A chance to embrace a modern comic sensibility while getting to the heart of what brings modern families together
It’s Step-Dad vs. Dad – and Will Ferrell vs. Mark Wahlberg – in the family comedy Daddy’s Home, about a mild-mannered radio executive who must take on the ultimate “dad-versary” when his wife’s motorcycle-riding, freewheeling, secret operative ex breezes back into town.
It’s just one proud papa meeting another – what could possibly go wrong? But what is supposed to be a first get-to-know-you meeting turns into all-out warfare as the two polar opposites attempt to out-dad each other, with hilarious and disastrous results. The stakes keep rising – from puppies to ponies to Kobe – but can they both survive the rivalry? Step-dad Brad just wants to be there for his new family, but he has no idea just how much it’s going to take to win their hearts when “Daddy’s Home.”
The film is directed by Sean Anders from a story by Brian Burns and a screenplay by Brian Burns and Sean Anders & John Morris.
For the filmmakers, “Daddy’s Home” was a chance to embrace a modern comic sensibility while getting to the heart of what brings modern families together.
“What excited us is that this is a comedy dynamic we haven’t seen on screen before: a biological dad who comes along and messes with the life of a step-dad,” sums up star and producer Will Ferrell. “There are so many blended families today that it’s something a lot of people will relate to and it was great fun to explore that comedically. We also turn the tables on the cliché of the ‘evil step-dad.’ My character, Brad, is the sweetest guy ever and so into being a parent he just craves his kids’ approval – but then his wife’s ex Dusty comes along and pushes every one of Brad’s buttons.”
The Invisible Perils of the Insecure Step-Dad: How “Daddy’s Home” Began
There are certain intimidating meetings every person dreads– meeting the in-laws, the boss, a blind date and perhaps the most stomach-knotting meeting of all: getting acquainted with your spouse’s ex, especially when he’s the father of the step-children you’re trying your best to win over.
This is taken to turbo-charged proportions in “Daddy’s Home,” as determined-to-charm-the-children stepdad Brad encounters his kids’ biological father for the first time – and discovers that he just happens to be the world’s coolest dad who can seemingly out-fight any foe, out-fix any household project and out-captivate any human being, including the family that Brad will stop at nothing to keep.
Director and co-writer Sean Anders (“We’re The Millers,” “Horrible Bosses 2”), says of the story:
“’Daddy’s Home’ is about a doting, loving stepfather who wants more than anything just to be a good dad to his stepchildren. When their biological father re-enters the picture, this guy is any ordinary dad’s worst nightmare. Will Ferrell’s character, Brad, is a great guy and Mark Wahlberg’s character, Dusty, is an unimaginably cool, slick and handsome badass. He’s so damned awesome that Brad immediately goes into a tailspin of insecurity. Meanwhile, Dusty, sensing his anxiety, uses it to his advantage. Yet they both really want the same thing: to win the love of their family.”
The idea behind “Daddy’s Home” began, as many of the funniest ideas do, with a real-life scenario from hell: producer and co-writer Brian Burns’ first step-dad adventures and encounter with his own wife’s alarmingly alluring ex.
The concept of an ordinary but devoted step-dad waging a no-holds-battle against a daunting super-dad for his family’s affections struck an instant comedic nerve with Anders and his long-time writing partner John Morris.
Known for such broadly appealing comic hits as Hot Tub Time Machine, Dumb and Dumber To, We’re The Millers and Horrible Bosses 2, Anders and Morris, joining with Burns, found themselves crafting scenes that kept cranking up the comic stakes to outrageous proportions as the two men each vie to become the most illustrious and flawless father imaginable, no holds barred.
But the project really took off with excitement as the filmmakers began imagining the ultimate odd-couple pairing for the film’s two dad-versaries.
When Gary Sanchez Productions – the company operated by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay –came aboard, it became clear that Ferrell would take one … or the other … of the intriguingly slapstick roles. But who would be his foil? Minds reeled at the possibilities, and then came an answer that had everyone grinning in anticipation: two-time Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg, best known for a roster of tough-talking and searingly intense characters in major dramas.
Ferrell and Wahlberg had previously starred together as NYPD partners in “The Other Guys”; but this film would do the opposite: pitting them against each other for the first time, mano-a-mano, with all of Ferrell’s bumbling likeability up against Wahlberg’s charisma and physical prowess.
Recalls Ferrell: “In the beginning, there were a lot of different discussions about whether I would even play Dusty or Brad. But things really came to life when Mark’s name came up; and we knew instantly he was Dusty. Mark is just one of those people who doesn’t ever have to worry about looking or acting cool. He was just born that way, while the rest of us have to spend our entire lives trying to do what comes naturally to him. Mark brought all that to Dusty. He’s the man who has already has a perfectly faded leather jacket in his closet. It’s not something he bought at Banana Republic to try to look cool. And every morning, Mark is already doing a 2-hour workout while I’m still in REM sleep.”
Adds Wahlberg: “I jumped at the opportunity because there are not too many guys out there like Will who are that uniquely funny and talented. We had an absolute blast when we worked together before. Yet I also thought in this story, we could have a very funny and different dynamic than hasn’t been seen before. Will and I love to throw as many curve balls as we can at each other so that was going to work great for these guys taking their one-upping game to the nth degree.”
The yin and yang of the Ferrell-Wahlberg chemistry not only played perfectly into the epic antagonism of “Daddy’s Home” – but also into its exploration of what makes a great father, no matter what skills you have. “Will is like a housecat while Mark is a lion,” laughs Anders. “Yet those manly-men who drive motorcycles aren’t necessarily the world’s greatest dads. They can be. But in this case, you come to see that even though Dusty appears to be naturally cool and good at everything … in his heart, he’s actually a little terrified of the responsibility of being a father – and that’s where Brad has him beat. Really, both characters are motivated by wanting to be loved their children and I think that’s something everyone can relate to.”
That larger-than-life but relatable comic chemistry was clear from the first time the duo appeared in character together. “On the very first day that we did camera tests, Mark and Will came in, stood next to each other and already everybody was laughing,” recalls Anders. “They inhabited these opposites so well that we were off to a great start before we even rolled the cameras.”
For Ferrell and Wahlberg, part of the draw was that neither dad or step-dad in this case is an out-and-out villain – they’re just competitors going to unchecked extremes in every domestic duty imaginable to enrapture the family they share in common.
“What I love is that, in the end, ‘Daddy’s Home’ is not so much about one guy winning,” concludes Wahlberg. “It starts out that way but I think you kind of come to hope that both these guys can find a way to be in their kids’ lives. In a way, they learn to bring out the best in each other.”