When it was finally announced that Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, and company would be coming back and making a sequel to their 2004 modern classic Anchorman, the world rejoiced. But, with as many people as there are who love this movie, and with the way it’s continued to remain a relevant part of popular culture, why did it take so long to make a sequel? McKay spills some details on the long road to this highly anticipated sequel in a recent interview with THR. Apparently the delay between Anchorman movies came down to two things: first there was a lack of interest in sequels from the creative end of things, and then there were budget concerns from the accountants.
Or, as McKay puts it, “the movie came out and did really good but then got even bigger on DVD and cable. So then, when he (Adam Goodman) was at Paramount, he said to me, ‘Would you ever do a sequel?’ And at first we were like, ‘No, we don’t want to do sequels, we have too many ideas. Why do sequels?’ And then finally, we kept hearing the question so much from fans, and we’re like, ‘Shit, man, there’s almost something original about doing a sequel,’ like, can-we-do-a-sequel suddenly became an interesting challenge to us. We got our heads around on it and said, ‘All right, we’ll do it,’ and Goodman was really excited. But then it went in the numbers machine over there.”
And once the movie went into the numbers machine two problems popped up. The first was that all of the principal actors had become much bigger stars than they were when the first Anchorman was filmed, and they would need to be paid much larger salaries to make the movie worth their while. The second was that, while Anchorman became a big hit as far as domestic DVD sales go, the film’s absurdist, period-based humor never really translated well for overseas audiences – which is death in today’s studio climate. After trying three times to work out a budget where everyone could get paid and the studio wouldn’t have to take a big financial risk, McKay gave up.
But then things changed. He goes on to say, “So now it’s really, really 100 percent dead, and Ferrell and I are sitting down and there’s talk of doing Step Brothers 2, and we were going to line that up at Sony and we were like, ‘You know what? That’ll be our sequel. The first one was so much fun, we’ll go do that.’ But I keep hearing from everyone: Anchorman 2, Anchorman 2, Anchorman 2…So we’re about to set sail on Step Brothers 2, and I go to Jimmy, ‘Can you just check one last time?’ And he goes, ‘It’s a waste of time. We’ve already checked three times.’ I go, ‘Just call, I just need to hear it one last time.’ And he said, I’m telling you, it’s a waste of time.’ So Ari Emanuel, my agent, is like, ‘Fine, I don’t give a shit, I’ll call.’ So he calls, and he goes, ‘They’re interested.’ …I guess a movie fell through for them or something, and that was it.”
After all of that finagling, what was the agreed upon budget? McKay says, “The budget we ended up getting was $50 million. It was perfect. We wanted $60 million, they were saying $35 million, $50 million we can get it done for. We came up with a—we’re not going to get rich—but a fair little back end sweetener on it.”
If you’re wondering who the “we” n that equation is, apparently it’s the whole news crew: Ferrell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Steve Carell, and Christina Applegate. The interviewer brings up a good point regarding Applegate’s character, how she was mostly the impetus for the plot of the first film, and how she could be looked at as expendable for a sequel, but McKay assures that “we haven’t written it yet, but we have an idea for her that we think is pretty cool. So tentatively right now she’s in. But obviously we kind of have to let it be what it’s gonna be, we don’t want to handcuff ourselves, but we love Applegate, so any chance to work with her is always fun. So, yeah, that’s it. The last couple weeks we’ve been sitting down and banging out the story and putting it together.”
And what about the other news crews that made cameo appearances, the ones including names like Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Tim Robbins, and Luke Wilson, would they be back? McKay explains, “That’s always the trick with the sequels, is how much do you repeat from the first one. Because we all get bummed out when you go see a sequel and it’s beat for beat. And you’re like, Awww…” More than anything, this comment has to be the one that really builds the excitement for Anchorman 2. Too often even good comedy sequels rely too much on callbacks from the original film. To hear that McKay and company are very aware of those pitfalls is reassuring. In order for Anchorman 2 to become another classic, it shouldn’t tell us anymore about Brick’s love of lamps, nobody should go to whore island; it needs to give us new lamps, and new whore islands.
So, as far as new stuff goes, what do they have planned? Not much. McKay says, “We have a basic idea. I’ll tell you we’re staying roughly period, and I would just say it’s the next stage in the development of American media and news. The fun of these characters is they confront change very poorly. [laughs] So they’ve got some more change coming their way. I can say that pretty safely.” Sounds like a good start. And they’re not scheduled to start shooting until January, so they should have plenty of time to come up with more.