“It’s so damn hot! Milk was a bad choice!” You’ve quoted every other line from the original Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy upwards of 100 times in the decade since it came out, and now as Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues rolls into town it’s fair to say there are at least five or six T-shirts waiting to be pressed with the many new catch phrases this new film has in ample supply.
This installment finds Ron and his news team re-assembling in New York City at the dawn of 24-hour cable news channels, and subsequently tearing down every shred of dignity that comes with being a broadcaster. We sat down with Ferrell in the Big Apple to discuss catch phrases, making appearances in-character, and his battle with the MPAA to say the word “vagina.”
ComingSoon.net: What do you think will be the big pop culture memes, like “stay classy” and “we’ve been going to the same party?”?
Will Ferrell: You know everyone wants to know and it makes me laugh so hard because theres no way to purposely create a viral video, a this or a that. We have no idea, as we had no idea with the first one that “I love lamp” would become a quote. Especially considering the studio wanted to cut the entire Brick Tamland part from the first movie. It’ll be fun to see, knock on wood, what grabs people. It’s too hard to say. Paul heard that someone at Wimbledon, in the middle of a silent moment, someone just yelled “LOUD NOISES!” In the middle of a tennis match. So who knows?
CS: We were not sure if we were gonna get you or Ron?
Ferrell: Right. Ron’s stuck at LaGuardia. It’s snowing.
CS: You’ve been Ron for a lot of appearances lately. Adam said you would be Ron all the time if you could?
Ferrell: Yeah, it would be easier to be Ron, ’cause Ron doesn’t have to answer any question ever. There’s really only been five or six things we’ve done as Ron outside of the Dodge campaign which has gotten a lot of play. What’s so funny is the news media loves it so much. I heard there was a thing tracking, “What’s Ron gonna do next?” Which is hilarious!
CS: What was the planning of it like?
Ferrell: In the early stage, marketing meetings with the studio that this is one of those rare instances where I love the character so much and he’s very easy to do on the fly and I’d be up for some creative ways to do it. I came up with the bit for the news station, that was my idea. My publicist came up with curling in Canada, and we tried to get a college to name a school of journalism so Emerson did it. The most insane part of that is I did a 45-minute press conference in-character and there were a hundred press requests. I’m next to the president of Emerson College and the Dean of Journalism and they didn’t get asked one question. I’ve gotten to do all these crazy things and I’ve turned down a ton of stuff as well.
CS: Do you ever worry about Ron Burgundy overkill?
Ferrell: No because I think that’s more of a Twitter hater thing. Anyone who’s actually gonna bring that up is just a small fraction of someone who has to say something contrary. It’s not even about it being effective, it’s just kind of fun to do. We’ve heard about Leslie Mann, Judd’s wife, was talking about her aunt in St. George, Utah was like, “I’m going to see that movie!” It’s literally ’cause she’s seen me do a weird thing. So when we’re reaching people like that I think it’s worth it.
CS: In a movie where you kiss a shark, at what point when you’re improvising do you say, “I think we’re going a little off the reservation here”?
Ferrell: Never a moment, only because we won’t use it. If you put it in the film and it cracks it in half then we’ll just go, “Oh, that didn’t work.” There’s never a moment on set where Adam or one of us is like, “Wait a minute?” And kissing a shark is so not even close, that was like, “Oh my gosh, this might be the single greatest thing we’ve ever done.” And it’s beautifully shot? I’m just like, “I hope I can hold my breath long enough to get to the shark.”
CS: Speaking of creativity, how to you create dialogue for a story like this?
Ferrell: Of all the movies we’ve done, Adam and I have the same process which is we sit in a room and spitball every single idea that comes to us, whether it’s a plot idea, a character idea, a thought of a joke. We take it and throw it into the pot and start clacking away. That’s kinda how it happens.
CS: I noticed when the credits were rolling that your kids were yelling at you at one point. Do they wanna act or did they just want to yell at dad?
Ferrell: They just wanted to yell at dad.
CS: Just hurling insults! Were those scripted or did they just wanna yell at you?
Ferrell: I think we were feeding them lines. The youngest boy, Axel, that’s just a reaction shot where he’s literally falling asleep at the end of a day ’cause he’s so exhausted. (laughs) They had begged, “Is there any way we can be in the movie? Any chance?” “Gotta think about it, maybe, I dunno, I can’t promise you anything,” then we figured out SeaWorld, we can do it at SeaWorld.
CS: On WTF with Marc Maron you talked about how the MPAA were a bunch of d*cks to you guys?
Ferrell: Pretty much.
CS: They made you cut out a lot of stuff, can you talk about some of the trims you had to make?
Ferrell: The crack scene was a battle, that’s been augmented, but I’m glad to hear it still works for you guys having seen it.
CS: There was more footage in the British trailer, the “Vials of Smiles.”
Ferrell: There was more footage and the shots were wider. Brian actually gives the recipe for crack on the air! We said the word “vagina” too many times in the “50 Greatest Vaginas in History” which is sexist if you ask me, ’cause you can say every form of penis you can think of, but we were literally saying the medical term too many times. So we had to change it to “gina,” “va-jay-jay” which is almost worst. There’s a part where Rudd says, “We can do stories on the amount of ejaculate on hotel duvets,” we had to change that to whatever that one was, but you couldn’t use that term. It’s just interesting that comedies are scrutinized on a certain level and “Hunger Games” can happen and it’s a PG-13, no problem which is essentially a movie of children murdering each other. So that just seems strange to me.
CS: What kind of reactions have you got from people who were adults in the ’70s?
Ferrell: The first movie had an interesting journey because at first I think we were just patted on the head by local news people. “That’s funny, it’s not very accurate” to now every local news station embraces that movie. Something that was considered silly is now considered so accurate!
CS: Larry King was at our screening last night and we kept wondering what he thought of it?
Ferrell: We just got done with him, he loved it!
CS: Do you think you’re gonna get that reaction from other cable news personalities?
Ferrell: I think it’s gonna run the gamut in the 24-hour news world from, “Hey, we’re not that bad” to “God that was good? yeah.” There was a focus group at one of the test screenings in LA. The discussion became all about how much they didn’t think about the fact that someone had to do the car chase for the first time. “There is a lot of graphics in our news, it’s hard to focus on what the story is.” There is a lot of just trying to fill the time which becomes filling the time with conjecture as opposed to reporting. That was kind of great that it was reaching people that way and still making them laugh.
CS: I was telling Adam before that “Anchorman 2” is basically the Mad Magazine version of “Broadcast News,” and you look at that movie from ’87 and she’s showing a clip of a domino competition talking about “this is not news!” You look at it now and that seems so quaint.
Ferrell: Yeah! Exactly.
CS: What was it like trying to condense 20 years of the devolution of news into one year?
Ferrell: We just picked and choosed our moments ’cause we knew it couldn’t just stay on that for the entire thing. We had so many other crazy things we had to get to. I dunno, we just kinda figured out in the writing process what felt right in terms of the calibration of that story.
CS: But you had the Rupert Murdoch stand-in and the O.J. Simpson thing?
Ferrell: Always from the script level, yeah.
CS: So “Anchorman” is an iconic movie now, but it’s two weeks to Christmas. How does it feel that every time you turn on the TV you see your face in “Elf”?
Ferrell: It’s once again another surreal thing. Obviously it feels great, I’m very happy that that’s the case because in making that movie there are moments where I’m like, “Oh, this will be the last movie I ever make. Is this an idea that’s good or horrible?” It ended up being good, but it always makes me laugh.
CS: You turned down an “Elf 2” but what was it about “Anchorman 2” that you wanted to come back?
Ferrell: It was just a slow drip-drip-drip that as the movie kept growing in popularity without us doing anything, all of us checking in over the years. “Just so you know, everyone always brings up that movie.” We were reticent about making sequels then just woke up one day and said, “Why not? Why can’t we have fun too? They got to make three ‘Oceans 11’ C’mon!”