Will Ferrell may be the face of Ron Burgundy, but writer/director Adam McKay is his voice.
The two (and Ron) are back in theaters this weekend with”Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” the highly anticipated and long-awaited sequel to the 2004 sleeper hit “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.”
The story picks up just as Burgundy’s infamously ridiculous antics have cost him his job and wife, fellow news anchor Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate).
After hitting rock bottom, Ron is suddenly offered a gig on a brand new, 24-hour news network… but only if he can gather up the old news crew.
I recently sat down with McKay, who co-founded the comedy website Funny or Die with Ferrell, to discuss the success of the first movie, getting the gang back together for the sequel and how they decided to do those ridiculous Dodge commercials:
Laura Hibbs: Did you ever expect the first “Anchorman” to be such a massive cult classic?
Adam McKay: Oh God, no. It’s crazy, isn’t it? We never knew it would happen. We just made a movie that made us laugh. In a thousand years I wouldn’t have guessed that would have happened. When the movie came out we made a nice profit and got good reviews – so we were like, “Great! We get to make another movie, it didn’t bomb.” And that was it. We just moved on. Never, ever did it occur to us that we would start seeing the movie quoted and people dressed up as Ron Burgundy for Halloween years later.
Hibbs: Have any other your other films had a similar effect?
McKay: “Step Brothers” is another one that is starting to pop up more and more. When the Saints won the Super Bowl, all the players were in the locker room and one of them yelled, “It’s the Catalina f***ing wine mixer!” I called Will Farrell and was like, “Oh my god, did you see this?”
Hibbs: We had a Catalina Wine Mixer-themed party in college!
McKay: That’s crazy. That’s insane. I love it.
Hibbs: It’s been nearly a decade since the first “Anchorman” came out. How, and when, did you decide to make the sequel?
McKay: Three years after the first movie came out we started hearing it get quoted by fans. After five years, it became constant. We would go to junkets and people would be like, “When’s the sequel? When’s the sequel?” So then Ferrell and I really sat down and asked ourselves if we could make a sequel work. We had never really thought about it, but when we discovered the idea of 24-hour news, that’s when we knew we could actually make a good sequel.
Hibbs: The movie has such a large ensemble cast. Was it hard to get everyone on board?
McKay: Well, they all said yes immediately. Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner and Christina Applegate were all like, “Yes, yes, yes, yes.” But they are all crazy busy, so we did have to work on figuring out the schedule. Rudd is in movie after movie after movie. Carell, too, does a lot of stuff. Koechner, meanwhile, has a stand up career and he’s always doing movies and television, and Applegate was coming off of a television show at the time. It took a little work and is one of the reasons the sequel took longer, but they were all game right away.
Hibbs: Which original cast member was most excited to do the sequel?
McKay: Well, they were all really excited but Rudd was really excited. He kept emailing saying, “Hey, what’s going on?” And God bless Rudd, because he doesn’t need the work. He’s constantly working. He just wanted to do “Anchorman 2.” And by the way, on the first one, he was the first guy outside of Ferrell to get hip to the “Anchorman” script, even though every studio passed on it. I got a call from Rudd, who I didn’t really know that well except from “Clueless” and “Wet Hot American Summer,” and he wanted to meet for coffee. We went and he just went on and on saying, “I love this script.”
Hibbs: The marketing for this movie – from the Dodge commercials to the news in North Dakota – is totally unprecedented. What inspired the advertising scheme?
McKay: Our rule was that if we were going to do stuff, it’s got to be funny. We have just kind of maintained strict quality control on it. What you find is Will and I are writing a lot of the material, I write the Ron Burgundy Twitter account – I don’t want it to be lame. The Dodge Durango ads, the only way we would do them is if they gave us complete creative control. So they didn’t give us any notes, we just did them straight up. In the case of going to North Dakota to do the news, Will was excited to do that. As long as we are enjoying it and it is making you laugh, we can’t go wrong.
Hibbs: You are all over Twitter promoting your work. I recently read that George Clooney said that any celebrity who has Twitter is a moron. What are your thoughts on that?
McKay: I completely disagree; I don’t understand that point of view at all, but it also depends how you use it. Ferrell doesn’t like Twitter, and there are some people who use Twitter like idiots. But I hadn’t written jokes in years, so I started trying to write jokes on Twitter. And if you write a bad joke on there, they will tell you it’s bad. It’s fun, and I’m always saying to my followers, “Hey, I’m doing this for free! Give me a break.” But it allows me to give a little tease to a project or show a video from Funny or Die.
Hibbs: So much of the cast has a background in comedy, including experience with live comedy on “Saturday Night Live.” Is there a lot of improvisation on set?
McKay: We improvised a pretty good amount, I always say it’s like 25 percent is improv’d. It depends on the scene. We’re always improvising around whatever we are doing. We do a couple as-written and then just screw with it.
Hibbs: Do any of the actors stay in character when the cameras are off? For some reason I picture Will Ferrell walking around craft service as Ron Burgundy…
McKay: No! Not on this movie, but I worked with Sacha Baron Cohen who does that a little bit. I did some reshoots on “The Dictator” and he does that, though it is funny – with me, he stopped doing it. I didn’t play along and he stopped doing it. But no, no one does it on “Anchorman.” Though, Carell is always working on his character, but he’s not in character.
Hibbs: So, is there a lot of cut footage?
McKay: Oh, god yeah. I don’t know if you know this, but we’re going to put out a second version of the movie with all new jokes [on DVD]. We literally replaced every single joke in the movie with a new joke. It’s the same movie, the exact same movie, but anytime they speak a joke, we replace it. So it’s something like 370 new jokes will be in the second version. Its 10-15 minutes longer, it’s incredibly long, but it’s all new.
Hibbs: That’s amazing. Fans of the movie are going to go insane over that.
McKay: It’s so cool to see that and to see how excited people are. The best is if they actually like the movie, and so far it’s been playing really well, so it’s the best. I also feel like it’s a unique movie in the sense that the fans told us to do it. It’s half our movie, half the fans. Our job was not to f**k it up. We wouldn’t have done it if the fans hadn’t asked us to do it.
“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” opens in theaters on December 18. Click here to check times and buy tickets through Fandango.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.