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A chat with Will Ferrell

Enjoying the party, and taking 'some silverware and towels'

By Stephanie Snipes

Will Ferrell, very serious about being very funny.

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Will Ferrell

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Will Ferrell has played George W. Bush, Alex Trebek, James Lipton and Craig the cheerleader. Now he's walking the streets of New York City in yellow tights and a pointy green hat.

That's right, Will Ferrell, "Saturday Night Live" alum and "Old School" streaker, has moved to the next phase of his career -- North Pole reject, in the new movie "Elf."

With 10 projects in the works, including a movie version of "Bewitched" co-starring Nicole Kidman, Ferrell has become one of the hottest actors in Hollywood.

CNN sat down with the actor to discuss his career.

CNN: Do you have mixed feelings about leaving "Saturday Night Live"?

WILL FERRELL: No. It was the right time to go. I could tell. Seven years was perfect. I definitely wanted to be thought of as leaving at the right time or too early as opposed to too late.

CNN: Why do you think some SNL alums transition easily into film while others vanish into oblivion?

FERRELL: I don't really know the theory on that. It's such a crapshoot. You think of Adam Sandler and Mike Myers as being examples of people going on and the only thing I can think that sets them apart is that they had a hand in developing [their careers], either by writing ... or knowing the writers really well. You have to be involved at least on some level to ensure that it's reflective of your voice, and then you either sink or swim.

CNN: How is playing a lead role different from the other parts you've played?

FERRELL: You just have to maintain a consistency in the performance. You're obviously more in the spotlight so any deviation becomes a lot more apparent whereas in an ensemble film you don't have to worry so much. But I didn't approach it any differently then I would any other movie.

CNN: How does it feel to be quoted by fans?

FERRELL: It's so bizarre. Often times I'm confronted with a quote that I don't remember saying. So, on one hand it's very flattering, it is just so surreal. I ran the Boston Marathon this year ... and from beginning to end there were "Frank the Tank" signs and people were yelling, "You're my boy blue!" Fraternity guys were running next to me with their buddy running ahead and taking photos. It was great fun but I just kept laughing the whole time.

CNN: Are you able to get used to that kind of attention?

FERRELL: I don't know if it's anything you ever really get used to ... there's a part of me that doesn't really take all of this so seriously because I think if I did I'd get to nervous, and the pressure would just collapse me. I really have felt like it's a private party that I've gotten in to and I'm just waiting to get kicked out. I'm trying to eat as much food off the buffet table as I can, and [I'm going to] take some silverware and towels.

CNN: Can you tell us what your new Woody Allen film is about?

FERRELL: That's a good question. I'm in the midst of it and I don't even know. I actually got to read the whole script but then it was taken away from me. I only got like eight hours. Someone asked me if I thought to photocopy it, I was like "no, I should have done that." Knowing Woody Allen he probably has some kind of paper that explodes when you photocopy it.

CNN: Are you excited to be working with Allen?

FERRELL: I'm battling between "Wow, this is a great experience" to "Wow, this is totally miscast, they should have gone with Robert Downey Jr."

CNN: You've said you'd like your career to go like Bill Murray's. Can you elaborate on that?

FERRELL: I'd love to become like Bill Murray, who was so funny on "Saturday Night Live" and has gone on to do some of the landmark comedies people like. And then to add this whole other phase to his career with "Lost in Translation" and "Rushmore." I always felt to be able to have something similar to that would be great.

CNN: You've just been cast in the movie version of "A Confederacy of Dunces" [as distinctive protagonist Ignatius J. Reilly]. Are you worried about what fans of the book will think of you in the role?

FERRELL: Whether good judgment or not, I'm not afraid to do something. That doesn't mean that I'm not aware of the fact that I can do a movie like ["Dunces"] and the purists could be like "Why? Why is it him?" I'm definitely aware of that, but I really can't worry about it too much. And you could probably name 10 other people who could play Ignatius and I would agree with you that they should probably do it.

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