Ron Burgundy is back, and he’s as inappropriate and cringe-inducing as ever. Anchorman star Will Ferrell talks to Susan Griffin.
When Christina Applegate was asked to describe her Anchorman co-stars, she said: “They are the most fay-like men I’ve ever come across.”
What does the film’s co-creator and star, Will Ferrell, make of that?
“Fay?” he asks, widening those close-set eyes and pretending to be incredulous. Perhaps she meant that he, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner aren’t what one might call a testosterone club?
“Yes, we’re almost foppish. We wore silk undergarments. Every week was powdered wig Monday. We were perfumed,” says the funny man, who is sporting jeans, a green T-shirt and a retro blue tracksuit top when we meet.
“Today’s more casual wear. Yesterday I was wearing a beautiful suit – you would’ve been awestruck,” he says.
Ferrell, 46, might’ve made a name for himself playing the misguided and moustachioed news anchor Ron Burgundy in the first Anchorman film (The Legend Of Ron Burgundy), a grown man who thinks he’s one of Santa’s little helpers in Elf, and one of two aimless middle-aged blokes forced to become room-mates when their parents marry in Step Brothers – but don’t let the on-screen buffoonery fool you.
Ferrell has razor sharp wit, which saw him quickly rise through the ranks from stand-up comedy workshops to esteemed LA improv group The Groundlings, where he was plucked for Saturday Night Live.
“Will’s so good at throwing something out there that’s unexpected and so far out of left-field,” says Rudd, who reprises his role of ‘man on the street’ Brian Fanatana in the Anchorman sequel.
New boy James Marsden, who plays Ron’s chiselled nemesis Jack Lime, agrees: “When you’re able to bust Will Ferrell up, then you know you’re doing something good. That’s the Holy Grail.”
The original Anchorman wasn’t a major hit when it was released in 2004, but since, Ferrell says, “it’s kind of grown into cult status”.
The idea came about after the actor saw a state news anchor paired with a woman for the first time. Soon he and his Saturday Night Live colleague Adam McKay got talking.
“I said, ‘What about basing a story in the Seventies news world, about the first time a woman comes into that world and how these men are just petulant, and she’s smarter and more capable?’” recalls Californian-born Ferrell.
The men agreed it had potential and roped in producer Judd Apatow, with McKay becoming director, creating one of the most successful creative partnerships in Hollywood.
While the trio re-teamed for comedy hits Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby and Step Brothers, Anchorman continued to quietly grow into a phenomenon.
By 2010, Ferrell and McKay began considering a follow-up and thought of a number of ideas, including a musical version. “The studio weren’t reticent, but [they were] scratching their heads,” says Ferrell. “I think their comment was, ‘Oh, that’s not what we expected at all when you said you want to do a sequel...’”
Eventually, they found themselves talking about the introduction of cable television and the media explosion that began to happen in 1980.
Rolling 24-hour news also made its appearance, as well as the first ‘trash’ news stories, prompting a moral conundrum – chase ratings or cover ‘real’ news?
“We kept talking about it and realised that’s what Ron should deal with,” explains Ferrell. “There’s a lot of conflict with the 24-hour news cycle. It’s hard to fill that time, so the goal was to make a movie that made you laugh really hard – but also stop you in your tracks and make you think, which is something you don’t find in a lot of studio comedies.”
The sequel begins with Ron and Veronica (Christina Applegate), who are now parents to a six-year-old and weekend co-anchors on national network news, being called to the office of lead anchor Mark Tannen (Harrison Ford).
When Veronica’s promoted and Ron’s sacked, the anchor seeks solace in San Diego (or San-de-ahh-go, as Ron calls it). Drunk and obnoxious in his new job at Sea World, salvation comes in the form of a producer who offers him the chance of a lifetime – to be on the world’s first 24-hour global news network.
Ron quickly rounds up his classic news team – Fantana, sports-caster Champ Kid (Koechner) and weatherman Brick Tamland (Carell), and together they head to the Big Apple.
Like the original, the comedy might be near the mark, but Ferrell couldn’t be happier with the final edit.
“I think we’re all very excited and thrilled and we feel very good about the movie,” he says.