While celebrating the 20th anniversary of Elf’s theatrical premiere, TV legend Bob Newhart reflects on his role in the film as Papa Elf.
During an email exchange with CNN earlier this week, Newhart stated nothing compares to his role in the cult classic. “Without question, the part of Papa Elf outranks, by far, any role I may have ever played,” the 94-year-old actor declared.
Newhart also recalled knowing the film was going to be a huge hit. “My agent sent me the script and I fell in love with it,” he said. After initially going through the script, the longtime actor predicted the film was another Miracle on 34th Street, which people would watch every year.
Elf follows a character named Buddy (played by Will Ferrell). He was adopted by Newhart’s character at the North Pole after he crawled into Santa’s bag on Christmas Eve. After discovering he’s not like the other elves at the North Pole, he travels to New York City to meet his biological father, Walter Hobbs (played by the late James Caan). Hobbs not only didn’t know that Buddy existed, but he was also in desperate need of the holiday spirit as he was played on Santa’s naughty list.
Starring in the film with Ferrell, Caan, and Newhart were Zooey Deschanel, Edward Asner, and Mary Steenburgen.
Bob Newhart Talks About Shooting ‘Elf’ With Will Ferrell
While continuing to speak about Elf, Bob Newhart recalled working with Will Ferrell on the hilarious holiday film. He stated that while the duo had fun shooting and would always “break each other up.”
However, the actors actually had very seldom eye contact on set. This was due to film techniques that the filmmakers were using to make the pair look different sizes.
The method, Darby O’Gill technique or forced perspective, was used in the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well. CNN reports that the technique places actors far apart to make one look smaller (or larger) than the other. However, the angel of the camera would make them look close together.
“In the scene where Will and I were riding the tricycle, Will sat in the front, while I sat 10 feet behind him,” Newhart explained. “They had an actor directly behind Will who was hidden, but his hands were on Will’s shoulders. This made it look like I was elf-sized.”
Newhart then proclaimed that nothing compares to Elf. “In my opinion, there has not been anything like it in the interim. People wanted to believe it… People need that charming, wonderful thing about the Christmas spirit and its way of powering the sleigh.”
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