Will Ferrell has revealed that the original plot of his 2004 comedy cult classic Anchorman followed an Alive-type plane crash scenario and involved killer orangutans. Ferrell’s breakthrough in the entertainment business, of course, came with his many memorable characters during his tenure on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. A cast member from 1996-2002, Ferrell brought to life such original characters as the cowbell player from Blue Oyster Cult (in a skit where Christopher Walken famously demanded, “More cowbell!”), and Craig, the spunky Spartans cheerleader opposite the diminutive Arianna (Cheri Oteri); to creating indelible impressions of such real-life figures as President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton-era Attorney General Janet Reno, and Inside the Actor’s Studio host James Lipton.
And while Ferrell in the years after SNL went on to create many more memorable characters on the big screen, perhaps none of them has quite captured the iconic status of Ron Burgundy, a supremely arrogant and dunderheaded San Diego TV news personality in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. And while the film spawned its long-awaited sequel Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues in 2013, giving Ferrell more opportunity to talk about the character, he’s seems to be revealing for the first time the bizarre original plot of the Anchorman.
“The first version of Anchorman is basically the movie Alive, where the year is 1976, and we are flying to Philadelphia to celebrate the Bicentennial, and also, all the newsmen from around the country are flying in from their affiliates to have some big convention. Ron convinces the pilot that he knows how to fly the charter jet, and he immediately crash-lands it in the mountains. And it’s just the story of them surviving and trying to get off the mountainside. They clipped a cargo plane, and the cargo plane crashed as well, close to them, and it was carrying only boxes of orangutans and Chinese throwing stars.”
As it turn out, putting orangutans and Chinese throwing stars together in the same space can provide for a lethal combination. According to Ferrell:
“Throughout the movie we’re being stalked by orangutans who are killing, one by one, the team off with throwing stars. And Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) keeps saying things like, ‘Guys, I know if we just head down we’ll hit civilization.’ And we keep telling her, ‘Wrong.’ She doesn’t know what we’re talking about. So that was the first version of the movie.”
Ferrell says the original Anchorman’s plot was so weird that he and director Adam McKay couldn’t get acclaimed helmer Paul Thomas Anderson involved in the film, even though Anderson was a fan of Ferrell and McKay’s unproduced screenplay, August Blowout.
As time has proven, the switch to the battle of the sexes plot between Burgundy and Corningstone was the clearly the right way to go. Not only did Anchorman give an enormous push to Ferrell’s big-screen endeavors, it also helped boost the careers of Applegate, Paul Rudd (who played sleazy newsman Brian Fontana), Steve Carrell (boneheaded weatherman Brick Tamland) and David Koechner (good ol’ boy sports anchor Champ Kind).
Ferrell says that Anchorman is his favorite movie, mainly because it was so difficult to get the film produced (one day, he says, the film was rejected 10 times). And while he’s not quite clear about what iteration of the screenplay he was pitching, Paramount Pictures eventually bought into the idea that fans know and love — an idea that made Ferrell, a la Ron Burgundy, “A pretty big deal.”
Source: The Bill Simmons Show (via EW)