Famous male comedians aren’t exactly known for their allyship to the transgender community (cough). But an unlikely ally has emerged in the form of one Will Ferrell — yes, the Mattel CEO in the Academy Award-nominated film, Barbie. The comedian’s new documentary, Will & Harper, is a portrait of the relationship between himself and his trans best friend Harper Steele as the pair embark on a cross-country road trip, and it’s already receiving rave reviews.
The movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah on Monday, where it received a standing ovation, according to Variety. Directed by Josh Greenbaum, Will & Harper follows the duo’s literal (and figurative) journey after Steele came out as a trans woman. The pair met in the 1990s, when Steele was working as the head writer at Saturday Night Live and Ferrell was hired as a cast member. In 2022, Steele sent a “long, vulnerable coming-out email” outlining her decision to transition at age 61, per Variety, and Ferrell suggested taking a road trip together, from New York to Los Angeles, to discuss her transition and this new phase in their relationship.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Ferrell said that he had conceptualized the project as a documentary from the start. “Of course, I made it clear to Harper, ‘I don’t want to exploit our friendship, but this could, I think, be just a wonderful way for us to explore this topic,” he said. “Obviously, for me to learn, ask all the questions that I have about what you’re going through and who you are, have you changed?’”
Eventually, the two friends came to the same conclusion, which was that if they could “convince someone to film it, that maybe it would be something that people would watch.”
“And it would just give them a different perspective or just show off the fact that two people can have a conversation about this,” Ferrell added.
At the film’s Sundance screening, Steele, who was writing for a variety of TV shows until 2020 per her IMDb page, jokingly said, “I had this friend — this is my privilege — who has made movies that appeal very broadly. That was the deciding factor … I could abuse this relationship for the good. I still don’t think Will knows what he did.”