Son of a nutcracker! ‘Elf’ is celebrating the 17th anniversary of its release on Nov. 8. This movie remains a holiday classic, so let’s take a look back at the cast members then and now.
When Elf was released on Nov. 8, 2003, it instantly became a movie to watch every single year during the holiday season. Buddy the Elf instantly stole our hearts 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.
While a sequel doesn’t seem to be in the cards, the movie is played on repeat every year during the holidays. Since the movie’s release, most of the cast has gone on to have more amazing roles in films and movies. Take a trip down the candy-coated memory lane and see what the Elf cast has been up to over the years.
Will Ferrell, 53, has become a comedy legend since he rose to fame on Saturday Night Live. His role as Buddy in Elf helped cement Will as one of the go-to comedic actors in Hollywood. The years following Elf were incredibly successful for the actor. He starred in the hit comedies Old School, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talledega 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.
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 Paulin, and they have three sons together.
Zooey Deschanel’s role as Jovie in Elf helped take her acting career to a new level. After Elf, Zooey 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 40, 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 Otter and Charlie Wolf. Zooey and Jacob divorced in 2020. Zooey is now dating Property Brothers star Jonathan Scott. HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY broke the news they were dating in Sept. 2019.
James Caan, 80, was an accomplished actor before Elf because of 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 Elf, James went on to star in the series Las Vegas. He departed after four seasons.
In the years since leaving Las Vegas, James has had roles in films like The Wrong Boyfriend, Undercover Grandpa, and most recently Out of the Blue. James has been married four times. James and his fourth wife, Linda Stokes, divorced in 2009 after 14 years of marriage.
Mary Steenburgen, 67, 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 Elf, having 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 Help, and Book Club. Mary is currently starring in the series Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. Mary has been happily married to Ted Danson since 1995. She was previously married to Malcolm McDonnell, and they had two children together.
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 28, 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 Tony, which was released in 2009.
One of the most memorable scenes in Elf is when Buddy mistakenly calls famous children’s author Miles Finch, played by Peter Dinklage, 51, 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. His next role is playing the legendary Cyrano de Bergerac in the musical adaptation of Cyrano.
Bob Newhart’s role as Papa Elf made our hearts melt. He was just one of a few legends cast in Elf. Bob, now 91, 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 reprised 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 White, who was his co-star on Bob decades before. Bob has been married to his wife, Virginia Quinn, since 1963.
Like many of his other co-stars, Ed Asner, now 90, 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’s won a whopping 7 Emmy Awards throughout his career.
After Elf, Ed notably voiced the role of Carl in the Pixar film Up in 2009. He’s 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 has been married twice. His second marriage to Cindy Gilmore ended in 2015 after 17 years.