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‘Elf’ Cast Then & Now: See How Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel & More Stars Changed 19 Years Later



Zooey Deschanel

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Image Credit: Everett Collection/AP

  • Elf is a popular Christmas movie that came out in November 2003.
  • Will Ferrell plays Buddy, a human raised by Santa’s elves, who travels to NYC to meet his biological father.
  • The film also stars Zooey Deschanel, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, and Edward Asner.

Elf became an instant Christmas classic when it was released on Nov. 8, 2003, and it’s now a movie everyone needs to watch each and every holiday season. Will Ferrell‘s portrayal of Buddy the Elf stole our hearts, and made us both laugh and cry, as he traveled from the North Pole to New York City in search of his biological father. The movie became a massive hit, with many fans hoping for a sequel someday.

Sadly, a sequel doesn’t seem to be in the works, but the movie often plays on repeat every year during the holidays. And since the movie’s release, most of the cast has gone on to have more amazing roles in films and movies. Take a look below and see what the Elf cast has been up to over the past 19 years since Elf’s release.

Will Ferrell

Will Ferrell
Will Ferrell played Buddy the Elf. (Everett Collection/AP)

Will Ferrell55, has become a comedy legend since he rose to fame Saturday Night Live. His role as Buddy in Elf helped cement Will as one of the go-to comedic actors in Hollywood. The following years Elf were incredibly successful for the actor. He starred in the hit comedies Old School, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, The Other Guys, and more. He has been nominated for two Golden Globes since Elf for his roles in Stranger Than Fiction and The Producers. Will stars in Spiritedthe new Christmas movie with Ryan Reynolds on Apple TV+. The film references Elf in one scene, where someone at a party is wearing a replica of Buddy’s costume.

In addition to acting, Will has also become a high-profile producer. He’s an executive producer of shows like Succession and Dead to Me. He also produced movies like Booksmart, Hustlers, Vice, and more. Will is happily married to Viveca Paulinand they have three sons together.

Zooey Deschanel

Zooey Deschanel
Zooey Deschanel played Jovie. (Everett Collection/AP)

Zooey Deschanel‘s role as Jovie in Elf helped take her acting career to a new level. After ElfZooey went on to star in movies like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Yes Man, 500 Days of Summer, and more. Her biggest role to date was playing Jess Day in the FOX comedy New Girl. She received an Emmy nomination and three Golden Globe nominations during the show’s run.

Zooey, now 42, sings in Elf, and it’s not a secret that she has a great voice. She became a part of the musical duo She & Him, and their debut album dropped in 2008. They’ve released an additional 5 albums. On top of acting and singing, Zooey is also an accomplished businesswoman. She co-founded the female-focused website HelloGiggles.

The actress was married to Ben Gibbard from 2009 to 2012. She married Jacob Pechenik in 2015. They have two kids together, Elsie Otter7, and Charlie Wolf5. Zooey and Jacob divorced in 2020. Zooey is now dating Property Brothers Star Jonathan Scott44. HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY broke the news they were dating in Sept. 2019.

James Caan

James Caan
James Caan played Walter Hobbs. (Everett Collection/AP)

James Caan was an accomplished actor before Elf due to his roles in The Godfather, The Glory Guys, and more. However, he became part of the holiday movie universe playing Walter Hobbs, Buddy the Elf’s biological father. After ElfJames went on to star in the series Las Vegas. He left after four seasons.

In the years after Las VegasJames had roles in films like The Wrong Boyfriend, Undercover Grandpaand Out of the Blue. James was married four times. James and his fourth wife, Linda Stokesdivorced in 2009 after 14 years of marriage.

James died at 82 years old on July 6, 2022. He passed away from a heart attack caused by coronary artery disease. His family confirmed the news on him Twitter. “It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Jimmy on the evening of July 6,” the statement read. “The family appreciates the outpouring of love and heartfelt condolences and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.”

Mary Steenburgen

Mary Steenburgen
Mary Steenburgen starred as Emily Hobbs. (Everett Collection/AP)

Mary Steenburgen69, stole our hearts in Elf as the loving Emily Hobbs, who welcomes Buddy in her home. The actress had already made a name for herself long before Elfhaving won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the 1980 film Melvin and Howard.

Mary reunited with her Elf co-star Will in the hit comedy Step Brothers in 2008. She went on to have key roles in successful films like The Proposal, The Helpand Book Club. She’s returning for Book Club 2 — The Next Chapter. Mary recently starred in the series Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. Mary has been happily married to an actor Ted Danson74, since 1995. She was previously married to Malcolm McDonnell, 79, and they had two children together. Their son Charlie McDowell39, is a film director who is married to an actress Lily James.

Daniel Tay

Daniel Tay
Daniel Tay starred as Michael Hobbs. (Everett Collection/MEGA)

Daniel Tay‘s acting debut was playing Michael Hobbs, Buddy’s half-brother who befriends him over the course of the film. The same year Elf came out, Daniel, now 31, appeared in the film American Splendor.

He also voiced the titular character Doogal in Doogal. Daniel has also done video game voice work for games like Bully and Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tonywhich was released in 2009.

Peter Dinklage

Peter Dinklage
Peter Dinklage starred as Miles Finch. (Everett Collection/AP)

One of the most memorable scenes in Elf is when Buddy mistakenly calls famous children’s author Miles Finch, played by Peter Dinklage, 53, an elf. Just a handful of years after the release of Elf In 2003, Peter began starring as Tyrion Lannister in the HBO series Game of Thrones. He received critical acclaim for his performance throughout the show’s 7-season run and won 4 Emmys and one Golden Globe for portraying Tyrion.

On top of playing Tyrion, Peter has had notable roles in films like X-Men: Days of Future Past, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Avengers: Infinity War, and more. He played the legendary Cyrano de Bergerac in the musical adaptation of Cyrano. He’s set to star in the upcoming The Hunger Games prequel film.

Bob Newhart

Bob Newhart
Bob Newhart played Papa Elf. (Everett Collection/AP)

Bob Newhart‘s role as Papa Elf made our hearts melt. He was just one of a few legends cast in Elf. Bob, now 93, was already a comedy icon from his decades in Hollywood prior to the holiday film. Bob has continued to have roles in TV shows and movies since elf, but he has slowed down his appearances as he’s gotten older.

He made a number of guest appearances on The Big Bang Theory as Professor Proton. He received his first Emmy for his performance in 2013. Bob reprized his role in The Big Bang Theory spinoff, Young Sheldon. He also appeared in the series finale of Hot in Cleveland in 2015. His appearance reunited him with Betty Whitewho was his co-star on Bob decades ago. Bob has been married to his wife, Virginia Quinnsince 1963, and they have four children.

Ed Asner

Ed Asner
Ed Asner starred as Santa Claus. (Everett Collection/AP)

Like many of his other co-stars, Ed Asner, who died on Aug. 29, 2021 at age 91, was already very famous before he played Santa Claus in Elf. He’s best known for playing Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and spinoff series Lou Grant. He won a whopping 7 Emmy Awards throughout his career.

After ElfEd notably voiced the role of Carl in the Pixar film Up in 2009. He had a number of film and television throughout the 2000s and 2010s, including notable guest spots on The Good Wife, Dead to Me, Briarpatch, and more. Ed was married twice. His second marriage to Cindy Gilmore ended in 2015 after 17 years.

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