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A brief oral history of the Anchorman movies

Two new trailers dropped today for Anchorman 2. You can watch both at this link, although I’ll embed one below as well. Oddly, Harrison Ford — arguably one of the five biggest movie stars of the last 40 years in the U.S. — is in the UK trailer but not the U.S. trailer. So be it.

If you watch both trailers, there are some good lines, although it does kinda seem like the focus is going to be on 80s gags and black/gay jokes, which might get a little awkward. Ferrell generally has a good box office track record, although Semi Pro and Land of the Lost were not exactly stellar ROI for the studios involved. In all likelihood, especially factoring in release date, Anchorman 2 should be a big hit. I’m just not entirely sure it’ll be funny.

I wanted to understand more about the origins of the project, and I found this 2004 interview between David O. Russell (the filmmaker) and Ferrell. Essentially, when Ferrell was growing up, he thought all news teams must be friends outside of work, and wanted to write a story about such a team dealing with a rising feminism era. Many storylines were pursued that ultimately didn’t work, including Burgundy and co. pursuing a crew called “The Alarm Clock.” These became this movie, which is essentially 90 minutes of deleted scenes that somehow work into a coherent plot:

The first draft of the original Anchorman screenplay contained casting suggestions. Had they been followed, Ben Stiller would have been Paul Rudd’s character and Chris Parnell would have been Steve Carrell’s character. Odd, although both seem like they could have been alright fits.

This should also be singled out, from the same link above: “Adam McKay has said that in the first draft of the script, the story was about a planeload of news anchors who crash in the mountains and discover that the plane which they collided was carrying monkeys and martial arts equipment, leading to a battle between cannibalistic newsmen and star-throwing monkeys.”

On the female side: Maggie Gyllenhaal auditioned for Veronica, and Amy Poehler was utterly cut out of the film.

Yahoo! Movies had some on-set photos from Anchorman 2, which would indicate Jim Carrey is going to make a cameo.

 

I wanted to learn more about the actual process of writing the script for Anchorman, and/or scenes from the writers’ room. I couldn’t locate that, but this is a pretty interesting interview with McKay. Basically, he admits that “pitching sucks” but it’s much easier when those hearing the pitch know that Ferrell will be attached to the project. He also admits that the actual writing process isn’t really that detailed because of how ‘The Frat Pack’ likes to improvise. IMDB’s trivia page for Anchorman has underscored both these things using the number 20: (a) oftentimes, scenes would have 20 or more takes because of the improv skills of the different actors and wanting to find the funniest combo and (b) apparently, Anchorman was pitched 20 times. The studio believed in Ferrell but didn’t believe an entire movie could be carried based on newscasters. Even headed into the opening weekend, they believed ‘twould be a flop. Here’s the McKay process interview:

Finally here: those Dodge Durango ads with Ferrell as Burgundy currently making the rounds? (They’re all over NFL telecasts, for one thing.) Well, there’s 70 such ads, and the process by which they came together is pretty interesting — and definitely not like any type of normal commercial shoot.

Ted Bauer

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