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The Surprising Inspiration Behind John C. Reilly's Look In Talladega Nights

"Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" is still one of the best comedies made by Will Ferrell and director Adam MacKay. It's a hilarious, perfectly observed send-up of stock car racing culture. Ferrell is front and center as Ricky Bobby, a successful, risk-taking NASCAR driver who's challenged by the arrival of Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen), a French Formula One racer. When he's defeated badly by Girard in a public competition, the shaken Bobby loses everything and has to face his demons in order to race again. 

The movie wouldn't be nearly as funny or poignant however without Cal Naughton Jr. (John C. Reilly), Ricky's dim, sweet-natured best friend and teammate. From his shared catchphrase with Ricky ("Shake and bake!") to his distinctive facial hair, he's an unforgettable character. But why did Reilly decide to wear Cal's signature facial hair and sideburns? Aside from looking hilarious, there's actually a well-researched reason behind the choice.

Here's where he got Cal's specific look for the film.

Cal's look was inspired by the iconic drivers of a bygone era

According to Mental Floss, John C. Reilly specifically based Cal Naughton Jr.'s long sideburns and handlebar mustache on the driving icons of the '60s and '70s.

Reilly apparently didn't like that contemporary drivers were usually clean cut, whereas the racers of an earlier era had distinct facial hair. "Big muttonchops, sideburns and crazy facial hair. They look like they're doing a bit of partying off the track, and a little paunchy," he said. "Those are the guys I want to base my thing on, the ones that were running away from the feds when they were trying to hide their stills up in the mountains."

The actor has worked with Ferrell a few more times since, including in the cult classic family comedy "Step Brothers" and 2018's "Holmes & Watson." Ultimately, whether you like his performances or not, you have to admit he always has an unusual, interesting look to present. 

If you'd like to see what Cal Naughton Jr. looks like for yourself, "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" is currently streaming on Netflix.