9 Milestones in the Evolution of Will Ferrell

In this weekend's Everything Must Go, Will Ferrell takes on the role of Nick Halsey, an alcoholic who is stripped of his job and then his dignity when his wife evicts him from their home (and deposits his life's belongings on the front lawn). How did Ferrell transform himself from a USC grad who mimed a cat for his Saturday Night Live audition to one of the most bankable comedy stars and, at age 43, an newfound indie darling?

You can always trace a direct line through a few important roles to illustrate what led to an actor's current success. So let's look at nine pivotal performances that track the evolution of Will Ferrell.

Saturday Night Live (1995)

Before breaking big on SNL, the Irvine native appeared on a few television shows in thankless roles like "Man at Meeting" (Grace Under Fire) and "Roommate from Hell #1" (Living Single). During his successful seven-year term at Studio 8H, Ferrell became one of the most popular cast members in history with his goofball impressions including George W. Bush, Robert Goulet, Janet Reno, Alex Trebek, Ted Kaczynski -- who, in one memorable sketch, attended his class reunion -- and Harry Carey.

Zoolander (2001)

Although 1998's A Night at the Roxbury (which Ferrell co-wrote and co-starred in) tanked at the box office, the SNL star was quickly given other big screen opportunities with supporting roles in the $200-million grossing Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and Zoolander, Ben Stiller's beloved comedy about a dimwitted model. Ferrell played manipulative fashion mogul Jacobim Mugatu who brainwashed Derek Zoolander (Stiller) as part of his scheme to retain cheap child labor.

Elf (2003)

Ferrell's first starring vehicle proved to be his most profitable, grossing over $200 million worldwide. In the seasonal comedy -- about a man raised as an elf who must leave the North Pole to find his real identity -- Ferrell proved that he didn't need to take off his pants or share scenes with an ensemble cast (like he did in Old School) to carry a movie. This film also broadened his audience from frat boys to families; it still plays on loop during the holiday season to this day.

Anchorman (2004)

A year later, Ferrell's first feature collaboration with former SNL head writer Adam McKay would hit theaters. Starring as fictional '70s newscaster/chauvinist/jazz flutist Ron Burgandy, the comedy instantly gained a cult following and Ferrell is still encouraging fans to start an email hate campaign to Paramount Pictures so that he and McKay can make a sequel.

Melinda and Melinda (2004)

Just three months later, Ferrell's career swerved towards the dramatic-ish when he premiered his first serious leading role in Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda opposite Radha Mitchell. Allen had originally written the lead for Robert Downey, Jr. but was forced to cast Ferrell when he realized that he could not secure insurance for the formerly drug addicted actor. Both the film and Ferrell -- whom critics described as being an odd fit for an Allen surrogate -- garnered mix reviews.

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