*An interview & review by Kharisma McIlwaine
Every so often, a movie comes along that changes the way we view film. Some films shock us with unexpectedly jarring endings, some films give us a profound outlook on life, some films visually allow us to push the limits of what’s possible with technology, and some films we love simply because they make us happy. I will never forget the first time I saw Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. The year 2004… the setting, Cabrini College. A group of friends invited me over for movie night. I arrived, sat down on the floor with a pillow behind me, and witnessed one of the funniest movies I had ever seen! I remember tears streaming down my face from non stop, gut punching laughter! I went out and bought the DVD later that week. If I was having a bad day I’d put on Anchorman, laugh and feel better. I went around quoting lines from the movie for the rest of the year. I’d walk up to my friends and start singing “I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly, mmm mmm mmm” (I don’t even like scotch). I couldn’t wait for my friends to ask my advice so that I could say “60% of the time it works, every time.” When I wanted to be completely over the top I would quote my ultimate favorite line from Anchorman, “I’m in a glass cage of emotion!”
Needless to say I was BEYOND thrilled to hear that the dynamic duo Adam McKay and Will Ferrell were joining forces again for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. The sequel Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues brings back all of my favorite characters; The perfectly coiffed, inappropriate yet endearing Ron Burgundy, played by Will Ferrell, Ron’s wife, co-anchor and fierce competitor Veronica Corningstone, played by Christina Applegate, the clueless but lovable Brick Tamland, played by Steve Carell, the overtly sexual ladies man Brian Fantana, played by Paul Rudd, the boisterous fellow with an affinity for the word “Whammy” Champ Kind, played by David Koechner, and last but certainly not least Ron’s beloved pet, Baxter the dog. We also have some great new additions to the cast with Meagan Good, as Linda Jackson, Harrison Ford, as Mack Harken, and Kristen Wiig, as Brick’s lover, Chani. Our favorite former Channel 4 news team reunites to embark on a journey to break down barriers at the very first 24 hour news station. The insanity ensues when Ron poses the question “Why can’t the news be fun?” Random madness explodes on screen with sharks, scorpions, Minotars, fried bat wings, green screen mishaps, ghosts, and some of the best cameos in a movie to date! Watching the film I couldn’t help but wonder, “How do they come up with this stuff?”
Thankfully I had the honor of sitting down with Adam McKay, the brilliant writer and director of the Anchorman franchise to get answers to that question and more. As someone who worked as an on air personality for six years in a top ten market, I think I have an even bigger appreciation for the Anchorman films. After seeing the parody onscreen, and then experiencing many aspects of the competition and craziness in truth first hand, it resonates even more. I’ve always wondered what sparked the idea of doing a film about newscasters. McKay shared the story behind Anchorman. “Part of it was Ferrell had seen a documentary about Jessica Savage, the first female anchor, and Mort Crim, the legendary old Philly anchor was in it… that’s kind of what sparked it. We were just laughing at this guy (Mort Crim) who sounds so legitimate and wise just being a sh**. “Like I’ll be honest we were male chauvinist pigs, we did not treat that little lady very well.” (Said in an imitative tone) I liked that he was still calling her little lady (said sarcastically). And yet, God bless him, he’s coping to it, and acknowledging that it wasn’t good behavior. I’m sure he’s a great guy, but that contradiction was just so funny to us. McKay went on to say “Then we started thinking… No one has done anything on the newsroom in a long time! That style, that kind of world is such an old world aesthetic.
Even the anchors today feel like they’re from 1977 or something. They just all feel old no matter what, there’s such a stayed kind of bizarre style to it.” The funniest part of the backstory behind Anchorman was the tidbit Adam McKay shared next! “We started hearing stories from friends of ours like “Oh yeah I grew up in Pittsburg, and I remember all the anchors would go to this friend of mine’s house, and they would get drunk and swim in their underwear.” I was like WHAT?!! “Yeah all these people you respected as a kid would get hammered, and be in bras and boxers just making out and drinking.” So that was it, it was a combo of all that and then the fun of an era where there were only three tv channels… That’s crazy too! The more we looked into it the more fun it got, and then when Ferrell started doing that voice it was like, Oh yeah we’re doing it!” Having a story that seems almost too crazy to be true as the stimulus behind the Anchorman films seems perfect given the insane ride the film takes its viewers on. So many of the collaborations between Adam McKay and Will Ferrell including their work on “SNL”, Talladega Nights, The Other Guys and The Campaign are comedic magic. McKay discussed his thoughts on why he and Ferrell work so well together. “The key to the collaboration I would say is just that Ferrell is the opposite of a drama queen. Neither one of us are looking for drama or to be miserable. We chose this profession cause we enjoy it! We would always laugh when we were doing comedy with other people. They would be getting so upset and yelling, and we’re like Why? Go be a stockbroker! (Said with a laugh). We both share the philosophy of, we should be enjoying this. If you’re making comedies you should be laughing onset, this isn’t Apocalypse Now.” He went on to discuss how their partnership has evolved over the years. “The level of trust is so huge that he (Ferrell) doesn’t even check in on certain things. I don’t check in on certain things… We just kind of know what we’re gonna like. We have such a similar sense of humor. We’re the same age, we grew up on the same comedy, like Steve Martin, Letterman, The Simpsons, that kind of stuff. So 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 just get out of control, where you don’t know what’s gonna happen… That’s our favorite thing in the world! When you don’t know what’s gonna happen or anything can happen… that feeling in the movie theater is the greatest!” Being such a huge fan of the first Anchorman, my only hope before entering the theater was that the sequel would bring me just as many laughs as the first, and thankfully it did! Anchorman 2 found the formula to a great sequel, highlighting aspects of the best moments in the original, while captivating the audience with new material. McKay shared some of the process he went through in deciding what direction to take the sequel. “We had a lengthy discussion about what we wanted to bring back from the first one. We didn’t want to bring back too much because we knew the one pit fall of sequels is when you repeat the first movie too much. We wanted to make sure the story progressed, that new things happened. The gang fight we just kept coming back to… But we wanted the gang fight to surprise the crowd again because the reason it worked so well the first time is because you had no idea that was going to happen.” This time around the intensity of the gang fight is amplified by a thousand! Think about everything you could possibly want to see in an all out brawl, chances are you’ll see some part of it in Anchorman 2. The comedy, creativity, and catch phrases that McKay and Ferrell are known for bringing to the big screen were above and beyond my expectations this time around. We ended the interview with my attempt to understand how they come up with such epically hilarious material. “The way you get a lot of that stuff is that you just keep trying and trying. You do line after line, and you can just feel it! There’s a ton of improv and writing on the fly. It’ll be me yelling from behind the camera, I’ll talk to the actors, and they’ll be like “What about something like this?”. Then I’ll add to it and we’ll all kind of collaborate… That’s mostly what it is.” I wholeheartedly hope that Adam McKay and Will Ferrell continue to make comedic magic together on the big screen. Many people share in my enthusiasm and excitement about Anchorman 2. The studio took notice, and is releasing the film two days earlier than originally slated! Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues will be in theaters nationwide on Wednesday, December 18th. If you want to laugh uncontrollably I highly recommend that you go see this film, as a matter of fact go support it on its opening weekend! Until next time, you stay classy Philadelphia!