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Craig Ferguson plays dragon slayer in film

Comedian Craig Ferguson has conquered television stars and grappled with politicians, and it seems natural his next targets are an anxious father and a fire-breathing dragon.
/ Source: Reuters

Comedian Craig Ferguson has conquered television stars and grappled with politicians, and it seems natural his next targets are an anxious father and a fire-breathing dragon -- in the movies, that is.

Ferguson, the host of celebrity talk program "The Late Late Show," is the voice of a Viking blacksmith in animated movie "How to Train Your Dragon" opening in U.S. theaters on Friday, and perhaps surprisingly, he said his new role is not too far removed from his TV program's brand of late-night upheaval.

"I take big powerful people and I attack them," Ferguson told Reuters.

"My job is to find the politicians and the presidents and the pompous people who are telling other people how to live, powerful, visible creatures and ... go at them," he said.

Among the politicians with whom Ferguson has tangled on his show are former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, one-time speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich and former Mexican president Vincente Fox.

That's not too shabby for the 47-year-old -- a former punk rocker who abandoned music for comedy, eventually found fame on TV, settled down, and is now married with an 8 year-old son.

In "How to Train Your Dragon," Ferguson's Gobber teaches a teenager named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) how to slay dragons and, hopefully, keep all his limbs -- a task that Gobber failed at. He has only one hand and one foot.

But lack of maneuverability is not Gobber's biggest problem. Hiccup is a feeble young fellow, the son of a mighty Viking leader and great dragon slayer, Stoick (Gerard Butler).

More problematic for Gobber's entire village is that Hiccup secretly is training a dragon named Toothless -- not killing it -- and learning how to fly on its back. If Hiccup's secret gets out, it could upend the order in his Viking town.

And while Stoick wants to see Hiccup become a great dragon fighter like himself, he also worries his son will get killed in the process of learning Viking martial arts. Ferguson said he understands the dilemma facing Stoick and Hiccup.

"I have that hypocrisy of a parent in that I'm like, 'Come on, you've got to toughen up -- at the same time let me take care of that for you,'" he said.

Punk rocker to parentThe Scottish-born Ferguson began his show business career as a drummer for punk band Bastards from Hell. He later turned to comedy and created a stage persona called Bing Hitler, a two-bit autocrat who became a sensation in Scotland. That success led to comedy tours throughout Britain.

He earned roles in British and U.S. TV shows but all the while he was battling alcoholism before getting sober in 1992.

Ferguson's U.S. career took off after he won the role of an English-born office boss on sitcom "The Drew Carey Show" in 1996. He stayed on until the U.S. program ended in 2004.

One year later, he hit late-night TV with his talk show, and unlike counterparts on other networks such as Conan O'Brien or Jay Leno who specialize in one-line jokes, Ferguson won audiences with a unique brand of comic storytelling. He weaves punch lines into a recounting of current events and seems always to have a point in the end.

He has been nominated for the U.S. TV industry's highest honor, the Emmy, for his hosting work, and Newsweek magazine called his show "Late night's best kept secret."

Yet Ferguson, who became a U.S. citizen in 2008, said his wife and son are far more important than his rising notoriety.

"It comes and it goes," he said about fame. "I don't have any control over that. I'll enjoy it when it's here and not take it too seriously."

And unlike the animated movie in which he is portrayed as a dragon slayer, Ferguson knows his ability to verbally jab the famous and powerful on his talk show is somewhat limited by how far audiences want him to go.

"I'm not so much a dragon slayer, more a dragon annoyer -- I'm a dragon irritater," he said.