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Leading Comedian Will Ferrell Declined $29 Million For "Elf" and Has No Regrets: His Net Worth, Films

Will Ferrell solidified his status as one of Hollywood's most generously compensated actors, consistently earning $20 million per film.
Cover Image Source:  Lia Toby/Getty Images
Cover Image Source: Lia Toby/Getty Images

In the past thirty years, Will Ferrell has risen as a notable American comedian, earning significant wealth. Known for his physical comedy and dedication to comedic roles, he first gained fame on "Saturday Night Live" in the 1990s. He later had successful cameos in movies like "Zoolander" and "Austin Powers" before making his official move to big-screen success with the comedy classic "Old School" in 2003.

Recently, "Oppenheimer" director Christopher Nolan expressed his fondness for Ferrell's comedy, singling out his film, "Talladega Nights." "And one of the great comedies too, I mean 'Talladega Nights,' I'm never gonna be able to switch that up," the director said, per CBR.

Will Ferrell, a renowned American comedian, actor, and writer, has an estimated net worth of $160 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. He gained fame through his numerous comedic films and his stint as a sketch comedy performer on "Saturday Night Live."

Image Source:  Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images
Image Source: Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Acting career 

During his time on "Saturday Night Live," Ferrell appeared in several movies like "Austin Powers," "Superstar," "The Ladies Man," "Dick," "Drowning Mona," and "Zoolander." After leaving "SNL," he starred in the successful film "Old School" in 2003 as Frank "The Tank" Richard. This role earned him praise and a nomination for Best Comedic Performance at the MTV Movie Awards. He also headlined "Elf" in the same year and continued to land major roles in films like "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" and "Starsky and Hutch." In 2005 alone, Ferrell earned $40 million.

In 2016, he impressed in "Stranger Than Fiction" and "Talladega Nights" ($47M opening). "Step Brothers" (2008) earned $128M with John C. Reilly. 2009's "Land of the Lost" disappointed ($19M opening). He continued with sequels, 2018's "Holmes & Watson" with Reilly, and played lead roles in 2020's "Eurovision" and 2022's "Spirited." 

Image Source: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
Image Source: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Will Ferrell's earnings: From 'SNL' to Hollywood

In 2001, Ferrell achieved the distinction of being the highest-paid SNL cast member, establishing a then-unprecedented rate of $17,500 per episode, totaling $367,500 for a season.

In the early to late 2000s, he solidified his status as one of Hollywood's most generously compensated actors, consistently earning $20 million per film. Presently, his recent earnings blend a lower base salary with backend profit participation. Following his $7 million earnings for "Anchorman" in 2004, Ferrell's compensation soared to a minimum of $20 million. Movies like "Kicking & Screaming," "Bewitched," "Talladega Nights," "Semi-Pro," and "Land of the Lost" contributed to this impressive sum.

Image Source: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
Image Source: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Turned down $29 million "Elf" sequel

In November 2021, Will Ferrell revealed that he had been offered $29 million for an "Elf" sequel. However, he turned down the lucrative deal due to his lack of enthusiasm for the project. He further explained his decision in 2021, saying: "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." 

With involvement in 80+ movies and 55 TV shows of diverse styles and budgets, Will Ferrell's earnings per film vary. In the mid-2000s, when he ranked among Hollywood's highest earners, he demanded over $20 million per role for movies like "Kicking & Screaming," "Semi-Pro," and "Talladega Nights," setting a remarkable industry record.

In April 2007, Ferrell and Adam McKay co-founded "Funny or Die", a user-voted comedy video site. Ferrell's Broadway debut in January 2009 featured his Bush impression. He has voiced characters in animated works, co-owns the LA FC soccer team (winning the MLS Cup in 2022), and produced HBO hits like "Eastbound & Down" and "Succession" alongside McKay.

Image Source: Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images
Image Source: Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images

Real estate

Starting from 2007, Will Ferrell has resided in a Hollywood Hills mansion he acquired from Ellen DeGeneres for $9.9 million. Spanning 2.3 acres across three distinct parcels of land, the estate features an array of structures set amidst expansive rolling lawns and gardens. Presently, this property's value could effortlessly reach $20 million if placed on the current real estate market.