‘Elf’ Was Almost Edgy, Raunchy, and Not a Family-Favorite Christmas Classic

ELF, Bob Newhart, Will Ferrell, 2003
New Line/Everett Collection

Twenty years ago, one of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time premiered in theaters. Elf, starring Will Ferrell as the lovable Buddy the Elf, follows Buddy as he makes the trip from the North Pole to New York City to find his long-lost father. It wasn’t exactly a warm welcome by his dad, played by the late James Caan, but eventually, Buddy fit in with the family and even found love with Jovie, played by Zooey Deschanel.

The family-friendly film almost had a very different and dark storyline. Before Jon Favreau signed on to direct the film, an unnamed director pushed to make an “edgy” and “raunchy” version of Elf. He apparently wanted to give Jovie an abusive boyfriend and show more of those two in a gross NYC apartment. Producer Todd Komarnicki said that he and the team refused that storyline, rightfully so.

The film also almost had another very famous star. When the script for Elf was passed around about a decade before it actually got made, Jim Carrey was in talks to play Buddy the Elf. When Komarnicki and his producing partner, Jon Berg got the rights to the script and were working on the casting process they both had the same person in mind when reading the script: Will Ferrell. Now, it is hard to imagine the starring role played by anyone else (but I know I’m biased because Ferrell is my favorite actor and Elf is my favorite Christmas movie).

Deschanel was another star who almost didn’t get cast in the film. She once joked that she was “probably their fifth choice” for the role. This was prior to her New Girl fame but Favreau reportedly wanted Jovie to have a special skill. He had the idea that she could be a skateboarder but eventually cast Deschanel because of her beautiful singing voice, which led to the “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” scene.

ELF, Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel, 2003

New Line/Everett Collection

Despite the film being a major success and fans begging for a sequel, reports say one will never be made. The studio approached Ferrell with Elf 2 and a paycheck of $29 million. Yet, he turned it down. He explained, “I would have had to promote the movie from an honest place, which would’ve been, like, ‘Oh no, it’s not good. I just couldn’t turn down that much money.’ And I thought, ‘Can I actually say those words? I don’t think I can, so I guess I can’t do the movie.'” Before he passed away, Caan added that Ferrell and Favreau didn’t really get along during filming and that could be another reason a sequel never came to fruition.

You can watch Elf this holiday season on the streaming service Max.

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Classic Comedy Duos

March 2021

Chuckle at television & films funniest comic duos.

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