NEW YORK — Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis shuffled in to a recent news conference for “The Campaign” like a pair of road-weary pols on the last leg of a grueling whistle-stop tour.
Looking slightly dazed and more than a little haggard, the two stars took their places on the dais at Soho's Crosby Street Hotel, flanked by actor Dylan McDermott and director Jay Roach, and faced a room full of reporters with the weary resignation of seasoned campaigners. The somewhat subdued tone of the press event hosted by Warner Bros. might have been due to the hectic, 11-city cross-country promotional tour the co-stars have endured over the two weeks leading up to election day (i.e. the film's Friday release).
A barnstorming campaign to tout “The Campaign,” if you will, the whistle-stop tour kicked off in Los Angeles and featured appearances in Dallas/Fort Worth (where they engaged in a fierce tug-of-war match at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base), Chicago (where they threw out the first pitch at a Cubs/Marlins game), Seattle (where they played coffeehouse baristas for a day), Philadelphia (where they etched their names on a facsimile of the U.S. Constitution) and Washington (where they posed for pictures in front of the White House).
In “The Campaign,” Ferrell plays glib, long-term North Carolina Congressman Cam Brady, a political hack of the first order, who draws an unexpected opponent in the latest election in the person of Galifianakis' naive Marty Huggins, an idealistic newcomer and tour guide recruited to run by big-money power brokers. McDermott plays the Machiavellian consultant brought in to polish up Marty's aw-shucks image.
The resulting campaign quickly escalates into a mudslinging brawl of outrageous dirty tricks.
Straight away, reporters probed the two candidates on their past political experience.
“In high school I was president of the Ross Perot Fan Club,” Ferrell claimed. “It was just a fan club. It wasn't really helping him run for office. So, yes, I have been active in politics.”
Galifianakis' credentials are more substantial: “I was a volunteer for the Michael Dukakis campaign with my brother,” he said. “We cold-called people in North Carolina. I would say, ‘My name is Zach Galifianakis, and I'm calling about Michael Dukakis.' That sounds like a sentence about two dinosaurs.”
Each of the actors brings baggage to his role from characters he's played in the past — Ferrell from his George W. Bush impressions on “Saturday Night Live,” Galifianakis from his comedy routine featuring a fey, fictional twin brother named Seth, and McDermott from two very odd influences.
“I really didn't want this to have anything to do with George W. Bush,” Ferrell said. “I think Cam Brady is really more of a polished politician in the sense that he knows how to give a great stump speech. I really kind of stole from politicians like John Edwards. That having been said, yeah, Cam's a character who doesn't think he's ever wrong, so I guess you could draw that parallel (with Bush).”
“I have been doing this Seth character since high school,” Galifianakis said. “But in high school he was called the Effeminate Racist. So it was a character I'd perform for my dad through the years and did in comedy clubs here and there. And it got to be in a movie with Will Ferrell, so that's pretty exciting.”
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