Loose cannons come in all sizes. You’ve got your prima donnas, your incendiary shit-talkers, your endlessly calculating zag-ziggers who create a reputation based on unpredictability. But then there’s the one no one thinks about—the one who does his own thing not to piss people off, not to create uproar, but because no one else has the balls to do it. Enter Will Ferrell and Andre “3000” Benjamin. After seven years as the loose cannon on Saturday Night Live, where he created enough memorable characters to put Clinton Portis to shame, big Will bounced west to put Hollywood in the yoke with a legendary series of outsized roles: Ron Burgundy, Ricky Bobby, and now Semi-Pro’s Jackie Moon, an ABA
player and coach hell-bent on keeping his roundball dreams alive. No one in recent memory has imbued comedy with such a sense of surreal spontaneity.
Coincidentally enough, his costar, Mr. Benjamin, is nothing if not the Will Ferrell of hip-hop; he’s managed to repeatedly shed his skin throughout OutKast’s storied career like a king cobra with punch lines. People got mad when he started singing, but they still dissect every new verse with nerdy fervor. Not to mention that dude can actually act. And hang with the big dog. (Literally. Not the dog part, but have you met Will? He’s like eight feet tall!) And he’s back in the studio. That’s two prodigal talents with a seemingly unlimited arsenal. And yeah, they’re down with us. You mad? Tell it to the motherfuckin’ cannons.
This is my first interview with Mr. Andre Benjamin! Very exciting.
This is my first interview, period! It’s cool if I just make up a bunch of stuff, right? [Laughter.]
Ah, this gon’ be fun!
So to start off with the obvious point of commonality here, the movie. How did you get involved with this project, Andre?
It was really Kent Alterman, the director. He called, he said, “We have this script,” I read it, and I thought it was funny. So many rappers make that move, but there seems to be like a comfort zone a lot of people don’t want to break out of. Going with full-fledged comedy, that’s a totally different look.
I never really think, “I can’t do this role, ’cause I’m a rapper.” You’re doing a job, and whatever that job requires, you jump into it. To be honest, I never thought that I was funny—when I did Be Cool, the director had to convince me to be in the movie. But I met with Kent, we talked about the role a bit, and I said, “How can you turn down a chance to be in a movie with this guy?”
[In Ron Burgundy voice] With Big Time. [Laughter
Was Andre’s name out there early for you?
It was actually one of the first names Kent mentioned, and we were like, “That’s a great idea!” Obviously, in casting comedy, you think comedy names first, but we thought it’d be great to think outside the box a little bit. So Andre came and read.
I had to audition for the role.
A lot of people think that you easily get these roles because you do music. I mean, you could knock on the door faster than anybody, but it doesn’t necessarily get you in…
And you always feel like it’s a delicate thing. You don’t want someone to take offense, asking them to come in and read, and yet you still want to see if they’re fit for the part.
You’ve also got to demand some flexibility, especially with the improv feel that permeates your projects.
Yeah, just to see if people are loose enough to go that way.