The film’s success, with a worldwide gross of nearly $230 million, has led to a Broadway musical, an animated special, and a vast array of merchandise. The film’s producer, Todd Komarnicki, shared insights into the movie’s history, including the initial consideration of Jim Carrey for the lead role, which eventually went to Will Ferrell, solidifying his stardom.
As “Elf” celebrates two decades of spreading Christmas cheer, it’s hard to believe that the film’s iconic character, Buddy the Elf, could have been portrayed by anyone other than Will Ferrell. Yet, in the early ’90s, Jim Carrey was the favored choice following his comedic success. However, when producers Komarnicki and Jon Berg got their hands on the script, they saw no one but Ferrell for the role. The film’s enduring popularity is a testament to their choice, with Ferrell’s performance as the naive and lovable Buddy becoming a seasonal staple.
The film’s legacy includes a memorable soundtrack, with Zooey Deschanel’s character Jovie’s singing talents becoming a central feature thanks to director Jon Favreau’s decision to incorporate her real-life cabaret skills. The choice of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” as a duet for Jovie and Buddy created a charming moment in the film, despite the song’s controversial lyrics in modern times.
Behind the scenes, “Elf” also featured a stealth cameo by former child star Peter Billingsley, known for his role as Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” and the iconic elf suit worn by Ferrell was crafted with meticulous attention to historical detail by costume designer Laura Jean Shannon.
Despite the film’s success and the potential for a sequel, Ferrell turned down a $29 million offer to reprise his role in “Elf 2,” citing his inability to promote a film he didn’t believe in. This surprising move, along with James Caan’s revelation of a rift between Ferrell and Favreau, adds to the lore surrounding the film.
“Elf” continues to be a holiday favorite, available for new generations to discover and for fans to revisit, embodying the spirit of Christmas in its purest cinematic form.