Two years before they reunited for Step Brothers, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly discovered they made a great comedic duo in 2006's Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, directed by Adam McKay and co-written by Ferrell and McKay.
Ferrell played popular NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby, with Reilly as Cal Naughton Jr., the "bake" to Bobby's "shake," who didn't mind coming in second to give Bobby the win. Ten years after the film's release, here are 13 fast facts about Talladega Nights.
1. IT WAS MOLLY SHANNON WHO INTRODUCED WILL FERRELL TO JOHN C. REILLY.
In an interview with About Entertainment, John C. Reilly said that he was introduced to Will Ferrell "through my friend Molly Shannon and we just hit it off right away. That friendship bled into the relationship in [Talladega Nights], I guess." Originally, the friends has planned to work together on Anchorman, but Reilly was shooting another film. "That was a real heartbreak for me because I thought that was the chance to work with Will and Adam," he said. "Lo and behold, they put this together and called me."
2. FERRELL AND ADAM MCKAY HAD WANTED TO MAKE A NASCAR MOVIE FOR YEARS.
The two had talked about NASCAR while Ferrell was making Elf (2003). Then they went to a race. "We weren’t even huge NASCAR fans at the time, but after we started going to the track, we got swept up in the phenomenon," McKay said.
3. THEY PITCHED IT WITH SIX WORDS.
McKay and Ferrell used just six words to pitch the movie to studios: "Will Ferrell as a NASCAR driver." Sony said yes.
4. NASCAR ADDED JOKES.
NASCAR helped with accuracy and getting production access to real racing events. Producer Judd Apatow remembered that "some guy at NASCAR would pitch us a better joke than we had, and then we were embarrassed that they could ride cars at 150 miles per hour and be funnier than us."
5. REILLY BASED HIS LOOK ON DRIVERS FROM THE 1960s and 1970s.
While Reilly was trying to figure out the look of Cal Naughton Jr., he looked at pictures of contemporary drivers. They looked "clean cut," but when he looked through a book about the history of the sport, he saw something he liked—facial hair. "Big muttonchops, sideburns and crazy facial hair. They look like they’re doing a bit of partying off the track, and a little paunchy," Reilly explained. "And I thought, those are the guys I want to base my thing on, the ones that were running away from the feds when they were trying to hide their stills up in the mountains."
6. THEY PRACTICED RACING FOR REAL.
Instructors at the Richard Petty Driving Experience helped Ferrell, Reilly, and Sacha Baron Cohen learn the fundamentals of racing. “The first thing they do is have you ride shotgun with a real NASCAR driver at about 180 miles an hour around the track, Baron Cohen said. " It was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life."
When McKay, Ferrell, and Reilly went to school, they all insisted on getting off the track after riding in a van for just one lap. "The scene where Ricky comes back and thinks he's going fast, but he's really only going 25 miles per hour, totally terrified. That was pretty much based on real-life experience," Ferrell later admitted.
7. REILLY WANTED TO RECREATE A SCENE FROM DAYS OF THUNDER.
"The one scene from Days of Thunder that I wanted to recreate in Talladega Nights was when Robert Duvall ([as] Harry Hogge) is alone with the car and talking to it at night like it's a person," Reilly said. "It gets almost inappropriate. 'I'm gonna buff you out and pump you full of high octane, baby' ... We were going to shoot a scene where I was talking and rubbing and then getting way too intimate with the car, but it didn't make it. That was probably for the best."
8. 200,000 RACING FANS INSTINCTIVELY BOOED SACHA BARON COHEN'S CHARACTER.
Ferrell, Reilly, and Baron Cohen were introduced in character at the 2005 UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. When Baron Cohen's character, Jean Girard, was introduced, 200,000 fans booed. McKay was worried Baron Cohen would get depressed after that, but it didn't surprise the comedic actor. "It reminded me of the last time I went to Alabama, when I was playing a gay Austrian character for [Da Ali G Show] and was booed by 90,000 drunken men at the Alabama-Mississippi football game," he explained. "The only way I got out alive was by switching clothes with the sound man.”
9. THE KNIVES IN THE LEG SCENE KEPT GETTING LONGER AND LONGER.
"The knife in the leg is a bit that in no way serves the story, but we thought it was funny," McKay said. "So we tried a small version of it and we got a big laugh. 'Oh wait a minute, let’s add more of that.' It got more laughs. 'Let’s add way more of that.' We used the sequence with the second knife—it’s out of focus, you can tell it looks awful, but we said, ‘Screw it, we’re putting it in anyway!’ Suddenly it’s the funniest set piece in the movie."
It was Michael Clarke Duncan's idea to put in the second knife. "I used to work at the gas company and when you get your drill bits stuck in the concrete you just take it out and go get another drill bit and dig around that one and take it out, so that is where I got that line from."
10. MICHAEL CLARKE DUNCAN NEVER THOUGHT HIS SINGING WOULD MAKE THE FINAL CUT.
McKay told Duncan to sing something by Donna Summer. "Last Dance" was the only song he could think of. "I thought it was going to be on the DVD," Duncan said. "I thought nobody will see it for at least a couple of months." It made the final theatrical cut, during the closing credits.
11. MCKAY WAS WORRIED THE MOVIE WASN'T CRAZY ENOUGH.
McKay asked his wife if they made the movie "crazy enough." "Are you frickin’ kidding me?" was the start of her response. "'Look what you have in this movie,’ and she named like eight things: Sacha Baron Cohen breaks [Will’s] arm because he won’t say ‘I love crepes’? They have a song on the bar jukebox for profiling purposes? So yeah, I think we did a pretty good job of taking a step forward without losing too much of what we do."
12. FERRELL'S FATHER WROTE AND PERFORMED A SONG IN THE FILM.
Roy Lee Ferrell played saxophone, piano, and keyboards for the Righteous Brothers for almost 20 years. He wrote "Goodbye Cowboy" for Talladega Nights. "Having my dad's song in the movie is neat because it's not like I said, 'Hey, put my dad's song in the movie,'" Ferrell said. "It was the director (Adam McKay) and the other creative decision-makers that wanted to include it, so that is so satisfying for both me and my dad."
13. THE ACTORS RECORDED AN INTERESTING DVD TRACK.
One DVD commentary is set in the year 2031 to celebrate the movie's 25th anniversary. In their version of events, the film changed history. Now a militia leader, Reilly called in from the "island state" of Michigan.