Last May, Screen Rant journeyed to the Sea World set of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues on one of the last days of filming and chatted with director Adam McKay and star Will Ferrell. Months later, during post-production, we had the chance to visit the edit bay and chat with McKay again, along with editor Brent White while watching select scenes (read about them here) from the comedy sequel.
Below is a transcript of our Q&A session where Don Kaye on behalf of Screen Rant and a group of journalists discuss with McKay and White the two Anchorman films, shooting the sequel and keeping it funny and appropriately inappropriate with new jokes and returning characters.
With the first film, you had so much material left over that you made a whole second feature, Wake Up Ron Burgundy. How long was the first cut of this one?
Adam McKay: The first cut was four and a half hours. Then our first cut where it all kind of tracked was about three hours. It played. It played like a real movie with a beginning, middle and end over three hours. I think we screened our first cut at two and a half hours. It was the best screening we’ve ever had at that fat length. Normally when it hits two and a half, three hours, the audience gets exhausted and start yawning. This time it actually played throughout the whole thing. We probably shot a million and a quarter feet of film. It’s hard to say now because everything is digital, but it’s probably that easily.
Have you ever thought about doing a comedy like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World? Something that lives at that length and can be screened?
McKay: This is pretty long. This is 153 (minutes) right now without credits, so this’ll end up being two hours, which is by far the longest we’ve ever done…I don’t know if I can quite go epic. It’s not It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, but it’s very long compared to what we normally do. But it’s good. It doesn’t feel long. It plays. You guys will have to let us know. But it feels like the energy carries throughout the whole thing. But we talked about it. When we screened the two and a half hour version, we asked, “Should we do It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World?” We looked up what the longest comedies were and the longest was Blues Brothers at two and a half hours. We were like, “We’re not going to do that.”
What about a Peter Jackson-style extended edition on home video?
McKay: It’s funny you should say that. Brent was editor on the first Anchorman with me. I went into the editing room and he said, “I think you’ve got a whole second movie here.” Brent actually cut the Wake Up, Ron Burgundy version where we then went back and put in voiceovers. This time I came to the editing room and I went, “Well, Brent, do we have a second movie?” Brent goes, “Actually, you don’t have a second movie, but you have a whole other movie with all-new jokes.” I go, “What do you mean?” He goes, “You can replace every single joke with a different one.” They’re all quality alts. That was crazy and, sure enough, we’re doing it right now. I think we’re at, what, 250 alt jokes?
Brent White: It’s like 240. Something like that. If you saw the movie and then they said, “Hey, come back and see Anchorman 2 again with 240 new jokes,” would you pay cash and go see the movie again?
Yes. Even if there were five new jokes. I don’t think anyone has ever done anything like that before. Effectively, everyone would be very interested.
McKay: That’s what we were saying! If someone told me it was Pulp Fiction will all new story turns and new Sam Jackson monologues, there’s no way I’m not going to see that. The question is, does Paramount release that in the theaters? Is it midnight screenings or just VOD and DVD?
Not every film can do it, but the difference here is that, when you talk to people and you see how deeply it has soaked in for the fans of the film — it’s not just a film they like — it’s their favorite movie. It’s a movie they know every word of. That kind of thing. That’s why I think you could do it with this. People would happily say, “250 new jokes? I’m going back immediately.”
McKay: I hope they do it. Even if they only did it on like 200 screens or something. Just to see it play. We’re going to actually test it. We’re talking about putting it in front of a crowd. The advantage you get in that these jokes don’t have to pass by an audience is that you get some stranger jokes.
White: You can really go out on these tangents that we couldn’t quite put in the movie because it has to be PG-13 on the box or whatever it is. There’s a little bit of open ended stuff that, because of timing or rhythm or whatever else, we could put in this version and let it be a little bit fat.
McKay: Translation: More crazy shit.
Who goes out on the furthest tangent?
McKay: There’s a run where Ron Burgundy and Brian Fantana talk about breast implants and all the alternatives they’re using to silicone now. Nickels, taco meat. It’s just this long, insane run that we tried at one point. Test audiences were like, “no thank you.” But it still makes us laugh. That’s part of the fun.
Meagan Good, what’s the story behind her character?
McKay: So she’s the manager of the whole new network –- she’s not the owner, but she’s the day-to-day kind of manager of it. And she’s, you know, she’s an asskicker, she’s brilliant, she went to Columbia School of Journalism, and typical kind of thing in the sense that she’s, you know, overqualified for the job, but of course because she’s a woman, because she’s a minority, these idiots can’t, you know, get around that at first, and then she kicks their ass so badly that they have no choice but to accept her. So she’s awesome in the movie. She plays really, really well and funny as hell and beautiful and she was a great addition to this cast, and seeing Burgundy struggle with, you know, the issue of race was just really funny. And you forget, like, the early Eighties was really when you saw this big leap happening – you had The Cosby Show coming and, you know, certain music was mainstreaming, so it really is the point at which, you know, people like Ron Burgundy would have been dealing with, you know, issues of race. So it was a really fun kind of relationship for us to have in this movie, and it felt new enough and different enough – she’s such a different energy for the movie that it really worked well.
Do we know where Veronica is?
McKay: We do know where she is. Yeah. You’ve got to see. We’re giving you guys a lot!
Did you guys sort of, on the first few days of filming, did you sort of feel any pressure? Were you like, “Man, we’re playing with something that people really love here,” you know?
McKay: You know, I was thinking about this before. The spirit of the movie is so much, “Who gives a fuck?” that if you had pressure, it would nullify the whole premise of the movie. Like, you know, it’d be like the Sex Pistols having to worry about if their guitars are in tune. Like, you kind of have to not give a shit going into it to do it. So you actually don’t think about that at all when you’re doing it. You’re just purely trying to make each other laugh, trying to come up with crazy shit, and that’s really the game of the set. And then at the end of the day sometimes, you go like, “Oh wow, that was a good day,” or “Hey, this could be good,” but in the moment it’s always, we’re just trying to make each other laugh. That’s the engine of the entire thing, so no, not really. Now that it’s done, you’re kind of like, “Hey, I wonder what people will think of this,” but in the moment, we’re just purely laughing around. It’s, you know, Paul Rudd in underwear, posing with an underwear model. It’s, you know, these guys flying around in a Winnebago on a giant gimbal for like half a day. Those are the days. It’s pretty hard to have standards while you’re doing that.
We’re in a time now where race is such a hot topic issue, and it seems in the trailer and this that it’s actually a big part here. Were you worried about, were you conscious of, this is gonna push some buttons, this is gonna offend some people, while you were writing it?
McKay: Yeah, you know, we were aware there’s a fine line. I mean, these guys are so dopey that it’s not, the subject of race is not like we experience it in the news now. It’s — they’re so innocent and so stupid about it that it’s never really mean or pointed. I mean, you’ll see in the whole movie that they really just don’t get it, and then they start to a – always, they never fully get anything, but they a little bit get it by the end of the movie, so…and they deal in this movie with like about five or six different issues, like that it’s not just, like in the first movie it was just the idea of a woman in power. In this movie now, it’s race, there’s another woman in power, there’s, you know, psychology, there’s, you know, there’s issues with a child…there’s like all this different kind of stuff they have to deal with. And obviously fame and money that they’ve never seen before, so.
You mentioned a gimbal in the Winnebago scene, what was the process like to shoot that? It seemed like a pretty effects heavy scene for a comedy.
McKay: Yeah it turned out to be a giant pain in the ass. We wrote it just at two in the morning laughing like idiots and then suddenly the reality of it was like, “Oh god, we’ve got to do all this.” So it was a huge gimbal with the Winnebago. It was them hanging from a green screen, it was stunt doubles inside the Winnebago, it was then the plates you had to get from the inside. Then it was all the objects you had to get, then you had to have fake bowling balls, and real bowling balls. It was probably a total of three days of shooting to get that silly little sequence. Don’t tell anyone that.
White: You can feel the work and the money behind it, yeah.
McKay: It took us an hour, it was easy.
Watching this footage you have a lot of characters that offer a lot of different types of humor, but Brick especially is a guy who can say anything and its funny, the more obscure the better, is there ever a tendency to over abuse that? To have too much Brick?
McKay: That’s a good question, Brent and I talk about this all the time. He’s definitely the Harpo Marx of the team in the sense that he has no rules whatsoever to him. He can step out of scenes. He can comment on scenes. He can look at the camera. So he’s got this magical power. And then rhythm-wise he can just get laughs. He has one line in the movie that’s not even a joke and it gets a huge laugh. He just says something and the crowd goes crazy. We actually did a pass where we would go through and look at Brick and take out anything that’s mediocre or —
McKay: Sweaty, and we’re like, it should only be high quality when it’s Brick.
White: Absurd and just something that actually says something, too. That comments in a very odd way on what’s going on.
McKay: Yeah, it’s got to be a fresh premise. It’s got to be like the one you saw in the Winnebago of him not understanding what reminiscing is. I’ve never seen that joke before. You are right though, it’s very tempting because you literally put him in any scene and get a laugh. You have to be very careful with it.