Why Netflix is sending Will Ferrell to Israel
'Anchorman' star Will Ferrell is using his acting chops and singing skills for his role in 'Eurovision.'
The star of "Anchorman" has some news to report: He's heading overseas for his next gig.
Netflix has tapped Will Ferrell to star in a movie about Eurovision, the campy international song competition that happens each year. The contest, which first began a half-century ago, has introduced the world to such iconic acts as ABBA and Celine Dion. The satirical film will be in line with other Ferrell flicks that have poked fun at niche competitions — like a minor league basketball league (“Semi-Pro”) and the competitive ice skating circuit (“Blades of Glory”).
Last year's Eurovision Song Contest winner was 26-year-old Netta Barzilai from Israel who got her start on the reality show "Rising Star." As is tradition, her home country gets to host this year's competition. The 2019 event will take place in Tel Aviv in mid-May.
Ferrell will travel to Israel for the week-long festivities to film scenes for the upcoming movie. He'll be joined by David Dobkin, who directed "Wedding Crashers," and Oscar-nominated Adam McKay, who will produce. Ferrell has previously worked with Israeli director Etan Cohen.
Unlike "American Idol," the Eurovision contest does not have an age limit for performers. Which works out perfectly for the 51-year-old Ferrell, who played many musical instruments on "Saturday Night Live" and has sung in his previous movies. ("Afternoon Delight," anyone?)
Netflix has doubled down on its Israeli content in recent years. Series like "Fauda," "Shtisel," and "When Heroes Fly" have become wildly popular with U.S. audiences. Israeli actors are finding a home on other shows from Netflix as well – Iddo Goldberg in "Peaky Blinders," Alona Tal in "Supernatural," and Inbar Lavi in "Lucifer," just to name a few. (Both seasons of Lavi's "Imposters" show, which some enjoyed more than "Game of Thrones," have just been added to Netflix.) The streaming giant has also joined the likes of Amazon Prime, ABC and Showtime in looking to Israel for the next big television hit.
It couldn't have come at a more propitious time. Netflix, which boasts 148 million paying subscribers (not to mention all the viewers who share accounts), is beginning to see competition on the streaming landscape. Sure, there's Hulu and Amazon Prime, but now other big media conglomerates are jumping into the market like Apple and CBS All Access. Disney recently announced its own streaming service, dubbed Disney+, which could make a serious dent in the Netflix catalogue if it removes the content it owns from the Star Wars and Marvel cinematic universes.
Which is why Netflix is investing in the new Will Ferrell movie and other original content. According to Qz.com, the streaming video giant put out nearly 90,000 minutes – close to 1,500 hours – of original series, movies and other productions last year. This month alone, Netflix is releasing 62 new original shows and movies. Later this year, Netflix is banking on an Oscar nomination for its new original movie from Hollywood royalty, Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro.
Netflix is also trying to beef up its comedic offerings with standup specials from the likes of Ellen DeGeneres and Amy Schumer, acquiring Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" show, and singing a multi-picture deal with Adam Sandler (Ferrell's former "SNL" colleague).
Barack and Michelle Obama’s new production company, Higher Ground Productions, just announced seven projects that are in the works for Netflix, including several documentaries and a movie. Netflix is currently spending $100 million on building six sound stages in Brooklyn.
Ferrell's Eurovision movie does not yet have a release date, but one thing we know for certain: expect cameos, a hallmark of any good Ferrell comedy. May we suggest a certain "Material Girl?" After all, Madonna is expected to perform at the Eurovision finale. A devoted fan has already put together this video of Ferrell's character from "A Night at the Roxbury" dancing to a Madonna tune:
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