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Triumph of the Will

So, for the second year in a row, Will Ferrell has proven to be Hollywood's not-so-golden goose.

Last year, for every $1 Ferrell was paid, the studios earned back $3.35. Which sounds like a profit until you factor in all the other people who need to get paid along the way, from the cigar-chomping, PA-slapping CEO back at the Hollywood ranch to the kid who picked up the second assistant director's dry cleaning every week.

The year before that, Ferrell didn't fare much better, Semi-Pro proving to be his first big comedy flop -- being one dumb-sports-legend romp too many from the man who had so recently given us Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby, Kicking And Screaming and Blades Of Glory.

So, that's how Will Ferrell topped Forbes' annual Most Overpaid Actors list not once, but twice. Hopefully there's a trophy, as they would make great bookends on the mantlepiece, to sandwich Ferrell's two ESPY gongs (Talladega Nights and Semi-Pro each winning Best Sports Movie), his MTV rosette for Best Kiss (shared with Talladega co-star Sacha Baron Cohen) and, most importantly, his James Joyce Award from University College Dublin (for 'excelling in his field', which is illegal in parts of Clare).

"It does bring some perspective to this crazy game, man," nods Ferrell, his brow furrowing as his head bows to meet his locked-for-prayer hands. I think he might be taking the mickey.

"It's a hard path we movie stars walk, and one of us has to take the bullet for the others every now and then. Well, I'm that brave soldier, and I stand before you a changed man. A humbled man."

But, an incredibly rich man too, right?

"Hallelujah, brother!" Ferrell bursts, his hand raised to God. Or up to whoever happens to be staying in room 539. "It's a small but welcome consolation for taking that bullet. I've actually taken two bullets now, so, you know, I think I've gone beyond the call of duty here. It's time for someone else to step forward."

Chances are, next year, Will Ferrell won't be topping Forbes' Most Overpaid Actors list. His summer 2010 offering, the dumb-cop/psycho-cop comedy The Other Guys, proved a hit around the world, while Ferrell's latest outing, the CG cartoon Megamind, has already scooped up $130m in the US, and is about to be unleashed upon the rest of the world.

The latter is a fun movie, but there are many comparisons to be made to Pixar's towering 2004 highly-similar retro sci-fi superhero offering The Incredibles. The Incredibles is incredible. Fact. Megamind is pretty good. Fact. Has Ferrell rehearsed an answer when it comes to the two films being lined up alongside one another?

"I feel that they are two very different movies that just happened to have some similarities," he replies. "I agree, The Incredibles is indeed incredible, but our movie is pretty darn fantastic too. Mainly because I'm in it. Something The Incredibles sorely lacked."

Good answer. Having another film he can show his three young sons -- six-year-old Magnus, four-year-old Mattias and 11-month old Alex (he might have to wait a little) -- is also a plus for Ferrell. Family is obviously important, and he and his Swedish wife of 10 years, Viveca Paulin, always make sure that family comes first. It's reflective in their modest two-storey Hollywood home, and in the fact that traditions are already well established. Such as celebrating mid-summer in Sweden every year, a big tradition in Paulin's home country.

"I think your family has to come first," says Ferrell. "Otherwise, what is there? Insanity, mostly. I grew up in a very close-knit family, and I want that to continue. It puts everything else in perspective."

Talking about family, Ferrell took the opportunity on a recent trip to Ireland to go search out his Irish roots, his pop, Lee, and brother, Patrick, coming along for the ride.

"We got to spend a week or so travelling the country," says Ferrell, "and we sourced a bunch of Ferrells in County Longford. Only it's Farrell over there. It would be great to have a direct line, to know where exactly my dad's roots stem from, but we haven't been able to pinpoint it just yet.

"If anyone spots a particularly dopey Farrell wandering around the streets, perhaps they could let me know. I think our Irish heritage line is going to be a little bit wobbly . . ."

Megamind hits Irish cinemas today