By Miki Turner
Special to Page 3

BEVERLY HILLS -- Whether he's portraying a boozing frat boy in "Old School" or an oversized Santa's helper in "Elf," Will Ferrell's career has been soaring since his depature from "Saturday Night Live" two years ago.

Elf
Kids of all ages can enjoy Will Ferrell's humor.

Ferrell's success has been so steady that he's already secured a roster spot alongside other "SNL" alums -- Akroyd, Chase, Murphy, Belushi, Murray and Sandler -- who've made fluid and profitable transitions from sketch comedy to feature films.

In his latest effort, "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy," Ferrell (who also co-wrote the film) plays a throwback news anchor from the '70s who thinks the world revolves around him and his telePrompter-reading buddies (Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Steve Carrell).

He gets a rude awakening, however, when the station hires its first female reporter (Christina Applegate). The film opens nationwide this Friday.

In 10 Burning Questions, Ferrell, who graduated from USC and originally aspired to be a sports broadcaster, talks about his new film, what prompted his career shift, and more:

Ron Burgundy in Motion

Watch Ron Burgundy's 1979 ESPN Audition on ESPN Motion.

• Ron Burgundy Audition Reel ESPN Motion

• Download ESPN Motion now

1. When you were thinking about becoming a sportscaster were you leaning more toward Jim McKay's style or Chris Berman's?

Will Ferrell: You know I didn't even get that far with it. I graduated from college and worked on a local cable access news show. The person I wanted to be was Chevy Chase. I really didn't care about reporting ... It was very Ron Burgundy-esque. I didn't care about getting a news story or anything like that. And I thought, those aren't good instincts to have if you want to become a journalist.

But as we did our little broadcast for this show that no one watched, I did want to be on camera and had more fun playing the news than actually being the news. I didn't really get a chance to figure out my style. But like the way ESPN kind of brought comedy into sportscasting and sports reporting -- that's probably the direction I would have gone, had I stuck with it.

2. Was there one guy you patterned Ron Burgundy after or is he a composite character?

He's kind of a mixture of everyone. Back in the '70s before there was cable, news guys were really famous -- they could have run for mayor. This guy, Jack White, who worked in San Diego, told me that he could go to a supermarket opening and 10,000 people would show up.

3. The film really shows how sexist newsrooms were back in the '70s. In your research, did you find that they're still that way?

Anchorman
Whether it's running in the nude or sleeping with a dog in his pajamas, Will Ferrell has no shame.

Sexist attitudes are still obviously out there, predominantly for me. I just don't like women .... and I'm married to one. But it's OK, somehow we're attracted to that. I really think we should go back to the 1950s. If I had my druthers ....

4. You seem really willing to put yourself in embarrassing situations --

I don't know what you're talking about.

What about the scenes in your underwear?

I say this honestly, I'm not an exhibitionist ... even though I seem to find myself constantly doing things like that. We just end up writing scenarios that seem really funny. I do have moments of "Why did I write this? Oh, well." As long as it's in the context of what you're dealing with in the character within the scene in the film, then I'm happy to do it. And the other side of it is, there's nothing timid about being in comedy. You either have to go for it or why are you doing it?

5. The minute your shirt comes off in a film, people just start laughing. Does that bother you? Do you long for rock-hard abs?

I don't think rock-hard abs would ever happen, no matter how hard I worked. It's an interesting thing because every time I run into people, the comment is often said to me is: 'You've lost weight.' And I say, no, I haven't. But I think on film, it's not flattering to me in a good way. It doesn't really bother me -- not yet. I talk about it a little in therapy ... when I take my shirt off, laughter starts happening. But, no I don't really yearn for the perfect physique because it just won't ever happen. You know, this is the body that God gave me, so let's make it work.

6. People like you, Vince Vaughn, the Wilson brothers and Ben Stiller keep popping up in each other's movies. What's up with the whole Frat Pack thing?

I love the name. It's fantastic. It's catchy. We've made over 25,000 T-shirts that say, "Get on board, the frat pack train is leaving the station." We're going to work on that slogan. It's catchy, it's fun.

Old School
Thanks to Frank the Tank in "Old School," Will Ferrell has had a cult following.

7. You've got a bunch of movies coming up including "Bewitched" and "The Producers." Are you now the hardest working man in show business?

Literally, none of those movies are happening. I just sometimes ... this is a town based on rumors and sometimes those things just get away from you.

8. What's the biggest rumor about you?

Uh, that I'm not gay. That's probably the biggest rumor and that pisses me off because I work hard with my partner Roger. You know, enough said.

9. What's your best and worst memory from when you were an athlete?

My best memory is when I scored like 28 points in a basketball game once. I was a freshman. That's pretty good, right?

Uh, probably the worst memory was in third grade -- no, I take that back. It was in high school when I slid into second base and actually killed the kid. It was just a weird, funny break and I severed an artery. That is probably my worst memory.

10. What was it like throwing out the first pitch at an Angels game?

I have to say, that it was one of those things that didn't feel like it was going to be that big a deal until I stepped out onto the field. It was really fun, but it became a big deal. It was pretty exciting and actually; Anaheim Stadium is where I grew up going to ballgames. And having played sports throughout my life, it was a lot of fun. Hopefully, I'll get to do it again.

Miki Turner covers the good life in LA. She can be reached at dmiki@aol.com