Lafayette’s Will Forte stars on TV’s Saturday Night Live and in the new movie MacGruber.
Portraits by Lisa Loftus
Portraits shot at the Saturday Night Live studio
(page 1 of 3)
"So I’m standing there—totally naked—in front of a hundred people. There are movie cameras and still camera photographers pointed at me,” says Will Forte. “Then, I look over my shoulder, and I see my mom and two of her friends from Lafayette. And I think, ‘OK, that’s pretty weird.’”
No, Forte isn’t sprawled out on a therapist’s couch, describing some kind of Oedipal nightmare. The 39-year-old Saturday Night Live star is describing a nude scene he shot last summer for his new movie, the R-rated action comedy MacGruber, which hits theaters next month.
Based on an SNL character created by Forte and Berkeley native Jorma Taccone, MacGruber is a mullet-haired soldier of fortune with a fatal tendency to get distracted while diffusing bombs.
The real Forte isn’t anything like his brash, not-so-bright onscreen character. The Lafayette-raised actor is genuinely humble, a down-to-earth nice guy from the East Bay burbs whose two decades of hard work as a comic have paid off with a starring role in a big Hollywood movie. The idea that his face (and mullet wig) will be plastered across billboards from coast to coast for the upcoming MacGruber marketing campaign still makes Forte laugh: “I’m still trying to wrap my head around stuff like that,” he admits.
From his office at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Forte is happy to share insights about his eight seasons of SNL, a gig that lets him hobnob with celebrities from Green Day to Ashton Kutcher to Sarah Palin. Surprisingly, he clearly prefers talking about his happy days at Acalanes High, where he was voted “Best Personality” by the class of ’88.
“Every time I’m back in Lafayette, I have to go to the Taco Bell on Mt. Diablo Boulevard,” he says. “I spent so much time in there as a teenager, this huge wave of nostalgia comes back as soon as I walk through the door.”
Even more surprising is how much he likes to talk about his family: Forte shares stories about officiating at his sister’s wedding at the Orinda Country Club and videotaping the birth of his 10-month-old niece, Laney. “Those were, without a doubt, the two greatest days of my life,” he says.
“That’s pure Will,” says his older sister, Michele Forte-Purdie, who works at a San Francisco nonprofit. “He’s gotten to meet and work with his idols, like Steve Martin and U2, through SNL. But he’ll choose a moment like Laney’s birthday as his favorite.”
It’s not that Forte hasn’t been able to mine these family experiences for laughs. On Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, Forte shared hilarious stories about his sister’s “angle approval” of the birth video. At Michele’s 2007 wedding, he cracked up the crowd with an extended pause after “does anyone have a reason why this man and woman should not marry?”
“I was more nervous about that than anything I’ve done on Saturday Night Live,” Forte says, laughing. “If you bomb on the show, you can make up for it the next week. If you bomb at your sister’s wedding, that’s going to come up at Thanksgiving dinner for the rest of your life.”
Wardrobe: (above) John Varvatos Suit, shirt and Tie;
(photo at top of page) Billy Reid leather jacket and chinos, Shipley & Hamos shirt
Wardrobe Stylist: Deborah Ferguson/Artmix, stylist assistant: Kanna taniuchi, Groomer: Livio AngIleri/Artmix, Digital Technician: Wesley Rose, Photo assistants: Brett Wood, Chang Han