Movie Reviews

Zooey Deschanel Breaks Down How Elf Achieved One of Its Most Iconic Scenes

Zooey Deschanel has revealed the story behind one of the most memorable scenes in Elf. There are a lot of fan-favorite scenes in the holiday classic movie, but the moment when Deschanel and Will Ferrell sing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” gets talked about quite a bit for a number of different reasons. Deschanel had this to say about how the singing scene originated.

“I remember [director] Jon Favreau telling me that they were catering it to whoever played the part. One actress they were looking at was good at skateboarding. But I had a cabaret act at the time and I was performing a lot. They knew that I was a singer, so they put that in to be my special thing that he could discover I was good at.”

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Since Zooey Deschanel had a lot of singing talent, Jon Favreau and crew tinkered with the movie to include that element in the story. To bring it all together, Will Ferrell’s Buddy character had to sing too. “He said he wasn’t a singer, so I wasn’t expecting much,” Deschanel recalls. “But his dad [Roy Lee Ferrell Jr.] is a great musician. I should’ve known he’d be secretly good!” Ferrell ended up having some decent pipes to hang with Deschanel’s trained voice.

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The scene is a bit out of the ordinary as Will Ferrell’s Buddy the Elf character walks into the women’s restroom to investigate where the singing is coming from. “It’s funny because obviously everyone knows it’s not appropriate to walk in the girls’ bathroom when someone’s showering, but he’s so believable as this guileless elf,” Zooey Deschanel says. “It’s weird he’s in there, but you totally buy that his intentions are pure and innocent.” While there has not been any controversy surrounding that aspect of Elf, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” has seen some backlash over the past handful of years.

In order to get the performance down, Zooey Deschanel had to go into a professional studio to record her parts for “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” She recalls, “They recorded some live vocals as an option, but they almost never use those just because you just can’t make it right.” Deschanel continues, “I’m in a shower, there’s nowhere to hide a microphone, and then they wouldn’t have a clean vocal at all. It would be completely mixed with the sounds of the shower.” The actress/singer had to go into a studio with Leon Redbone, who was one of her favorite musicians, though he was not present during the session due to shyness.

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Elf has become a holiday classic in the years since its release, with a lot of talk about a sequel. Jon Favreau has said many times that he would like to make another movie, but Will Ferrell is not interested at all about revisiting his beloved Buddy character with Favreau on board. James Caan, who also stars in the original movie, recently said, “the director and Will didn’t get along very well. Will wanted to do it, and he didn’t want the director.” For now, Elf will have to remain a standalone holiday classic. The interview with Zooey Deschanel was originally conducted by Entertainment Weekly.

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