This Just In - The Cast of "Anchorman" Speaks Out

Anchorman Photo
Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, and Will Ferrell in "Anchorman". Photo © DreamWorks Pictures

How did the actors get into the mindset of news anchors from the 1970s? How difficult was keeping a straight face? Just how much of “Anchorman” was improvised? Those questions, along with others that actually had to do with time on the set and the filming of “Anchorman,” were not seriously addressed by the movie’s cast and director. Instead, the “Anchorman” press conference played out like an unscripted sit-com.

If you’re looking for in-depth analysis by Will Ferrell and the rest of the “Anchorman” cast, look elsewhere. Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, and director Adam McKay had fun with each other – and the journalists – and the following transcript is the end result:

Will, did you base your characters on any anchors from the 70s or was this an amalgamation of a lot of people?
WILL FERRELL: I based my character on an imaginary figure by the name of Walter Pinbrook. And Walter Pinbrook was a lieutenant in the French Navy during the 1800s. Not a lot of literature on Walter Pinbrook. No, I didn't base it on anyone. I didn't really watch that much tape, either.

Where did the character come from? You co-wrote the script.
WILL FERRELL: Right. From Adam and I, we'd get together, we'd get a case of gin. We sit down, we go to our mountain retreat.

ADAM McKAY: We go into a haze not unlike Martin Sheen in the beginning of “Apocalypse Now.” In the hotel room.

WILL FERRELL: And it gets ugly. For a while, it gets ugly.

ADAM McKAY: We punch mirrors and we explore our darker selves. No, it's just an amalgam of all newscasters that we grew up with. Sort of like before there was cable, when these people were like gods.

Was there a lot of improv going on during the production of the movie?
DAVID KOECHNER: We were fined if we didn't follow the script.

We had a $5 fine meted out if you did not pronounce every word of the script and take note of punctuation. Even now I'm not supposed to speak.

ADAM McKAY: We are actually scripted for this today. I hope you don't mind, but there are cue cards behind all of you right here. No. There was tons of improv on this. A lot of it did show up [in the movie].

WILL FERRELL: Ad-libs. We call them make-em ups sometimes too. So I don't know if you want to use that. It's a technical term.

CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: Throw-ins. Make-em ups.

DAVID KOECHNER: Off-the-cuffies.

STEVE CARELL: Quipsters.

WILL FERRELL: Quipsters. Silly beans.

Adam, can you talk about directing that sort of activity, and trying to keep a through-line throughout the production? We've heard that there's an eight-hour director's cut of the movie.
ADAM McKAY: Eight hours? That would be amazing. We did have a four-hour cut of the movie.

(Will Ferrell breathes heavily into the microphone)

ADAM McKAY: Will, you're breathing too close to the mic.

WILL FERRELL: Oh! Sorry.

ADAM McKAY: When you're not talking, just stay away because you tend to breathe very heavily. Yeah, we did. At one point, we had a four-hour cut of the movie. It was all new scenes.

(Will continues moaning very loudly into the microphone)

ADAM McKAY: You're still too close. We can hear you. Just when you're not talking, back off completely.

WILL FERRELL: I'll totally back off. That's fine. (Will pulls away from the microphone and stares at McKay in anger.)

ADAM McKAY: We did. We had a four-hour version of the movie that was just littered with whole runs and stuff like that. (Adam notices Will’s staring at him.) Now you're just mocking me.

WILL FERRELL: No, I was just exhaling.

Will we ever see that version of the movie?
ADAM McKAY: Absolutely not. Next question, please. Yeah, we're going to put out a DVD with all of it. We literally had enough extra footage, we made a whole, second movie called “Wake Up, Ron Burgundy.” I'm actually not kidding. That is not a joke. It's absolutely true.

It's an hour and forty minute second movie of entirely fresh material that will eventually be put out on DVD.

Did DreamWorks commit to putting that out?
ADAM McKAY: Yeah. They told us they were. I mean, define committed. I chased down Katzenberg and said, "Are you going to put it out?" And he said, "Get off me! Get your arm off me!" I took that as a yes.

Is there going to be more than one DVD release?
ADAM McKAY: I think they're going to do one kinda straight-ahead release where it's just a movie with some outtakes. And then they're going to do a second release. It's like a two DVD set with the second movie on it.

I want to ask you guys about the big fight scene, and then ask Christina about her fight scene with Will.
WILL FERRELL: We'd rather you didn't. Let's move on.

DAVID KOECHNER: May I also mention that buried within this new hour and forty minute movie is an adult film. It's buried in there, too.

WILL FERRELL: An adult film?

DAVID KOECHNER: Yes. And we all participated. Just because you see a blacked out line across people's eyes, I think you'll know who's in the orgy.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2:

ADAM McKAY: So, did you guys actually have a question?

Yes, the fight scene.
WILL FERRELL: Yeah, the fight scene. It happened. You know what? It was an amazing fete that Adam pulled off. I think there was something like sixty set-ups in one day, I believe, with two camera units working simultaneously. We were setting people on fire.

WILL McKAY: There are rumors that we used a lot of actual dead bodies for the background.

Which, of course, is not true.

WILL FERRELL: It's so not true.

ADAM McKAY: We did what we needed to do to get it done. If people got hurt, then so be it.

WILL FERRELL: Oh, and then our fight scene together.

CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: Oh, yeah.

WILL FERRELL: It was.

CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: Very violent.

WILL FERRELL: That was actually three camera crews.

CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: That did take two or three days.

WILL FERRELL: That took two or three weeks. That took most of the shooting schedule.

CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: God, we worked like seventeen or eighteen hours a day on that. Right? Remember?

WILL FERRELL: At the least.

CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: Because Adam was very particular about the part where I had the TV antenna. I guess I wasn't doing it right. So we had to do that...

ADAM McKAY: It's not that you weren't doing it right. You were doing it wrong. That's the same way to express two thoughts. But, yeah, we met before this movie for six months, much like “The Matrix.” They worked out with martial arts instructors.

We were in Hong Kong for two months working on the wire-fu techniques. Another four months, we went to Madagascar, and they all became Balinese Mask Makers, which had nothing to do with the movie. I just wanted them all to have that experience. And, then, actually Steve and Dave went to the Brewer's Fantasy camp.

Again, not related to the movie, but a neat little side story.

STEVE CARELL: It was really fun.

ADAM McKAY: There was a lot of effort. We started shooting this in 89.

WILL FERRELL: With an entirely different cast.

ADAM McKAY: It was originally Harvey Keitel was playing Will's role. It just didn't work out. We had to re-shoot the whole beginning. At one point, the Filipino government had an insurgency and they took back all our helicopters. So we lost them in the middle of the shoot. Then Martin had the heart attack. And then, remember when Brando showed up three hundred pounds overweight?

WILL FERRELL: That’s “Apocalypse Now.”

ADAM McKAY: I’m sorry, that happens to me sometimes.

How hard was it to get all the cameos together, and did you have to pay them a lot of money?
DAVID KOECHNER: I think I can field that. It was up to me. They didn't give me any phone numbers. I had to pay them out of my own pocket. And most of them refused to talk to me the day they were on the set. But they said, "You go do this, or we will cut out every frame of film that you are in." So I managed to track down all of the stars and I got them in there.

ADAM McKAY: Well, originally, Dave came to us with a different list of cameos that wasn't quite as exciting.

Uh, it was the guy that played Schneider on “One Day at a Time.” He got us the original girl from “Happy Days” with the slicked-back hair. What was her name?

DAVID KOECHNER: Again, I didn't know her name. I just saw her on the street and said, "Hey!"

ADAM McKAY: Pinky Tuscadero, I guess. We got her. And then we got Steve Garvey. Those were our original three cameos. We went and shot it and were like, "This isn't exciting at all." You don't recognize these people, it made no sense. Then he said, "I got a surprise for you! I got the mechanical owl from ‘Clash of the Titans.’” I was just like, "That's f**king crazy." You couldn't use that at all. Then Judd Apatow, our producer, got on the phone and immediately got Tim Robbins, Vince Vaughn. Everyone just came down within five minutes. Like, “Yeah, we’ll be there in a minute,” and they showed up and did it, kind of saved our biscuits.

That’s an expression.

DAVID KOECHNER: I think the cast I put together actually worked.

ADAM McKAY: We'll never really, really know.

WILL FERRELL: Yeah, we'll know. It definitely did not work.

ADAM McKAY: But we don't want it to get ugly in front of all these people.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 3:

Will, ‘Entertainment Weekly’ quotes you as the hardest working man in show business, with eight projects in production. How many of those projects are actually going to get made?
WILL FERRELL: Literally, none of those movies are happening. You know, sometimes this is a town based on rumors, and those things just get away from you.

What's the biggest rumor?
WILL FERRELL: That I'm not gay and that pisses me off because I work hard with my partner Roger, and I.

And, uh. You know. Enough said.

Did anything funny happen on the set?
CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: No.

ADAM McKAY: There was one. It wasn't really funny. Paul got into a sticky situation with Border Police down in San Diego. He was at the dog track in Tijuana.

PAUL RUDD: It was tough, too. I was in wardrobe and I didn't have my passport on me. Anyway, apparently I'd made this bet. I know I'd made the bet and they refused to pay me, even though my dog came in, because I'd lost my ticket. You have to hold on to your ticket. So I went up there and said, "I'd like my money." And they said, "Well, where's your ticket?" And I told them, "I don't have it, you stupid asshole." They asked to see my passport, and I just started swinging.

ADAM McKAY: There are several scenes in the movie that are sorta shot like “Game of Death” with Bruce Lee where we had to actually transpose a face over a stand-in to have Paul be in it.

We hope you can't tell. I mean, everyone has told us that you absolutely can tell. It ruins the movie. But we had to get it done. We had to finish. There's an old expression, "The show's got to go near the on."

You’re missing a very important part of the cast today, the dog.
WILL FERRELL: Yes. Peanut.

What was it like working with him? You guys had great chemistry together.
WILL FERRELL: We did. Because, I'm professional, I'm allowed to say this. I let him lick my balls. So, that's what you need to get close with your animal. No, I can say that? Right?

ADAM McKAY: No. You should definitely not have said that. When that happened in your trailer, when you were doing it, I said, "This is horrifying. All you need to do is hold a little piece of food in your hand, and the dog will come near you." You said, "No, no. I want to do it this way." And I specifically said, "When we do the press junket, don't bring this up."

WILL FERRELL: I get confused at these things.

ADAM McKAY: It was the most disturbing thing I've ever seen. For some reason he insisted on wearing a black hood. He was in a dark room with a red light.

WILL FERRELL: Uh, strike that from the record. I should not have said that. That was horrible.

Christina, what was it like working with all these madmen?
CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: Well, as you can see, I just kind of keep myself quiet. And I laugh a lot. That's it. That's what I did everyday. I didn't say a word.

It was amazing. I mean, look at it. This is what I got to do every day - laugh this hard.

And we did. This is how hard we laughed. Sometimes people actually had accidents because they were laughing so hard. But I won't mention who.

ADAM McKAY: We did. We had some accidents. I'm not going to back off it. Three people were set on fire by accident because of laughter. Another time, a bunch of Dobermans got out of a cage because of laughter.

After playing members of the media, do you have a better understanding of what we do? And are there any favorite questions that you are asked by people like us?
ADAM McKAY: No. Uh…It's always just fun to say [no]. I'm sorry. The one thing that we noticed was, we were looking back at the old anchors before cable, and assuming that they would be more doddering, and simple. But a lot of the guys we interviewed were actually pretty smart. They were more connected to the Edward R.

Murrow tradition, you know? The people now tend to be, as far as the anchormen go, more bent on presentation. And that surprised us. We didn't expect that.

Will you be starting on “Bewitched” next?
WILL FERRELL: We’re not starting until September 1st. And we're kind of working with Nora Ephron on the script a little bit.

It's a very different interpretation, isn't it?
WILL FERRELL: Yes. It’s going to be done in a Kabuki theater style. We're just excited. We have to, of course, learn Japanese. Everyone says it sounds like a huge leap we're making.

What do you think you can teach Nicole Kidman about comedy?
WILL FERRELL: You know. I'm not really familiar with Nicole Kidman as an actress. I've heard that she's done some great stuff. And I heard that she's got a cute little rear end on her. But, aside from that, I'm not really familiar with her.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 4:

Steve, are you going to play anything other than newscaster?
STEVE CARELL: Nope, this is it. It's newscasters for the rest of my life. That's all I want to do. That's all I understand. I think that's pretty much it for me. That's my range.

Do you like it?
STEVE CARELL: No. And you can see it in my performance. I have not only contempt for all the other actors, but for myself for accepting the role. But I have a 3 year-old and a newborn.

I have to make ends meet. I resent my wife, you know, for making me work. Why doesn't she go out and get a job? She's talented too. She can write. She can do something. She doesn't do anything. She just sits around eating bon-bons all day, "Oh, I have a three week old. I'm breast feeding." I'm so sick of that. If I heard, "My nipples are sore. Aagghhh! He's chewing on them!" It's like, "Well, you know what? You wanted to breast feed." I'm up to here. And the kid? With the crying? "I'm needy! I'm hungry! I poopy Diaper!" So, pretty much, I'm going to be doing this just to get out of the house, essentially.

This is directed at Christina. How did you relate to this character?
CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: I loved playing Veronica. Having watched a lot of footage from that time from the 70s, and watching women as newscasters, we got to have this tape that was behind the scenes so you could see the dynamic between the men and the women.

I loved that idea that these women were just…they were in Hell. I loved playing a character that overcompensated for her femininity and who had to be tougher than the boys. That's a very colloquial answer to your question.

Did you ever experience anything like that?
CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: No, no, no.

You've never experienced sexism?
CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: The casting couch thing is a normal thing, right?

I mean, that's what you do to get jobs. I had to sleep with Adam to get this job. But that's not sexism. I think that's just the way the biz goes.

ADAM McKAY: It's about tenderness and understanding. That's what it's all about.

WILL FERRELL: And you literally just sleep with Adam. There's no contact. You just lie in bed with him.

ADAM McKAY: I caress you hair and sing German children songs to you. And I feed everyone cups of honey and I call them my little boish-doits. And then I clean their feet in the morning. There's nothing creepy about it. It's just that.

How did you choose San Diego as the location for your news station?
ADAM McKAY: Originally, it was set in Philadelphia. That was our first choice. I grew up outside of Philadelphia. Those are the anchormen that I remember. Then we went over to Portland. We thought Portland would be good, because we were starting to go West Coast. But Portland turned out not to be a good double for Vancouver. Then we thought, “Wait a minute. San Diego's perfect.” We wanted a mid-market - sort of big, but not too big. Plus Will is almost a disturbingly huge Padres fan. So that was huge. That really made it nice for him. And then, I'm really good friends with Doug Flutie.

So, it was a great match, and it was a mid-level market.

Will, how much of your character was on the page, and remained to the end of the day?
WILL FERRELL: Well, I didn't make it, a lot of the times, to the end of the day. I'd usually check out around 11 am. But that's just a sidebar. A fair amount of the character was on the page just because Adam and I had lived with it for so long, writing it. However, Adam's somewhat unconventional as a director. We kind of do the scene written one time and then we'd start improvising right away.

How long did this sort of process last?
WILL FERRELL: Well, a take would usually be when the film ran out. And then we'd reset and keep doing stuff over and over again. Plus, Adam, a lot of times, would just yell out great suggestions and lines while we were rolling.

CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: They weren't that great.

WILL FERRELL: You know what? You're right. They were just borderline horrible. And you'd do it anyway. Then we'd look at each other and go, "Ooh, it's nothing but hurtful to even do this."

ADAM McKAY: If I could, just for one second. I don't know if this is awkward to do. Paul asked me…

PAUL RUDD: No, no, I didn't.

ADAM McKay: Paul's a leading guy. He's been in a lot of movies. He's a big deal. We know Will's a big deal, but Paul's also a big deal.

I would like to ask Paul a question.
ADAM McKAY: Well, then, this is great because he really asked me. He said, "This is bullshit. I'm a big deal. This is all coming at Will." So, great.

What is the big difference between working in this and working on “The Shape of Things?”
DAVID KOECHNER: I'd like to answer this for Paul. Paul and I are from the same region of the country, so I think that says it all.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 5:

Paul, what's it like working on something like this, where a lot of it's improvised, compared to working on something like “The Shape of Things,” where you're performing the same stage play every night?
PAUL RUDD: Well with this one, because there was so much improvisation, it was really fresh. And fun. When I was doing “Shape of Things,” which we'd done as a play, it was just so tired by the time we rolled tape.

WILL FERRELL: Only questions for Paul Rudd from now on.

This question is for everyone, starting with Paul. Can everyone please tell me their favorite 70s memories?
WILL FERRELL: Well, you know, it's funny.

PAUL RUDD: Damn it, Will.

CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: We're supposed to start with Paul.

WILL FERRELL: Oh, I wasn't listening.

PAUL RUDD: Well, Dave. Do you want to take that?

DAVID KOECHNER: Paul's favorite 70s memory was the move from New Jersey to Kansas City, Missouri. He cried. They took a long car trip and he cried the entire way but it’s burned into his memory, I think. I grew up with Paul. We're actually brothers. So I know what his favorite memories are.

PAUL RUDD: Dave's family took me in at a very young age.

WILL FERRELL: Do you know what my favorite 70s memory was? This is going to be good, too. This is going to be good.

ADAM McKAY: He actually told me this before. This is going to be really good.

WILL FERRELL: When you used to watch football games, and the guy with the rainbow wig.

CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: Oh!

WILL FERRELL: What? The rainbow wig guy?

CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: John 3:16.

WILL FERRELL: I thought that was going to be bigger than that.

DAVID KOECHNER: I want to know Paul's.

CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: Shhh, I'm talking. I was an infant. Unlike all of them, I was very young. I was a baby, don’t remember anything.

I was born in 1982. Write that down. Quote me on that. That's how old I am.

DAVID KOECHNER: I just want to hear Paul Rudd's favorite memory.

PAUL RUDD: ‘76. “Battle of the Network Stars.” I was just a kid, watching it on TV. And they were doing a tug-of-war. And Adrienne Barbeau was on the right side and she was pulling pretty hard. She was really giving it her all. And then they cut over to the other side, and Ed Asner, which is funny that this movie we're taking about is “Anchorman,” and Ed Asner was the Anchorman during the tug-of-war. And they wound up winning. And they were all very excited about it. And I was really happy for them. I don't know. I guess that's my favorite memory from the 70s. I was in the closet most of the rest of the 70s. Dave's parents, once they took me in, wouldn't let me out in the sun too much.

ADAM McKAY: With my memory, it's a pretty quick one.

CHRISTINA APPLEGATE: They weren't asking you.

ADAM McKAY: He said everyone. It'll be quick. Mine was ‘74, at the end of the Vietnam War. I was two years old sitting and watching TV, and the image of the helicopters being pushed off the aircraft carrier. And it just hit me. I'm sitting there, two years old, with a Popsicle, and I'm just thinking, "This is the end of an Empire.

This is it.” I mean, we went there with these political goals, this post-World War 2 paradigm, and this paradigm is shattering in half right in front of us. That, and then “Hong Kong Phooey.”

STEVE CARELL: Are you serious? I mean, you were only two. And that's what you were thinking? That's amazing.

ADAM McKAY: Yeah. You can talk when you're two. You're not an idiot when you're two. I remember, I got on the horn with Kissinger, and I said, "Henry, what have you done?"

STEVE CARELL: Are you serious?

ADAM McKAY: I said, "This madman theory. You were the madman!" That's all it was.

STEVE CARELL: Adam, all joking aside, a lot of this has been lighthearted. But this is really amazing.

ADAM McKAY: Yeah. I had a direct line to Henry Kissinger. I was two. Yeah, I worked for Carter's campaign when I was 11.

I was pretty active in the 70s.

STEVE CARELL: Wow.

ADAM McKAY: Yeah, when I was three, I became Secretary of the Interior.