saturday Night Live stalwart and all-round gentleman, Will Forte, so that the two could compliment each other on their brilliantly beardy beards, proclaim their mutual love for both Will Ferrell and President Michael D. Higgins, and Eoghan tries to find out just why the heck Will has been trying to avoid Steve Coogan for the past few months… (He hasn’t really but it sounds good, right?).

It’s the morning after the IFTAs (Irish Film and Television Awards) the night before and Will Forte enters the room, having just moved rooms twice, once for each of his previous two interviews. JOE breaks the ice by cracking a hilarious let’s-move-rooms-again zinger…

JOE: Good afternoon Will, how are things?

Will Forte: Good thank you, how are you?

JOE: I’m good as well thanks, I’ve actually requested that we change room again during the interview because I don’t think you’re moving rooms enough as it is…

Will: (Laughs) Thank you very much for being aware of my complaints about the number of rooms that I’ve traveled to…

JOE: Every three questions we’ll just pick up everything and move…

Will: OK cool, I’m down with that…

JOE: Congratulations on your new film Run And Jump. I really enjoyed it and the ladyfriend that I was watching it with was crying her eyes out, in a good way, as we watched it…

Will: Alright! Good! We like criers!

JOE: It is a very sweet, charming film so you can’t blame her. How did you first get involved with the film?


Will: Steph Green the director – I don’t know why she thought of me – but she somehow did which is crazy because, before this, I had only been in comedies so I have no idea what was going through her mind. But I’m delighted that she came to me because I loved the script. My mental state going in was one of fear-based reluctance.

JOE: That’s understandable as this a completely new line of acting and, as we all know, change is terrifying…

Will: Yeah, I know! But Steph thought that I could pull it off. She won me over and I just thought “why not give it a chance?” It meant that I could go back to Ireland where I’d only been for three days back in 2007 and I had loved it.

JOE: Well you’re lucky because 2007 was a good year for Ireland so you came at a good time…

Will: (Laughs) It was December of 2007 and I didn’t know anything of what it would be like here and I loved it. Me and my buddy came to see the Led Zepplin concert which was amazing. Neither of us had been to Ireland and we said “let’s go over there.”

We said “we’ll get up early every day, we’ll rent a car, we’ll go to Galway.” There were all of these things that we’d heard of that we wanted to do… and then we’d stay up late at a pub, wake up at 2 in the afternoon and say “OK, tomorrow!” But, when you only have three days, you run out of options.


JOE: You do realise that the country is in the state that is in because everybody takes that exact “we’ll do that tomorrow” approach to work and then we all stay up until 3am the night before…

Will: (Laughs) Well, I was really excited to get the chance to come back here and, even though I was just terrified of the situation, at the very least I’ll get a chance to just live in Ireland for two months and experience that. I looked at it as very little downside.

To come out of this situation where I got to have that experience of living here, an experience that I’ll treasure forever, and then come out of it with this movie that I am so proud of, I am very fortunate. I’m happy that I made the decision to do it and that Steph talked me into it.

JOE: Steph was clearly drunk at the time when she asked you…

Will: (Laughs) She had a screw loose in some way yeah! But somehow it worked out, at least on my end.

JOE: To my shame, I actually haven’t seen your other “serious” film Nebraska just yet so sorry about that…

Will: Oh that’s alright! I have seen…

JOE: …none of my films?

Will: Any of your films actually, sorry.

Because of Nebraska I’ve gotten a chance to go to some of the award shows and Steve Coogan has been there for Philomena. I don’t know him very well but I still have not gotten to see Philomena which I hear is amazing. I’m happy that you said that because that now makes me feel better about not having seen Philomena, so I’m fine with you not seeing Nebraska.

Every time I see him I feel so disrepectful even though I want to see it so badly, I’ve just been so crazy busy!


JOE: I can see you now, ahead of every awards ceremony thinking “God I hope Steve Coogan isn’t here” to yourself…

Will: I know! And then I saw him again at the IFTAs and Philomena herself is there! Oh man! But I cannot wait to see it because I hear that it’s wonderful.

JOE: So, although people are raving about Nebraska and commenting on how much of a departure it is for you, it was actually this lovely Irish film Run And Jump which got in there first. Have you got a new-found love for this less comedic type of filmmaking and would it be something that you’d like to focus on more in the future?

Will: I don’t know that I would say “focus on” but if I get the chance to be in another movie like Run And Jump, or another movie like Nebraska, I would jump at it… no pun intended.

I was suprised that I got the chance to be an actor in the first place, because I was a writer for a long time and then I got the chance to be in SNL at the age of 32, which is on the older end of things for acting. Then I got comfortable with the fact that I was a comedian and I thought no one would give me a chance to do anything like this.

Just when you feel like you’ve settled into who you think you are as a performer, and then getting the chance to try something completely different, I realise that not everybody gets that chance and I just feel so fortunate. If I ever got the chance to anything like that again I would love it, but it was not this planned departure from comedy; both of those opportunities just came out of nowhere.

JOE: And if all of the acting never works out then you can just become a cameraman, seeing as Steph got you to film a lot of your own parts of Run And Jump, a handy way of saving money if nothing else…

Will: (Laughs) That’s true, that’s true! I have a very steady hand.

I’ve got to say, there was something so nice about that because I didn’t know, going in, that I would be doing that. I figured that the cameramen would be doing those shots and that Steph would pretend that they were me. Then they said “why don’t you hold the camera” and it was the third day and, at that point in the production, I was so nervous about how I was doing on the acting side of things that, when they handed me the camera, I actually did a pretty good job of capturing the scene.

They were genuinely effusive about the job that I had done behind the camera because I think that they had been worried about how I was going to be.

That was just so nice at that time because I was thinking “oh my God, I have been sucking as an actor so I’m useful in some way” and that helped me turn the corner. And then, little by little, I grew more confident as an actor, and that was really something that I will always remember – that was an important day. It’s hard to explain but everything was so new that every little thing counted in helping getting me comfortable.

JOE: You mentioned the IFTAs earlier, did you have a good night? I’m sure it was quite a party?

Will: Oh it was a great night.

JOE: What time did you get to your bed at? Or did you get your bed at all?

Will: Oh my God, I ended up going to bed at about two in the morning. I got in the day before and even now I’m still spacey and trying to figure out my internal clock. It was a great night but it was tricky because I thought we’d be eating at the beginning…

JOE: Oh dear, I think I know where this is going…

Will: Yeah! I hadn’t eaten for several hours beforehand and I thought “I don’t want to eat at 4 or 5pm because I’m sure we’ll be eating very soon” so I had no idea that we’d be eating pretty much after the ceremony! You want to be respectful and stay at the table and try not to think “Oh my God, I’ve got to get some food in me!”

JOE: They should have done what Ellen did at the Oscars and brought pizza out for everyone so you didn’t go hungry…

Will: (Laughs) Yeah, that would’ve been great! I was really concerned because I had to say something on stage too and I was already jet-lagged, was on an empty stomach, and they really didn’t skimp on the wine at the table, so I was definitely a little tipsy and was concerned that I was going to get up on stage and make an idiot of myself.

JOE: I’m not sure if you saw the footage from the night but you actually just got up on stage and shouted “feed me” repeatedly into the mic…

Will: (Laughs) I did!? Oh no. I will say though, it was a really fun night and I know that they’re catching a little flack from people, but I had a great time and I thought it was loose in all of the right ways and fun and irreverent. But it was still a night where they were still clearly celebrating all of these people who are really gifted and deserve to be celebrated.

It was an honour to be a part of it and it serves me right but I should have brought a granola bar. That’s all I needed, one granola bar!


JOE: Did you get a chance to meet our illustrious President Michael D. Higgins when you were there?

Will: I did not, but I did go to the Galway Film Festival over the Summer and got to meet him there.

I love your President. He is such a gifted speaker, I could listen to him speak for hours on end, he impresses me so much with his eloquence. Both times that I’ve heard him speak he’s had a speech in front of him, but he only glances down for a point of reference and seemingly just speaks off the top of his head in these just beautifully-phrased sentences. He does it in a way that I could never dream of doing, so I have so much respect for him and clearly the Irish people love him. It was an honour to be in the same room as him.

JOE: And, as you listen to the President, you’re simultaneously trying to avoid Steve Coogan…

Will: I’m not trying to avoid Steve Coogan!

JOE: I’ll lend you the DVD of Philomena sure…

Will: That’s the thing, we sometimes get screeners of films to watch but they’re very vigilant about piracy, so they’re not just going to leave the screener at your house. There was a period where I wasn’t at my house for a couple of days and so I missed that particular screener. I can’t wait to see the movie though!

JOE: Some day you will, some day.

In Run And Jump you have a fantastically well-presented beard and you actually have a beard here today at the moment. At the JOE office it’s a mandatory requirement that everyone grows a manly beard, even the ladies. Have you any beard-grooming tips or beard-maintenance advice that you’re able to offer?

Will: No actually! In the film that was the first manicured beard I’d ever had and usually I just wouldn’t shave down here (grabs his hair on the lower part of his neck).

Now I’m doing this show for Fox called The Last Man On Earth and I am letting it grow and I’m not going to shave until we do it. I think that if you were the last man on Earth you probably wouldn’t shave and, as a person who is not the last man on Earth, I don’t like to shave anyway. That was definitely the most growth that I’ve ever had until this thing (points at beard) comes in.

JOE: Well, you definitely give good beard anyway…

Will: Thank you very much, you do too, I like your beard.

JOE: Thanks, I get it from my Mother. You started your career in SNL but who inspired you to want to work in the world of comedy and acting and improv?


Will: It’s hard to single out anyone, I have so many favourites.

My comedy heroes are Steve Martin, Peter Sellers, David Letterman and pretty much the whole of SNL. If you go down the line from the original cast with Dan Akroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase. Eddie Murphy was a huge one too, and the Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz years to Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. Chris Farley was huge for me and Will Ferrell too. They’ve all meant so much to me over the course of my life and I never would have imagined, growing up, that I would be a part of it.

JOE: It’s an amazing tradition alright. Out of your own peers who could tickle your funny bone and make you laugh the most?

Will: Will Ferrell left right before I went in there but he is so wonderfully funny to me, I mean, I love him. He hosted the show a couple of time when I was there so I got to work with him but that’s nothing like getting to work week in, week out with somebody and I wish I had that experience with him.


Fred Armisen I came in with, and Jason Sudeikis and I used to write a lot of stuff together, and Kristen Wiig is so wonderful and funny. I used to work with Maya Rudolph at (LA Improv School) The Groundlings when we were first starting out and that was really special to work with her on the show. I’m just gonna stop right now because I know I’m going to forget somebody!

JOE: Tina Fey never asked about us when you were working with her did she?

Will: She asked about you all the time…

JOE: That’s good to hear…


Will: She was so wonderful to let me go and do 30 Rock and I’m forever grateful becasue that was such a fun experience and it was such great writing… Amy Poehler, I’ve just remembered Amy Poehler now and she has to be in there too!

JOE: Another JOE favourite. Now, as you can probably tell, and we happily admit this, we come up with most of our questions while we’re sitting on the toilet, but what does Will Forte (that’s you) like to read when he’s sitting in the bathroom?

Will: When I’m sitting in the bathroom… ahmm, usually it’s for a sit-down pee. As an older gentleman I think, “why not pamper myself and go for a sit-down pee?” I’ll do the other occasionally too…

I love this magazine called The Week, it’s great because it’s basically all of the week’s news stories collected in one place and I just get so busy it’s easy to miss out on stuff. Oh, and Rolling Stone magazine too! And Words With Friends on my phone – that sounds gross.

I’m rarely on the toilet.

JOE: One final dilemma that we ask all of our interviewees, would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or one hundred duck-sized horses?

Will: A hundred duck-sized horses. Yep. A hundred duck-sized horses. Duck-sized horses would probably be fierce in their own way and would really be able to kick at you but there’s something about the over-sizing of anything that’s not supposed to be over-sized is way freakier than miniturising something that’s usually big.

I mean, think about if it was some kind of over-sized insect – that is just the most terrifying. What if it was an alligator-sized duck versus a bunch of duck-sized alligators? Then, I would take the alligator-sized duck.

JOE: That was my follow-up question, the one about the alligators but you’ve already answered it now…

Will: (Laughs) Oh OK, good! Or sharks! A shark-sized salmon or a hundred salmon-sized sharks? I guess salmons don’t really attack…

JOE: And your favourite Muppet?

Will: I’ll just go straight to Kermit. Love him. The classic.

JOE: You’re also working with Phil Lord and Chris Miller, how is that? Are they both completely batty?

Will: They are the most normal people, they are wonderful. Like Tim and Eric. You would never know the crazy things that come out of their minds. They’re just these really smart, normal people that access this weird part of their brain when they get creative. You wouldn’t even know they’re in the comedy business, four totally normally people who just go bonkers.

JOE: It’s a been an absolute pleasure to meet you Will, thanks for chatting to us today.

Will: Yeah, great chatting to talk to you, thank you.

Run And Jump is in Irish cinemas from Friday 2nd May. 

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