Will Ferrell Opens Up About Childhood and Real Name Struggles

Exploring Will Ferrell's personal and professional revelations

by Zain ul Abedin
Will Ferrell Opens Up About Childhood and Real Name Struggles
© Noam Galai/Getty Images

Known for his easygoing charm, Will Ferrell recently visited Christina Applegate and Jamie Lynn Sigler's podcast MeSsy to clear up why he uses "Will" instead of John William Ferrell. In a candid discussion that looked at his character, taking, for example, ensemble movies like The Godfather and Shawshank Redemption as opposed to something personal like Wild Strawberries, Ferrell admitted.

The situation could be one of isolation during his childhood, as Applegate pointed out. Since his birth name would bring so much embarrassment at school, Ferrell agreed with her. "You know what’s interesting about that [analysis]? This is like a minor thing - it’s not really even trauma.

I remember being so embarrassed because my real name is John. John William Ferrell," he divulged. That’s how Ferrell came to react each year when teachers would call him "John." "The first day of school, it’d be ‘John.’ Like, John Farrell," he shared in embarrassment - even how reluctant he felt to correct them.

"It was so embarrassing to me to have to say, 'Here, but I go by Will. I don’t go by John.' "

Ferrell's Name Revelation

Looking back on those moments, Ferrell said they were "excruciating," he simply stated. When Sigler questioned his dislike of being addressed by his official first name, Ferrell replied, "wasn’t my choice," adding that his parents had always used "Will." Ferrell has publicly revealed his name at least once before this.

On a 2020 appearance with The Late Late Show With James Corden, Ferrell humorously elucidated for the audience his real full name, causing much amusement and surprise. He also revealed that taking these risks to star in Elf was an important challenge.

The original script required massive revision because it was, in many ways, a risk he took to stand up for the film. He ended up being better for this, however, turning Elf into a Christmas perennial that enjoys lots of affection from subsequent audiences, even though, at first, co-star James Caan was sceptical.

When he was filming the movie, Caan was still alive but didn’t initially accept the comedic approach Ferrell was taking. Ferrell recalled, "In between setups, he’d be like 'I don’t get you, you’re not funny,'" However, Caan changed his opinion after seeing a finished film, admitting Ferrell was magnificent in a backhanded compliment at the premiere.

Will Ferrell