Maybe it’s a minor point, but Will Ferrell and his partner, writer-director Adam McKay, have a real genius for character names. Dale Sturdevant, Wade Blasingame, Gamble and Hoitz—the list goes on. And then, of course, there’s the all-time classic, Ron Burgundy.
“We knew the second we had it. ‘Oh, that’s a good one,’” says McKay, calling the Straight from San Francisco. “I don’t think it’s a minor point at all. Will and I can’t write the script until we come up with the right names. We’ll spend, like, two days on names. The name tells us what the character is. It’s hugely important.”
His personal favourite? “Probably Wes Mantooth,” he says, referring to Vince Vaughn’s brief but memorable role in the duo’s 2004 movie Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. He’s also quite partial to a name that never made it onscreen. “I think it may have been cut out of the movie but we originally had a line that Veronica Corningstone’s real name was Rita Gankin,” he says, sniggering.
Opening Wednesday (December 18), Burgundy, Mantooth, and the former Ms. Gankin all return for another round of inspired newsroom lunacy in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
It’s a film that shouldn’t really exist. The fans pleaded for years, but a lack of studio interest along with McKay and Ferrell's general ambivalence towards sequels made for a long incubation. There was also the “huge significance” the original had on their careers.
“That might have been a reason we didn’t go back to it,” he offers. “There’s a bit of a Return of the Secaucus 7 quality to it where you get there and it’s, like, ‘Uh, maybe those times weren’t as great as we thought.’”
Since the stars eventually aligned and Anchorman 2 did get made, was that the case?
“Actually, I can tell you it was not the case,” he says. “That is the good news. And from hanging out with the guys beforehand, we knew that there was still life in it. And then once we had the idea for it, we felt very confident that there was enough meat on the bone.”
“The guys” includes Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, and Christina Applegate, all of whom reprise their roles as Burgundy’s news team from the first film—as does the great Fred Willard, as news director Ed Harken. What’s it like waking up with that guy in your life every morning?
“It’s a joy,” answers McKay. “It’s a dream, yeah, and he is with me, too. When I wake up, he’s staring right into my face when I open my eyes, every morning, ready to go.”
Added to all this is Kristen Wiig, Harrison Ford, Jim Carrey, plus cameos from Drake, Kanye West, and—perhaps most exciting of all if you’ve seen the McKay-Ferrell Funny or Die web short “The Landlord” (and who hasn’t?)—McKay’s daughter, Pearl.
“She has always expressed a desire to get back into the limelight,” says dad, “but her mother, my wife, wanted to throttle me after ‘The Landlord’, and forbade her from doing anything else. Finally, she was, like, ‘Okay, she can do one line.’ So she has a little line in the beginning of the movie.”
McKay adds that the seven-year-old easily handled all the alternative gags the team improvised on the day. She’s obviously a chip off the old block.
“Yeah, I like it. I like how you spun that,” he says.