'Elf' Cast: Where Are They Now?

The festive favorite starring Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel and James Caan spreads the same Christmas cheer decades later. Check out what the stars are up to now

01 of 10

Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf

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Fresh off of seven years on Saturday Night Live, Will Ferrell starred as the suspiciously tall, titular elf, Buddy, who learns he's actually a human and sets out on a quest to find his biological dad in New York City. Ferrell serves up constant laughs and quotable lines as a 30-year-old man-child devoted to love and the pure joy of the holidays in this Christmas classic.

Since Elf (2003) hit theaters, Ferrell has continued to deliver hilarious performances in films like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), Step Brothers (2008), The Campaign (2012), Get Hard (2015) and Spirited (2022). He has also voiced characters in animated films like Megamind (2010) and The Lego Movie (2014).

Ferrell is equally active behind the scenes. In 2007, he founded Funny or Die, an online comedy streaming platform, with former collaborator Adam McKay. The pair also executive produced HBO's Eastbound & Down and the critically acclaimed Succession.

Ferrell will appear in Greta Gerwig's highly anticipated Barbie (2023) as the CEO of Mattel.

In 2000, Ferrell married Swedish actress Viveca Paulin, with whom he shares three sons, Magnus, Mattias and Axel.

02 of 10

Zooey Deschanel as Jovie

ELF, Zooey Deschanel
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In 2003, then-blonde Zooey Deschanel wooed Buddy as Jovie, a Gimbels employee with a sultry singing voice and an "affinity for elf culture." Her version of "Baby It's Cold Outside" with Leon Redbone from the film — predating her She & Him days — is a holiday favorite.

Deschanel is best known for the seven years she spent starring as Jessica Day on Fox's New Girl, a role that snagged her an Emmy nomination and three Golden Globe nominations. She has also appeared in countless big-screen hits, including The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Failure to Launch (2006), 500 Days of Summer (2009), Our Idiot Brother (2011) and Trolls (2016).

An accomplished musician, Deschanel is known for her indie folk musical duo with M. Ward, She & Him. The pair have released seven studio albums and even received a Grammy nomination for the track "So Long," featured in Winnie the Pooh (2011). Ward first heard Deschanel sing in Elf, which prompted him to suggest a creative partnership.

In 2022, she began co-hosting Welcome to Our Show, a New Girl rewatch-podcast with former costars Hannah Simone and Lamorne Morris.

In 2009, Deschanel married Death Cab for Cutie lead singer Ben Gibbard, and in 2012, they divorced. She married film producer Jacob Pechenik in 2015, with whom she shares two children, Elsie Otter and Charlie Wolf. Deschanel and Pechenik divorced in 2020 after five years of marriage.

Deschanel met Property Brothers star Jonathan Scott in 2019 on the set of Carpool Karaoke, and they started dating shortly after she announced her plans to separate from Pechenik.

03 of 10

James Caan as Walter Hobbs

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James Caan stars as Buddy's biological dad, a hardworking head honcho at Greenway Publishing — and a firm name on Santa's naughty list. But after bonding with his long-lost son, Walter decides to put family first and says, "Up yours" to his demanding boss.

Before Elf, Caan enjoyed a decades-long, prolific career, including his role as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather (1972), which led him to Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for best supporting actor.

In the years following Elf, Caan acted in films like Get Smart (2008), For the Love of Money (2012) and Holy Land (2019). TV credits included Back in the Game, Magic City and a starring role on Las Vegas.

Caan was married four times and shared a son, actor Scott Caan, with Sheila Marie Ryan. Caan died on July 6, 2022, at age 82, from a heart attack due to a combination of heart problems.

04 of 10

Daniel Tay as Michael Hobbs

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Daniel Tay plays Buddy's stubborn half-brother Michael. At first, he isn't sold on Buddy's diet of candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup, but he is eventually won over when the two team up for a snowball fight.

He joined Artie Lange and Ralph Macchio in 2006's Beer League and did voice acting in Grand Theft Auto, but has remained out of the spotlight since 2007's Brooklyn Rules. Tay is now a teacher.

05 of 10

Mary Steenburgen as Emily Hobbs

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Mary Steenburgen is Emily, who takes the news that her husband fathered a son with another woman before they got married surprisingly well and welcomes Buddy with open arms — spaghetti breakfast, stolen Christmas tree, and all.

The Academy Award-winning actress for Melvin and Howard (1980) boasted an impressive resume before joining the cast of Elf, and later reunited with Ferrell for his signature bro-comedy, Step Brothers (2008). In 2018, Steenburgen starred in Book Club and its subsequent sequel alongside Diane Keaton and Jane Fonda. Her television career featured memorable arcs on Curb Your Enthusiasm and 30 Rock and a lead role on Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist.

Outside of acting, Steenburgen is a passionate songwriter. In 2013, she was signed to Universal Music, and in 2018, she composed a piece of music titled "Glasgow (No Place Like Home)," which was featured in the film Wild Rose and won her a Critics' Choice Award.

Steenburgen married actor Malcolm McDowell in 1980, with whom she has two children: Lily, an actress, and Charlie, a director and screenwriter (and husband to Lily Collins). McDowell and Steenburgen divorced in 1990, and she married actor Ted Danson in 1995. She then became the stepmother to his two daughters from his marriage to producer Cassandra Coates.

06 of 10

Bob Newhart as Papa Elf

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As Buddy's adoptive dad, Bob Newhart breaks the news that his son is actually a human, not an elf, born to Walter Hobbs and the late Susan Wells. Papa Elf supports Buddy's quest to meet his biological father in New York City, but appreciates it even more when Buddy and Jovie eventually return to the North Pole with a little elf of their own.

The deadpan comedy legend is best known for his titular roles on The Bob Newhart Show, which ran from 1972 to 1978, and Newhart, from 1982 to 1990. He has also starred in films like Catch-22 (1970) and She's Having a Baby (1988) and won an Emmy Award for his turn as Professor Proton/Arthur Jeffries on the Big Bang Theory. Newhart continued to be featured on a number of other television shows like ER, Desperate Housewives and Young Sheldon.

In 2006, Newhart released a memoir titled I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This, chronicling his life as a comedian and incorporating material from his original routines.

Newhart has been married to his wife Ginnie since 1963, and the two share four children — Robert, Timothy, Jennifer and Courtney — and ten grandchildren.

07 of 10

Amy Sedaris as Deb

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Amy Sedaris, an iconic actress, comedian, and writer, signed on as Walter's quirky secretary Deb, whom Buddy thinks looks pretty enough to be on a Christmas card. While she doesn't know how to declaw kittens, Deb can take direction and jumps on the intercom when she sees Walter opening up lingerie in his office.

Beginning in 2014, Sedaris clinched a memorable voice acting role on BoJack Horseman as Princess Carolyn, which earned her rave reviews. She also starred as the wacky Mimi Kanasis on Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and launched At Home with Amy Sedaris in 2017, which won a Writers Guild of America Award.

She has racked up many guest appearances on shows like Hot in Cleveland, The Good Wife and The Middle. A part of the Star Wars universe, Sedaris plays Peli Motto, a Mos Eisley repairwoman on Tatooine, in Disney+'s The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett.

Sedaris was in a relationship with actor and writer Paul Dinello for eight years. After the two split amicably, she was named godmother to his two children.

08 of 10

Ed Asner as Santa

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The man in red is played by none other than Hollywood legend Ed Asner. He brings grit and a humourous charm to Santa, as seen when he tells Buddy to avoid eating yellow snow in Manhattan and warns, "If you see a sign that says 'Peep Show,' that doesn't mean that they're letting you look at presents before Christmas."

Post-Elf, Asner kept up the Christmas cheer, appearing in other holiday movies like Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage (2008), Home Alone: The Holiday Heist (2012) and Saving Christmas (2017). He acted on Netflix's Dead to Me with James Marsden and held a recurring guest role on Netflix's Cobra Kai. In 2021, Asner was featured in the Disney Halloween special Muppets Haunted Mansion.

Asner's first marriage was to Nancy Lou Sykes, with whom he had three children: Matthew and Liza and Kate, an actress. He then married Carol Jean Vogelman, with whom he had a son, Charles. In 1998, he married his third wife, Cindy Gilmore. Asner filed for divorce in 2015, eight years after they had separated.

Asner died in 2021 at age 91 from natural causes.

09 of 10

Jon Favreau as Dr. Leonardo

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In addition to directing this 2003 Christmas classic, Jon Favreau appears as the doctor who confirms that Buddy is, in fact, Walter's son.

"For a year, I rewrote the script," Favreau told Rolling Stone in 2013. "It turned into more of a PG movie from a PG-13. [Buddy] was a darker character in the script I had read originally. The character became a bit more innocent, and the world became more of a pastiche of the Rankin/Bass films. The studio [New Line] read it and agreed to make it, and that's when I was brought on to direct."

Favreau continued to shine in front of and behind the camera, appearing in The Break-Up (2006), I Love You, Man (2009) and Term Life (2016), and directing and producing the live-action Jungle Book (2016) and the live-action adaptation of The Lion King (2019) starring Donald Glover and Beyoncé.

He has appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man (2008) as Happy Hogan, a role he has reprised several times including all the Tom Holland-starring Spider-Man films and on the Disney+ animated series of Marvel's What If…?. Favreau also directed and produced the first two Iron Man movies (2008, 2010), and served as a producer on Iron Man 3 (2013) and the four Avengers films (2012–2019).

Favreau is also responsible for jump-starting the live-action Star Wars series on Disney+, having created The Mandalorian (in addition to being one of its executive producers and directors). He executive produces and is a writer for its spin-off, The Book of Boba Fett, and is developing additional series within this universe with Dave Filoni.

Favreau has been married to Joya Tillem, a physician, since 2000, and the couple shares two daughters, Madeleine and Brighton Rose, and a son, Max.

10 of 10

Peter Dinklage as Miles Finch

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When Walter brings in high-maintenance story creator Miles Finch as a last resort to crank out a hit children's book in the fourth quarter, Buddy thinks he's meeting a fellow elf — an "angry elf" at that. Peter Dinklage masterfully threatens, "Call me an elf one more time."

Post-Elf, Dinklage could be found on the stage. He starred in the Public Theater's 2004 production of Richard III, and in 2008, he played the titular role in Uncle Vanya in a Bard College production directed by his wife, Erica Schmidt.

A prolific screen actor as well, he starred on HBO's Game of Thrones from 2011 to 2019 as Tyrion Lannister, a role that won him the Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series four times.

In 2022, it was announced Dinklage was cast in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (2023), as well as the Hunger Games prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (2023).

Dinklage and Schmidt, a playwright, have been married since 2005 and share two children.

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