BY Alex Gibson
Fans of Will Ferrell-Adam McKay collaborations have been waiting nearly a decade for a follow up to arguably their best work together so far. Quotes from the original are burned into our vernacular – “I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch,” “60% of the time, it works every time,” “I’m in a glass case of emotion!” Now, the wait is over; Anchorman 2 barrels into theaters next Friday.
The film picks up with Ron Burgundy collecting his news team for a spot in the brand new 24-hour news network in New York City. From the opening credits to the closing scene, Anchorman 2 reaches new heights in comedy. Champ Kind is louder, Brian Fantana is smoother, Brick Tamland is Brickier, and Ron Burgundy is all around more legendary.
Last week, Philadelphia native and Anchorman director Adam McKay was in town talking to packed houses about the film and sat down with the press as well. We got some behind the scene info on why McKay and Ferrell chose to bring back classic jokes from the first Anchorman and how they wrangled some truly extraordinary cameos. While I can’t tell you who is in the movie, McKay did talk a little bit about people they were unable to get on board:
“We legitimately did try Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and Barack Obama…we were gonna have him [Obama] be the host of C SPAN”
McKay also remarked on the new character added to the Anchorman world. The sequel welcomes the news team’s producer, Freddie Schapp (Dylan Baker), anchorman/heartthrob Jack Lime (James Marsden), and network head-honcho Linda Jackson (Meagan Good).
“Dylan Baker was one I was really excited about because he’s an actor I’ve love forever and, even though he’s done a lot of drama, he auditioned for me years ago and I knew he was funny and Marsden was the same thing. His audition was crazy funny and the Megan Good audition for us was awesome, so those get me really excited because it’s like new people, and there’s a new cadence to it, a new vibe.”
Regarding the original cast, McKay said, “I think we were really good at casting.” In the role of Brick Tamland, McKay said that Steve Carell was up against one other actor – shockingly, the ultimate ‘80s Richie himself, James Spader. “I knew Carell from Chicago, and just said Look, here’s the bottom line – I knew that guy in Second City. He was always funny. Every show I ever saw him in, the guy doesn’t miss…The case of [David] Koechner – Koechner was a guy Will and I knew from SNL, who’s one of the funniest people we know and he kind of is Champ Kind…so that was an easy one.” Casting Paul Rudd, he said was a little different. Even when the script had been rejected by several studios and financiers and was, for all intents and purposes, dead, Rudd still approached McKay, saying the script was the funniest he had ever read. When the original Anchorman was finally greenlit, Rudd was cast as lady’s man Brian Fantana. “[Paul Rudd] is a great comic, not just good. He, out of all of them, was the biggest surprise to me. I knew he was good, but the fact that he was that good everyday on set…We did a great job and with casting Applegate too…to this day, I think we made the perfect choice.”
The character of Ron Burgundy himself is based on an old Philly anchor Will Ferrell had seen in a documentary. As he and McKay heard stories of real anchors, some including drunken, underwear pool parties, the idea of Anchorman seemed better and better:
“Part of it was Ferrell had actually seen a documentary about Jessica Savitch, the first female anchor and Mort Crim, the legendary old Philly anchor was in it and that’s kinda what sparked it. Because we were just laughing at this guy who sounds so legitimate and wise just being a shit, like I’ll be honest, we were male chauvinist pigs and we did not treat that little lady that well, still calling her a ‘little lady’… The more we looked into it the more intriguing it got and then when Ferrell started doing that voice, I was like, Oh, we’re doing this.”
On set, McKay said that some parts of the films are improvised or writing as they shoot, some lines being reconstructed 9 or 10 times before the perfect one comes out.
“The way you get a lot of that stuff is you keep trying and trying, you do line after line, and you can just feel it…A ton of improv…and writing on the fly. It’ll be me yelling out from behind the camera. I’ll talk with the actors and be like, what about something like this? I’ll add to it and we’ll all kind of collaborate.”
The extraordinary cast of Anchorman makes the film great, but they would, of course be nothing, without the minds behind Gary Sanchez Productions – Adam McKay and Will Ferrell. Together, they have made such films as The Other Guys, Step Brothers, and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
“The key of the collaboration, I always say, is just Ferrell is the opposite of the drama queen…Neither one of us are looking to have drama, to be miserable…we chose this profession because we enjoy it, so we would always laugh when we were doing comedy with other people and they would be getting all upset and yelling – we’re like why? Go be a stockbroker or something…we both try to share that philosophy of just, we should be enjoying this and if you’re making comedies you should be laughing on set. This isn’t Apocalypse Now, that’s what I always say… And then I think the way its evolved is the shorthand just keeps getting shorter and shorter and shorter to the point where…the level of trust is so huge that he doesn’t even check in on certain things. I don’t check in on certain things. We just know that we have certain things covered… We’re both the same age. We grew up on the same comedy like Steve Martin, Letterman, Simpsons, that kinda stuff…maybe that’s the biggest thing of all – our senses of humor are so similar. We both love pranks, we both love crazy heightening, we both love when movies get out of control and we don’t know what’s gonna happen… And that’s the feeling we want in the movie theater.”
McKay repeatedly expressed how much he enjoys working with Will Ferrell. Together, they have become idols for burgeoning comedians around the globe. I ended the roundtable by asking who his idol was growing up:
“…It was probably John Cleese – probably Monty Python, they were the gods of that time. No one had ever done anything like that. We were in awe of them. I actually got to meet them at Saturday Night Live…and I was not cool at all”
Anchorman 2 comes out December 18. Don’t miss it!
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