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In election year, a Ferrell-Galifianakis ticket

Associated Press Modified: August 6, 2012 at 2:45 pm •  Published: August 6, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) — "The Campaign" is a broad comedy made from broad intentions: Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis simply wanted to make a movie together.

In the film, which opens Friday, they play two North Carolina politicians competing in an increasingly nasty Congressional race. Galifianakis' character shoots Ferrell's point blank and his poll numbers go up. That would seem hopelessly extreme in its absurdity if this wasn't an election year where real headlines have often seemed the stuff of high comedy.

It's a ready-made concept that pits two of the best comedians in movies against each other for the first time in a major project. In comedy, a Ferrell-Galifianakis ticket is a winner in a landslide.

The two first crossed paths at "Saturday Night Live," where Ferrell was a veteran standout and Galifianakis was making a short-lived stint that wouldn't last three weeks.

"Hey Zach, have they told you what you're doing?" Ferrell recalls saying to a confused Galifianakis at the time.

They hadn't told him — not an uncommon consequence of "SNL" boss Lorne Michaels' sometimes inscrutable ways. To make matters worse, Galifianakis had come to the show under the mistaken impression he was to be a cast member — the big break of his career — when he was actually hired as a writer.

His term at "SNL" was remarkable only for an attempt to convince guest host Britney Spears to do a sketch in which, during an "Entertainment Tonight"-style interview, she inexplicably begins bleeding from the mouth.

Ferrell would eventually exit "SNL" and launch a very successful movie career, while Galifianakis continued with stand-up and various projects before "The Hangover," too, made him one of the most sought-after comics in Hollywood.

Ferrell, 45, approached Galifianakis, 42, about teaming up, and the two quickly took to brainstorming. Their initial idea was to do a male-centered version of "Toddlers & Tiaras," the TLC show about child pageants.

"We were going to play two dads, which would have really been hard to pull off because of the creep factor," Galifianakis said in a recent joint interview with Ferrell. Both recoil at the thought of shooting such a comedy while the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State was playing out: "If we were in the middle of shooting the boy pageant movie?" says a wide-eyed Ferrell. "Aye Toledo!"

It fell to Adam McKay, the director and frequent collaborator of Ferrell's, and a producer on "The Campaign," to, like an exasperated parent, nix the boy pageant idea. Instead, he suggested a political comedy. For a short time, they planned to make a movie based on the campaign documentary "The War Room," with Ferrell as a candidate and Galifianakis as a Karl Rove-like adviser.

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