Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues - Will Ferrell and David Koechner interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
WILL Ferrell and David Koechner discuss playing Ron Burgundy and Champ, respectively, in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues and how much the roles have come to mean to them.
Ferrell also recalls one scene in which he had to swim with jellyfish, while Koechner recounts the times he has been asked by fans to deliver a “whammy” in public places (with often disappointing results).
Q. How on earth did you come up with a line like “Olivia Newtwon John’s hymen?”
Will Ferrell: Between myself and Adam [McKay] and any of these guys, we were all just cataloguing things and throwing them out, so that was one of 20 options. But it seemed like a good one.
Q. How was it returning to these characters? Obviously, when you made the first film you wouldn’t have known they were going to take on this life and become these massive figures…
Will Ferrell: No.
Q. We heard that one of the early plans for a follow-up was a Broadway musical?
Will Ferrell: Possibly. The studio was a little… they weren’t reticent but they were scratching their head when they heard that idea slightly. I think that the comment was: “Oh that’s not what we expected, at all now that you’ve said you want to do a sequel.” Plus, I went and saw Book of Mormon and I remember thinking: “Oh, that’s kind of the style of what we want to do – be the anti-musical musical.” But I think we were happy to get off of that and be more of a regular comedy.
Q. Did it feel like a good fit again?
David Koechner: Oh yeah. You kind of put the clothes on and the script is crack! Is that right? Crack? So, it was just wonderful. The first time we got together we were doing a little teaser trailer right after the announcement. And the most amazing thing was that the suit still fit! So, I think at that point I was like: “OK, we can do it.”
Q. Steve [Carell] said earlier he was worried about coming back and merely doing an impression of Brick this time around. Was that something that occurred to you?
David Koechner: Steve’s smarter. He can marginalise that – that’s an impression, this is acting. I wouldn’t know the difference. I’m just loud. My gauge is: “Is that too loud? How loud is he? There!”
Q. How many times have people run up to you and quoted something at you?
David Koechner: Oh very often. I’ll get it in the airport – “give me a whammy”. And I’ll kind of casually say “whammy” and they’ll be like: “That’s not very good.” If I don’t yell across the airport “whammy”, I may as well just stand up and yell: “Look at me!”
Q. Will, can you tell us about your incident with jellyfish?
David Koechner: I’m going to field this one. So, we’re on St George… is it St George Island, off the coast of Georgia? It’s cold and the wind’s blowing and we’re doing this scene where Will has to get in the water. It’s kind of shallow there. It goes out shallow for a while.
Will Ferrell: But it’s the one sunny day.
David Koechner: But it’s still cold water. So, we see this huge thing floating in the water and we get over to it and say: “Oh my God, it’s a jellyfish.” And so our first aid guy gets a shovel, takes it out of the water and has a look at it. Ten minutes later, Will is in that water and they’re all over the place. But this guy goes “oh well” and gets right in the water, and then about a half an hour after that has to swim 50 yards in this water!
Will Ferrell: We found out they were the non-stinging variety.
David Koechner: But you didn’t know it at the time. He just lay down in the water and that impressed me to no end.
Will Ferrell: That wasn’t the hard part though. The hard part was the shot where Ron’s coming out of the water and the shark is behind him. That was in a 30 not current where I had to time it to get in the same frame as the shark. I thought: “I’m not going to be able to do this.” But we tried it one more time and that was the one that we got.
David Koechner: The kid just keeps going! He’s pretty amazing. That’s not fay. He was battling the elements… battling sharks.
Q. There is a serious message in the film as well about the slipping of news standards. What’s your view on that?
Will Ferrell: Well, when we decided to pick 1980 and the beginning o 24-hour news, it felt likle you kind of had to go there with doing a little bit of a satirical view of what news is now. And that was fun to be able to… that was the goal to have a movie that makes you laugh really hard but at the same time stops you in your tracks and makes you think about something, which I don’t think you find in a lot of studio broad PG-13 comedies. But the news is… I think there’s a lot of conflicts with the 24-hour news cycle. It’s hard to fill that time. There’s o way you can, as we’ve found out. So, what happens is long stretches of talking heads going: “Well, I think this!”; “Wrong, I think this!” And that leads to speculation, which in a weird way then leads to everyone having separate camps.
David Koechner: And that’s just to generate more content. If you think about it, it’s just one long Monty Python sketch, isn’t it? A man comes in and says “I’d like to have an argument”… look how much content is based on “let’s argue about it”. They have entire shows for that reason, based on a Monty Python sketch. So, thank you Pythons. And they’re back at it!
Q. How was shooting the dinner party scene with the African-American family and getting the balance right without it seeming offensive?
Will Ferrell: I think it’s OK to laugh because Ron gets beat up. He gets beat up, as he should. But once again it’s innocent. He think he’s communicating and, in his mind, he’s taking the extra step to really get the jargon down. But he’s so misguided. He just thinks he’s right in their pocket. As a human being, yeah, I literally started the scene by saying to that table of talented actors “please forgive me for everything that’s about to come out of Ron’s mouth”. And everyone was “this is hilarious”.
Q. How was sharing a scene so close to Harrison Ford’s face?
Will Ferrell: Yeah, the fact that Harrison Ford is inches away from your face is both thrilling and frightening. I couldn’t believe he was so relaxed and was willing to play along with our crazy… if you’re used to working in a conventional way to kind of step onto our side, even though everyone is totally nice and we can’t reiterate enough times, like, ‘don’t worry, you literally don’t have to be funny, just say whatever feels and comes naturally and it’ll usually land on its feet’. And you have Adam on the microphone with a speaker yelling lines at you while the camera is rolling. Once you get used to it, it’s really freeing. You just learn to kind of take it in. So, Harrison Ford just kind of jumped right in. If I had stopped to consciously think about what was happening, I probably would have left the room. I would have been so intimidated. But it was hilarious.
Q. How easy was it to get such a lot of cameos this time around?
Will Ferrell: I think that the quality of the people we got is sub-par. I think we failed.
Q. You stuck Kirsten Dunst on a roof…
David Koechner: Not only were we able to score amazing cameos, but a lot of people were asking.
Will Ferrell: It just shows the love for the movie, not only from fans but from the acting world. So, to get Kirsten up there. She’s a hell of an actor but she was like: “Can I just come and do something?” And we were like: “Sure, do you want to blow a trumpet on top of a 15-storey building?” And she said “OK”.
Q. Did they get paid?
Will Ferrell: They got paid in coupons, yeah!
Q. Can we expect Anchorman 3?
Will Ferrell: Boy, I don’t know. We’re just going to see what happens with this one. Yeah, it’s so fascinating how quickly that questions gets asked without it even being in theatres yet.
David Koechner: It’s not just you, it’s literally every interview. And I understand it because once a person has a child, the first question everyone asks is: “Are you going to have more children?” But it basically means: “Are you going to have more sex with your wife in the hopes of having children?” I just remembered. Jokingly yesterday we said we were going to do more sequels, we’re going to do 10 or 20… McKay had said we’re going to do 70. And then I saw on Twitter that David Koechner confirms there will be an Anchorman 3. And so… I was like: “Wait!” There was no way that person had seen the movie yet! It’s a great question but it gets ahead of itself, just like that.
Q. Is there any of your other screen characters you’d like to revisit to see where they are now?
Will Ferrell: I’m hesitant to answer that question just because… we’ve played around with the idea of a Step Brothers sequel. Those were fun guys to play. But at the same time, once again, this is the first time we’ve done this and we want to see how it sits with the audience and go from there.
Q. Was it important to go back to the idea of an ensemble comedy?
Will Ferrell: I don’t know if we viewed it as important. It was what just felt natural. Of course, you’re going to want to see the guys together and interacting and playing off of other ensemble groups. That’s how it all fell into place.
Q. How much do these characters mean to you and how did they change things for you?
David Koechner: Oh well, It’s made a huge difference in my life. I got more work, made closer friends. Yeah, it’s been a blessing and a gift every day. It’s allowed me different latitude in my career, personally.
Will Ferrell: Yeah, it was an important movie just for the struggle to get it made and then to have it grow and grow and grow in that way. That stuff doesn’t happen all the time. I think we all really look back on it with such fondness – not only because it felt like a different movie we were making and how much fun we had, but where it ended up going.
Q. I there a real-life Anchorman that resembles Ron?
David Koechner: I’d say there are too many!
Will Ferrell: Yeah, you can find… there’s a lot of Ron’s out there in local news. And he’s kind of based on a bunch of different guys. It’s definitely a thing in the States with such a huge country and so many different cities. Everyone growing up has that local news person they watched. And when you think about it, before cable they were huge celebrities. They were the person that if you saw them at a restaurant you’d want to go and get their autograph.
Q. What would be the most memorable news event of your life?
David Koechner: Well obviously we have to say 9/11. But beyond that, for me personally, it would have been Nixon’s resignation. I remember watching it.
Will Ferrell: Once again outside of 9/11 would probably be the night that John Stamos won Dancing With The Stars. You heard people cheering.
Q. Do you have any more dramas on the horizon?
Will Ferrell: I wish. No, I’m always searching for something to do like that because it’s so much fun.
David Koechner: I’ll plug Cheap Thrills. It comes out in March. It’s a sinister thriller with dark comedic undertones. I didn’t know it had laughs, honest to God. We shot it in 12 days and I thought it was a straight thriller. But it’s getting rave reviews and I watched it with a festival audience and it’s getting all these laughs. I thought: “What is going on?” Anyway, look for Cheap Thrills.