Will Ferrell reads the Metro print edition (in Canada) before talking about "Anchorman 2." Credit: Provided
There’s a stack of magazines sitting on the coffee table of Will Ferrell’s suite at Toronto’s Carlton-Ritz and as we settle down to chat in the plush chairs, the glossy one on top grabs his attention. He picks it up and flourishes his hand across its cover — a picture of a panda munching on a shoot of bamboo.
“How apropos that there’s a panda on the cover of this magazine, which was the big story in the first 'Anchorman.' The panda story,” he reminisces. “It’s too bad they’re almost extinct now. But let’s not talk about that.”
Indeed. Time is of the essence and Ferrell’s got a few more upbeat things to wax about — like "Anchorman 2" and his whirlwind promotion tour. Prior to touching down in Toronto earlier this month, he’d pulled a few Ron Burgundy stunts — co-anchoring a local newscast in Bismarck, North Dakota, and co-hosting the Roar of the Rings curling tournament in Winnipeg.
But it’s all a labour of love for Ferrell, who together with his co-writer Adam McKay, once swore they’d never do sequels — a claim with an asterisk for one special movie. “While we were adamant against [sequels], we would always have this sidebar conversation where it was, ‘Well, if we ever were to do a sequel one day, it would probably be "Anchorman,"’” he says.
The original Anchorman reached almost cult-like status when it came out on DVD nearly ten years ago. For a time, its jokes were fodder for every armchair comic. “People just started falling in love with this movie on a different level after repeat viewings,” says Ferrell.
In "Anchorman 2," Ron Burgundy and his reunited crew (Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner) face a new decade — the '80s — with new challenges: a 24-hour cable news channel and — gasp — female African American boss. In terms of joke density, "Anchorman 2" packs in as many as the first and — if you can believe it — even more cameos, most of whom he don't want to spoil.
“That’s the love people have for 'Anchorman,'" Ferrell says. "We kept hearing from people and had them reaching out to us.”
Originally Ferrell says he wanted Brad Pitt to play Ron Burgundy’s pretty boy nemesis news anchor Jack Lime, but when Pitt declined, Ferrell and McKay brought in James Marsden. “We just did an informal read through of the script before filming to see how jokes were playing, and Marsden read that part and we were like, ‘He’s the guy.’ We just cast him off the read through,” he says.
On the topic of making "Anchorman 2," Ferrell says the process just felt like a reunion party. “We shot a teaser before we shot any of the movie — just us back in our outfits. Everyone felt really sentimental and it was like, ‘Wow, we’re actually going to do this again’ and that just continued through the shooting.
“It’s cliche-sounding but I don’t know if I worked more closely with any cast, the way we get along and how we have this shared sense of letting each other be funny all at the same time and there’s no real competition. That’s rare.”