PLAYBOY: You’ve had a busy year, with parts on 30 Rock and in 2 Guns, Lee Daniels’ The Butler and now Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Are you allowed to pick favorites?
MARSDEN: X-Men fans may be let down, but Anchorman 2 is the first movie in my career I’ve wanted to see after I finished it. I tested for the role of Brian Fantana in the original and was bummed I didn’t get cast. In this one I play Will Ferrell’s nemesis, a rival anchor named Jack Lime. It’s 1980, at the start of the 24-hour-news era, and Ron Burgundy is moving from San Diego to New York. I’m an obsessed Anchorman fan.
PLAYBOY: Were you the quote-spouting movie nerd on set?
MARSDEN: Ha! “I’m in a glass case of emotion!” Love that one. What’s weird is, Steve Carell and Will would sit there and say, “Didn’t this happen in the original? Didn’t you say this?” They couldn’t remember their own movie. I kept thinking, How can they not know every line from one of the greatest comedies of our time?
PLAYBOY: How hard is it to keep a straight face when you’re staring across at Ron’s mustache?
MARSDEN: My primary thought was always, Do not fuck this up. After that, my goal was to get Will to bust up. Will’s so tough, man. He really holds it together. But we had this scene where he’s pleading with me, and I raised my voice with so much volume and conviction, the corner of his mouth started to curl up—just a little, but enough to feel like maybe I can hang with him now.
PLAYBOY: You grew up around Oklahoma City. Your father is a food scientist at Kansas State University and your mother works in the food service industry. Were you starstruck when you first got into the business?
MARSDEN: The first time I met a celebrity I was 16. We were on vacation in Hawaii, staying at the same hotel as Kirk Cameron’s family. He wasn’t there, but his sisters were. Candace was on Full House. They were flirty, and we hung out by the pool the whole trip. They invited me to Los Angeles, and I flew out to see a taping of Growing Pains and Full House.
PLAYBOY: Was that how you made your Hollywood connections?
MARSDEN: Not really, but I did meet the dialect coach from Growing Pains, who introduced me to Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo was on the show’s final season. A few years later, after I’d moved to L.A., I played two-on-two basketball at the Oakwood Apartments, and one day we needed a guy, so I called Leo to play. He said sure. It was just as his career was taking off. But that wasn’t my favorite celebrity encounter from those days.
PLAYBOY: What was better?
MARSDEN: There’s a place where you can ride horses under the Hollywood sign and then go to a Mexican restaurant. Everyone gets drunk on tequila and rides the horses back. Great idea, right? Anyway, Fabio was on the ride with us, and I remember thinking, This town is so fucking awesome.
PLAYBOY: Who were your heroes growing up?
MARSDEN: Han Solo and Indiana Jones. I was a big Harrison Ford fan.
PLAYBOY: Did you ever meet him?
MARSDEN: I did the last season of Ally McBeal, and it was right when Harrison was starting to date Calista Flockhart. I had become friends with her, and one night she said, “Come to dinner with me and Harrison.” I’m like, “Me, you and him?” It turned out to be a small group of us, thankfully, but I ended up as her wingman. We had dinner someplace in Brentwood and then went back to his house. He put music on and made everybody drinks. He was giggly and goofy around her but pretty aloof with the rest of us. I kept thinking we should leave the two of them alone, but Calista was like, “Don’t leave, don’t leave, don’t leave.” I’m making him sound like a rapist, but he was very hospitable. She was just really nervous. Anyway, we had more drinks, he played more music, and then at some point he gave me a look that said, “Okay, you’ve got to get the fuck out of here.”
PLAYBOY: A blogger once dubbed you “the most screwed-over man in the history of movies” because every woman ends up cheating on you. Jean Grey kisses Wolverine in the X-Men movies, Lois Lane is hot for Superman in Superman Returns, and on and on. What’s up with that?
MARSDEN: It’s not by design. I guess I just have a look that says “third wheel.” I have a long history of weird relationships onscreen. I once date-raped Mayim Bialik on a very special episode of Blossom.
PLAYBOY: How is your luck with women offscreen?
MARSDEN: Hit and miss. When I moved to L.A. the women were so aggressive and liberated it almost scared me. But I was also like, Bring it on. I dated for a bit, but then shortly after I turned 20 I met a woman and got married. Now I’m single with three kids. People try to set me up, but it feels strange to go on a date. I guess at some point I’ll just have to nut up.