It’s Kind of a Big Deal – A Visit to the Set of Anchorman 2!

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Ron Burgundy is getting surly with a dolphin.

One would think, given his relationship with his dog Baxter, this renown television news anchor would be friends with all animals. Not the case, apparently. Today? He’s threatening violence.

“You shut your mouth, I’ll knock you out!” he boisterously spits at a dolphin that is perched inches away from Burgundy’s face. The marine mammal is chatting away in dolphin speak, giving Burgundy the business. But Burgundy’s not having it.

Blame it on the drink in his hand. Burgundy does love his Scotch, after all.

ComingSoon.net is watching this encounter play out because we’ve been invited to the set of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. The “set,” in this case, is SeaWorld in San Diego and the dolphin attraction and the extras sitting in its bleachers have been transported back to 1979. Everyone is wearing era-appropriate attire.

Burgundy, once again played by Will Ferrell, has on a turquoise sports coat and cream turtleneck. He’s cradling a glass of booze and is joined by two fellow SeaWorld employees on a stage by the dolphin tank. The dolphins are putting on quite a show and the crowd is loving it. Burgundy watches on, mocking the awe and wonder of the spectators until he decides to start hitting on one of his female colleagues and it’s revealed that he’s quite drunk.

That’s when Burgundy starts taking it out on the crowd. And the dolphin, who pokes its head out of the water of the giant SeaWorld tank to get in Burgundy’s face.

“Give him a first-class boo’ing!” is heard over a loudspeaker and the extras comply, screaming at Burgundy to get off the stage. “You’re a drunken, washed-up hack, Ron Burgundy!” screams a little girl at the front of the bleachers (this little girl, it will be revealed, is Pearl McKay from “The Landlord” Funny or Die video Ferrell appeared in).

It seems ComingSoon.net has arrived on set just in time to see Ron Burgundy at another low point in his life. “He got fired and is now working at SeaWorld,” Ferrell explains to us between shot set-ups. Ouch. Poor Burgundy.

To be frank, this writer doesn’t care where Burgundy is employed – as long as he’s back.

The journey to Anchorman 2, a sequel to 2004′s instantly-quotable, widely-embraced Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, has been a long one. The original grossed $90 million worldwide, but for a little while there, it didn’t look like Paramount was eager to get a sequel moving; neither was the film’s creative team: Ferrell (who shares writing credit) and director Adam McKay.

“If you’re going to make a sequel, it should be equally as crazy as the first one and hopefully surprising,” Ferrell says. “We’ve never made a sequel to any of the films we’ve done because we’ve been anti-sequel. Why not explore brand new ideas as opposed to something you already made? So, that kept us from thinking about it. We said if we ever made a sequel, it would probably be to Anchorman. I think just something clicked, ‘Why not?’ Those guys get to make six ‘Ocean’s 11′ [movies template='galleryview']–> and no one seems to beat them up, come on we can make a sequel!”

We observed a bit more of the “dolphin encounter” scene and watched Ferrell run through some improvisation. McKay, sitting in a control room above the bleachers, can be heard on the aforementioned loudspeaker feeding hilarious lines on-the-fly. And Ferrell, like a champ, dishes them out. The two of them have this writer in tears with laughter. Much of the stuff we’re hearing won’t make the final cut of the film, but it’s insane.

This is how McKay works. He seizes a moment to occasionally rewrite the dialogue while the cameras are rolling and let his actors run with the lines in their own way. It’s a masterful comedic alchemy. The dynamic is fun. It keeps his performers on their toes. And he’s keeping the hundreds of extras sitting in the bleachers engaged in this process too. Within one take, he’ll have them chanting in unison, “You are not classy, Ron Burgundy!” to “You have taken an Icarus-like fall, Ron Burgundy!”

An “Icarus-like fall”? Classic.

McKay tells us this scene occurs fairly early on in the film. The original intent was to find Burgundy hosting a game show like “The Joker’s Wild.” The show was going to be called, “Duck Duck Goose and [Burgundy template='galleryview']–> was hammered with D-level celebrities,” McKay chuckles. “We really liked Duck Duck Goose.”

Alas, McKay and Ferrell went with this alternate SeaWorld sequence which allows the latter to interact with real dolphins (as opposed to CG dolphins or a real dolphin composited into the shot). “They’re definitely an intelligent creature,” Ferrell says of the experience. “It was good we workshopped with them a few weeks – put them through improv classes.”

All is not lost for Burgundy and his time at SeaWorld in Anchorman 2 does ultimately come to an end. A hero will rise, so to speak, and for Burgundy his ascension begins in the world of 24-hour news, the inspiration for this film.

“We talked about the idea of a musical and going into another genre altogether, but the one that made sense to us was inserting these guys into 1979/1980 and something that’s so commonplace to us now. The idea that news was going to be 24 hours,” Ferrell explains.

McKay adds, “The second we had that thought, the rise of the new media, we were maybe going to include computers in there. Maybe even go so far as 24 news to Internet news – that was too ambitious and too much of a long timeframe. Twenty-four hour news, we knew that was the landmark change. Stuff hit like a barrage. That’s when a lot of things changed in America, it was a changing point. Then when I read about CNN, they actually did go and find some of these local guys. Local regulars were brought in. It was so perfect when we started looking into it.”

“The beauty of Ron Burgundy is that he’s not very good at change,” Ferrell laughs. “So, once again, it’s very difficult for him. It’s justified because [these 24-hour news networks template='galleryview']–> – we found out – just needed warm bodies. They had to hire a massive group of people at one time to be on around the clock and that’s why he and his team are on at 2 a.m. and they’re horribly upset by that. His ego is bruised.”

Returning with Ferrell are Steve Carell, David Koechner, Paul Rudd and Christina Applegate as Brick, Champ, Brian and Veronica, respectively. So far, McKay says that, for the team, transitioning back into their characters has been easy.

“The first day or two has been like, ‘Oh my god, we’re all getting used to it again,’” McKay elaborates. “[Carell said template='galleryview']–> ‘I keep feeling like I’m not getting into Brick.’ And I was like, ‘You’re instantly like Brick.’ So, after a couple of days, I kept showing him the playbacks and it was like, ‘Alright, it’s Brick.’ But, they’ve all gotten so good. I feel like they’ve all gotten so experienced and strong. I think the first time around we were all trying to figure out what we were doing and trying to make each other laugh, but this time we’re still trying to make each other laugh and it’s going toward the scene as well. It’s gotten more economical with where the improv is and how to use it.”

“It’s unlike any experience when we get to make a movie and the cast felt that way, too,” Ferrell says of the improvisation. “It creates this healthy competition because you know Adam’s going to come up with a line and you’re trying to come up with a line. It’s this taut string that’s all between the four of us in a scene and it makes for some great comedy.”

Newcomers to Burgundy’s world this time include James Marsden, Dylan Baker, Meagan Good, Harrison Ford, Greg Kinnear and Josh Lawson. Press anyone involved on the film regarding the rumored cameos and they’ll politely decline the chance to offer any confirmations.

“James Marsden is Jack Lime, GNN’s lead anchor and rumors are he’s making close to a million a year,” Ferrell explains. “We had a couple of people do a read-through [of the script template='galleryview']–> just as a favor and we wound up casting them. James and also Josh Lawson, who is our owner of GNN, he’s Ted Turner meets Rupert Murdoch meets Richard Branson rolled into one. His Australian accent gets so thick we can’t understand him. Meagan Good plays our boss at GNN and Dylan Baker is a low-level producer who finds Ron Burgundy after this [SeaWorld template='galleryview']–> moment.”

And what about Harrison Ford? McKay says the actor was a bit confused by his working process (throwing lines out at random during an inspired moment of improvisation). “I think Harrison Ford was a little confused (by our process). “[At first template='galleryview']–> he was like, ‘What?’ But then he kind of dug it and had fun with it and started adding his own [lines template='galleryview']–>. Sam Jackson was like that in ‘The Other Guys.’ I think all actors love it, it’s an unrestricted freedom you can’t have, so, Harrison Ford was dicey for about 10 minutes. I’m throwing lines out to Han Solo and I think he knows you’re thinking that. He was super gracious and showed us pictures of his planes. He’s just into flying planes.”

“The one thing that was hard [about writing the script template='galleryview']–> was juggling the old characters with the new characters we wanted to introduce,” Ferrell says. “That’s going to be the challenge in the editing room is finding enough screen time for everyone.”

Judging from the day’s shoot, McKay and Ferrell are getting a lot of material to work with. And this proves to be indicative of the entire production. “We’ve made a big adventurous movie, once again, for a budget that…everyone sacrificed because we wanted to make this movie. They’re doing this at a price.”

“I’m dreading the day where they tell me what the rough assembly time is,” McKay continues. If it’s less than 3 ½ hours, I can deal with it. If it’s more, we’re going to be in trouble. And on a lark, a couple of times, do we do ‘Kill Bill’ 1 and 2, I think we really could do it. But I don’t think we will. We just want to tell a good 90 minutes – maybe 140.”

Clearly, McKay’s getting enough to fill a Blu-ray’s-worth of bonus features. “Will and I have discussed Ron Burgundy 2.5 after this, a whole idea for a movie where – in this movie – he’s going to get stuck in an elevator,” McKay says. “You see a scene where he leaves and they go, ‘What did you do this weekend?’ and then we’d do a sort of half sequel where we show what happened to him on that weekend in that elevator. We were going to write it and shoot it, but this movie is such a bear. It would have taken us two weeks to write that script, minimum, we’ll definitely have two hours of extra material. One of these days, we’ve just got to do a ‘Lord of the Rings’ and go shoot three of these. It’d be really fun to do.”

When I ask of Baxter’s whereabouts, McKay drops a HEAVY SPOILER (you’ve been warned).

“I want to know more about [Baxter template='galleryview']–> when he’s not around,” McKay enthuses, then reveals that ‘Anchorman 2′ will introduce Ron Burgundy’s son: Walter. “We talked about doing the adventures of Walter Burgundy and Baxter. I pitched it to [Paramount president template='galleryview']–> Adam Goodman and he liked it, so there’s a chance there might be a Milo & Otis, PG, adventures of Walter and Baxter.”

I think we can all agree a spin-off like that elicits a Burgundy-like response, “By the beard of Zeus!”

Look for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues in theaters December 20th.

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