It’s been nearly two decades since we first saw Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf. The holiday comedy was sort of a lightning-in-a-bottle moment – the filmmakers and actors involved with Elf all went on to achieve massive success and the movie itself has since gained the status of a modern Christmas classic. And although an official Elf 2 seemed like an inevitability, Ferrell himself ultimately decided that no amount of money in the world would be worth donning the yellow tights a second time around.
Seeing those ads for British supermarket chain Asda this month – which rotoscoped footage of Buddy out of the original film and into one of its stores – has only highlighted the enduring popularity of Elf. Will Ferrell even joked that these ads “kind of helped me finally get paid market value for when I shot Elf.”
Will Ferrell certainly got the opportunity to get paid market value for his role as Buddy when he was pitched Elf 2 at some point back in 2005. Just two years prior, he was the fast-rising comedic star that’d graduated from Saturday Night Live with a breakout role in Todd Phillips’ frat house comedy Old School. By 2005, fresh off Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, he was a bona fide A-lister. The US$29 million (AU$43 million) offer was necessary for him to even consider.
Screenwriter Scot Armstrong, who undertook an uncredited rewrite on Elf, turned in a draft for the proposed follow-up. The story took place an indeterminate number of years after the original and was centred on the now-married Buddy and Jovie, along with their 10-year-old daughter Susie. Buddy would’ve also been enjoying his life as a successful children’s book author specialising in stories about Christmas.
While Elf is a fish out of water story about Buddy trying to find and connect with his real father, Elf 2 was intended to be more of a character study. It would’ve seen Buddy lose the diet of 7,000 daily calories of sugar, the elf outfit, and change his name to “Brian” in an attempt to no longer be the subject of embarrassment for his daughter.
When asked about the proposed Elf 2 by The Hollywood Reporter last year, Will Ferrell was open about his concerns regarding the artistic direction of the film.
“I would have had to promote the movie from an honest place, which would’ve been, like, ‘Oh no, it’s not good. I just couldn’t turn down that much money.’ And I thought, ‘Can I actually say those words? I don’t think I can, so I guess I can’t do the movie.’”
Elf co-star James Caan, the actor that played Buddy’s father, has previously suggested that a sequel will never happen due to a dispute between Will Ferrell and director Jon Favreau. Despite this, Will Ferrell has maintained that his sole issue with an Elf 2 is this idea of turning the character into a dad adjusting to suburbia. In his words:
“I just think it would look slightly pathetic if I tried to squeeze back in the elf tights: Buddy the middle-aged elf.”