When Elf came out in 2003, it was a massive hit. It became Will Ferrell’s biggest starring role (his role in Zoolander was a supporting one), coming just a year before Anchorman. After the movie did incredibly well at the box office, grossing $220 million, plans for a sequel were discussed. But in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Ferrell explains why he decided to turn it down.
The sequel was poorly written reportedly, and though Ferrell was offered $29 million to play Buddy again—but he couldn’t, in good conscience, stand by something he wasn’t proud of just because he’d be making big bucks from it.
“I would have had to promote the movie from an honest place, which would’ve been, like, ‘Oh no, it’s not good. I couldn’t just turn down that much money,’” Ferrels says. “And I thought, ‘Can I actually say those words? I don’t think I can, so I guess I can’t do the movie.”
Ferrell didn’t share what the premise of the sequel was, or if it was also written by Elf screenwriter David Berenbaum. Mental Floss reported in 2013 that the sequel was supposed to be called Elf 2: Buddy Saves Christmas, so it sounds like it’d be a rehashing of the first movie’s story.
But back in 2020, James Caan—who played Buddy the Elf’s dad, Walter—told Cleveland’s 92.3 The Fan’s Bull & Fox show that there was a different reason why Ferrell didn’t want to do the sequel.
“We were gonna do it and I thought, ‘Oh my god, I finally got a franchise movie, I could make some money, let my kids do what the hell they want to do.’ And the director [Jon Favreau] and Will didn’t get along very well,” he said. “So, Will wanted to do it, he didn’t want the director, and he had it in his contract, it was one of those things.”