Adam McKay reveals Paul Thomas Anderson was the original producer of ‘Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy’
You’ve got to hand it to director Adam McKay. Within the span of about a month, he’s gone from a comedy director of absurdist movies (“Step Brothers,” “Anchorman”) to a two-time Oscar-nominee for his economic crisis movie, “The Big Short,” which scored nods for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director. The movie earned a Best Picture nomination, too. Talk about raising your heat index: McKay’s practically on fire and “The Big Short” is being seen as a viable contender that might go head to head with “The Revenant” and “Spotlight” for Best Picture.
Meanwhile, McKay and avowed fan Paul Thomas Anderson sat down in late November for a chat at the DGA studios in Los Angeles for a post-screening chat about “The Big Short.” It’s a fascinating and funny 30-minute conversation that you should listen to in full, but there are some tantalizing details within as well.
First and foremost, while no title was unveiled, McKay revealed details of what may be his next film — and it’s a reunion for the leads from “Step Brothers,” one that sounds like it’s inspired by the buffoon-ish rhetoric of Donald Trump and continues his newfound political and socially conscious edge.
“I’m actually talking with [Will] Ferrell and John C. Reilly about doing a comedy about two guys who go down to defend America’s borders against the immigrants, and I’m pretty excited about it,” McKay said. “We actually have Jesse Armstrong who wrote ‘In The Loop‘— [he’s] delivering a draft, I think, next week.”
Damn. That sounds incredible. Yes, please and can we have it ready for the 2016 election somehow? McKay says he’s also excited about continuing the hand-held cinéma vérité style he adopted for “The Big Short” — he tapped ‘Bourne’ cinematographer Barry Ackroyd to shoot the film and give it a sense of immediacy.
“I was amazed you could get good laughs [with that style],” he explained. “The theory in comedy is that you have to frame very traditionally so the performance or the logic is what gets the laugh, but I dunno, I’m thinking with this next movie going more handheld than I’ve ever gone.”
Also, did you know Paul Thomas Anderson was the original producer of “Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy”? Maybe the Maya Rudolph connection tied him to McKay, who was then just transitioning out as a head writer on SNL? Either way, McKay says he and Will Ferrell wrote a batshit crazy first draft and it just baffled PTA to the point that he dropped out. Both were talking about vomit drafts — when a screenwriter doesn’t outline or plan and just writes a first draft as quickly as possible, incorporating any idea at all they’d love to have just to see what sticks. McKay said the vomit pass he and Ferrell gave to PTA was insane.
“True story, by the way,” McKay interjected. “PTA was the original producer on the first ‘Anchorman’ and Will and I wrote the craziest frickin’ script. It had, like, a musical number with sharks; it was just unhinged. And poor Paul was so supportive and such an artist, and he just read it and was like, ‘I don’t…know what this is.” So Will and I bragged that we singlehandedly destroyed PTA’s producing career.”
“Or the other way is that I’m the asshole without my name on ‘Anchorman’!” Anderson laughed. “How great would that have been? I blew that.” Anderson also asked how much money he would have made from the movie, and without skipping a beat (and perhaps not joking), McKay said “$13.8 million, it’s that simple.”
Lastly, McKay ends the podcast wishing to not have to wait several years in between Paul Thomas Anderson films and asked the “Inherent Vice” helmer what it would take for him to direct a “Transformers” film. “I would do anything to see him direct a ‘Transformers’ movie,” McKay exclaimed. The response? “Man, if I just had that $13 million from ‘Anchorman’ royalties,” Anderson lamented and joked at the same time. “If I got bit by a snake and needed the antidote, I would probably do it. Or I would lose the leg? I would lose the leg.”
It’s an amusing and insightful conversation. Listen to the whole 30-minute shebang below.