Director thrilled to keep 'Legend' alive with new 'Anchorman' film

Adam McKay, Will Ferrell bring back Ron Burgundy for sequel, new

Director Adam McKay and Will Farrell on the set of "Anchorman 2."
Director Adam McKay and Will Farrell on the set of "Anchorman 2." (Paramount Pictures)

Throughout my years of involvement in the broadcast industry, I can't tell you how many times I've heard my friends in television tell me how they can relate to the Will Ferrell comedy classic "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy."

Needless to say, there's a whole lot more to talk and laugh about with the release of the long-awaited "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues," which is new this week on Blu-ray and DVD (Paramount Home Media Distribution).  In a recent interview with director and co-writer Adam McKay, the filmmaker admitted that he's just as surprised as anyone that the film is a big hit among broadcast journalists, and in some ways he's still trying to figure out why.

"I want to know why especially because we're kind of skewering them," McKay told me with a laugh. "Yet, they all love it. I guess everyone has some sense of humor about what they do. I also think that all the anchors think that they're not Ron Burgundy -- they think they other guy is, and that's why they all laugh about it."

Ferrell returns as Ron -- full mustache and all -- and is trying to find him place in the broadcast world of the 1980s when his love and co-anchor, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) is promoted to a network anchor spot and he is fired. Not handling his dismissal too well, Ron is soon pulled out of the abyss by an opportunity that's too good to pass up: a new concept where news will be delivered to cable TV subscribers 24 hours a day.

In addition to the prestige, the gig also enables Ron to reassemble his broadcast team from his San Diego days, including reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner). The only problem is, they're looked down upon as the B-team on the network by lead anchor Jack Lime (James Marsden) and his cronies.

"Anchorman 2" is a rare sequel in that it's been nine years since the original film was released. Since the first film wasn't a blockbuster that warranted an immediate sequel, McKay says the idea for the second film didn't really come about until five or six years later.

"The first movie did pretty well and made a nice profit, but didn't do gangbusters. It got pretty good reviews and we were all happy with it because we made a movie we liked," McKay recalled. "After 'Anchorman' we jumped to doing 'Talladega Nights,' and it really wasn't until around 'Step Brothers' that we kept hearing 'Anchorman' quotes, and people kept asking, 'Why won't you do a sequel?' So then we started asking, 'Is there anything here? How often do you get a chance to do a sequel?'"

Even thought they had an idea of doing "Anchorman 2," the task of actually getting it made wasn't easy, the filmmaker said.

"We started kicking around things like the budget, and we found out that it was going to cost a lot because everybody had become big stars, so we kind of gave up on it," McKay said. "After we made 'The Other Guys' (with Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg), we came back to it again because the timing was right. Paramount had a movie fall out and everyone came to an agreement on a budget we knew could work, and that was it."

The video release of "Anchorman 2" arrives in a "super-sized," R-rated edition, which contains 763 more jokes. McKay said while it's fun opening the flood gates for the video version, the consideration all along was to release it as a PG-13 film in theaters. That's not to say weren't any tussles with the Motion Picture Association of America to get that target rating, McKay noted.

"Through all of the improv some dirty stuff kept slipping in the film, so we had some back and forth with the ratings board where they kept giving us an R, even though we were really close to a PG-13," McKay said. "We're partners with the studio on the film and we wanted people to see the movie in theaters -- we didn't want to be losing 15- and 16-year-olds, so there was never any serious consideration of going with an R rating."

Since the first film was PG-13, McKay said it only made sense for No. 2 to be the same.

"It's like we wanted to be as dirty and bawdy as we could right up to the edge of the PG-13 rating, but if it goes any further, it doesn't fit the tone of the movie," McKay said. "So, God bless home video, where all that other stuff got in so we were able to do a whole other version."

If you loved the cameo appearances in the first "Anchorman," you'll admire how McKay doubled his efforts for the sequel (which for the sake of the people who haven't seen the film yet, the names won't be revealed here). But there is one well-publicized legend in the film that had the 12-year-old in McKay doing backflips: Harrison Ford, who plays a retiring network anchorman.

"I couldn't believe he was on our set. I was almost afraid of him," McKay said. "The movies we had seen him in as kids came to life when he came onto the set. The real truth of him is, he's the least pretentious guy you'll ever meet. He's not at all full of himself. He just views it as, 'I'm an actor, I played some roles,' so when people come up to him and say, 'Oh, my God, Han Solo, Indiana Jones,' he just laughs it off, 'No, no, I was just playing a character and had a costume on.' What he really loves is his kids, his planes and really loved to hang around on set. He really loved the improvising."

Tim Lammers is a nationally syndicated movie journalist and the author of the new ebook Direct Conversations: The Animated Films of Tim Burton (Foreword by Tim Burton).