Will Ferrell films documentary in Iowa City

The famous comedian and actor was spotted downtown at the bar, playing pool, and shooting for an upcoming “road trip documentary.”


Rohan Abernathy-Wee

A crowd gathers outside of Bo’James Food & Drink in search of Will Ferrell in downtown Iowa City on March 8, 2023.

Kate Perez and Cooper Worth

Iowa City community members flocked downtown Wednesday afternoon after reports that comedian and actor Will Ferrell was in the area circulated. 

Kristin Pedersen, Iowa City Community School District director of community relations, confirmed that Ferrell visited City High with Harper Steele, who graduated from Iowa City High School.

Dozens of people wandered along Dubuque Street and Iowa Avenue in search of Ferrell, who was seen inside and outside the Deadwood Tavern along with a film crew. 

Carlos Ayala, the manager of the Deadwood, said Ferrell was at the bar to film a documentary. 

“The producer got in contact with me last night, asked me if they could come in here because they’re filming a road trip documentary apparently, and the person that [Ferrell’s] doing it with used to drink here at the Deadwood and they wanted to come back,” Ayala said. 

The bar did not shut down for Ferrell’s arrival, but Ayala said he did not tell many people that the actor was coming to downtown Iowa City.

“He didn’t take any pictures with fans, unfortunately, but he did have a couple of drinks and they played pool,” he said. 

After people found out Ferrell was at the Deadwood, Ayala said foot traffic picked up immensely for the bar. Ferrell was at the bar from 2:30 p.m. to around 3:30 p.m.

Word that Ferrell was in Iowa City spread rapidly on social media including apps like Snapchat, Twitter, and YikYak. Large groups of people gathered outside of the Deadwood, the Sports Column, and down Iowa Avenue in search of Ferrell.

Kat Trout-Baron, a University of Iowa second-year student, said they came downtown to search for Ferrell while their friends were doing the same. 

“My friends are fans,” Trout-Baron said. “I’m also a film student, so I feel like any time of exposure to the industry or people in the industry, so seeing a set and PAs and camera people, it’s very exciting.”

Trout-Baron said they knew that Ferrell is currently shooting a road trip documentary. 

Ella Austin, a UI first-year student, said she left the class she was in when she heard Ferrell was in town. 

“I ran out of class. I took my quiz super fast and I ran out during my biology lab,” Austin said. 

Austin said she was willing to stay out as long as it was needed to catch a glimpse of Ferrell.

“Honestly, I’m going to see him. I don’t really care,” she said. 

Myles Barnum, a UI first-year student, said the movies “Anchorman” and “Step Brothers” are two of his favorite films from the comedian.

Barnum was not able to meet Ferrell but said if he did he would have asked him for a hug. 

“That’s all I want from the guy,” Barnum said. “A hug from Will Ferrell sure would be nice.” 

Sabine Martin contributed to this report.