Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
I didn’t write a review of ANCHORMAN for the very simple reason that I felt like I’d already been speaking about it for so long here on the site, and I’m so obviously a fan of the project, that I didn’t expect anyone to read my review as impartial or unbiased. I have been rooting for this film since before it got the greenlight. When I first read the script, back when it was called ROD BURGUNDY, ACTION NEWS MAN!, I pretty much flipped out for it. At that point, the film was in limbo, and if you read that script review, you’ll see that some of the details have changed, but the heart of the final film is pretty much the same. My first clue that something was actually happening with it came on the set of ELF, when Ferrell brought up the script review and told me that the film was finally about to happen. That’s entirely because of the success of OLD SCHOOL, which woke Dreamworks up to the potential of this project that they had already put into turnaround. Mike DeLuca and Adam Goodman were the two execs who were smart enough to realize what they had, and as a result, this weekend America is finally getting a chance to see what I first got a taste of when I dropped by the film’s set last year.
When the press junket took place a couple of weeks ago, I went to both the general press conference in the morning and a separate private interview later in the day. Both were held at the Beverly Wilshire Regency Hotel, with the afternoon interviews taking place upstairs in private suites. I specifically requested time with Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, and David Koechner, and had no idea they’d toss me into a room with all three of them at once. Keep in mind... this isn’t an interview. There’s no way to steer a conversation like this. All I could do was try to observe.
It was the end of a fairly long day of press for them, and as a result, they were all a little giddy as we settled in to speak. They all commented that I had picked the absolute best day to visit the set in terms of seeing a lot of great cameos, but they also remembered that it was brutally, punishingly hot out. Dave and Will took their seats on the couch while Adam wrestled to pull an overstuffed chair close enough to be part of the conversation.
Ferrell: God, that was hot as hell.
Koechner: It was 103. I keep telling everybody it was 106.
Ferrell: Y’know, it might have been. I’m serious.
Moriarty: It was brutal. I can’t believe you guys shot all of that in one day...
Adam finally gave up with the chair, grabbing the footrest and tossing it.
McKay: Y’know what? This is bullshit. I’m a big-time movie director. I shouldn’t have to be doing this.
Both Ferrell and Koechner seemed delighted by their director’s mock fit of pique, and started laughing as he finally dropped into his chair.
McKay: Do you know who I am?
Ferrell: That junket changed you. From that point on...
Koechner: Seriously, I can see how this junket thing would spoil people. I don’t have to get up. People just bring me stuff...
Ferrell: I don’t know. I don’t know.
McKay: I’m kidding, but this is pretty fucking exhausting.
Ferrell: How crazy was that one interview we did?
McKay: That was fun. He just let us go off.
Ferrell: I couldn’t tell if he was with us, or if he totally missed the joke or what. He kept doing these things...
McKay: We did this interview together.
Ferrell: ... and at one point, he was doing this Howard Cosell impression, and he just... kept doing it. And I didn’t know what we were supposed to do. And what about that question he asked where we literally weren’t doing a bit, and we were like, “I don’t know what you’re trying to ask.”
McKay: That question didn’t make sense. At all.
Ferrell: Adam tried to answer it. I can’t remember what the question was exactly...
McKay: He said, “When the teleprompter comes on, is that when Ron Burgundy comes to life?”
Ferrell: No, that almost makes sense.
McKay: Right. He didn’t say that. It was more like, “Ron Burgundy is...” Wait. How did he say it?
Ferrell: “The teleprompter does not come on. Does Ron Burgundy live?” More like that. Like some sort of philosophical statement. And I just stared at him, and Adam jumped in and said, “Good question. Now let me ask you this in response: do you think the linear space of the outside makes you feel strongly?”
McKay: Which scared me, because he seemed to make sense of that.
Ferrell: Right. And then he started trying to have this weird nonsensical conversation with us, which I thought was sort of cool, but I was wondering the whole time... is he doing a bit with you, or does he actually think we are communicating?
McKay: I have no idea. And the whole time, he was also still doing Howard Cosell. That’s what made it beautiful.
Koechner: You should have done John Wayne back at him.
Ferrell: I finally asked, “Are you from the East Coast?” Because that was what kept bleeding through. “You know that’s stronger than what you’re doing, right?” I finally broke it to him. “Nah... not the best Cosell.”
McKay: We should have done random bad impressions back at him. “You dirty rat...”
Koechner: That’s like [Fred] Willard in GUFFMAN, where he has to tell you what impression he’s doing.
Ferrell: It’s like, “That impression is 40 years old now.”
McKay: My grandfather would have laughed. “Oh, it’s Howard Cosell. That’s kind of amusing.”
Ferrell: (doing a truly rotten Cosell) “Hello, there David Koechner.” (segues into an equally rotten Cagney) “You dirty rat.” (laughing, tries an equally rotten John Wayne) “Well, hello there, Pilgrim.”
At this point, my tape dissolves into a series of nearly unintelligible bad impressions and hysterical laughter. Ferrell in particular seems a little breathless about it.
Moriarty: Right. I was talking to Dave right before you guys came in...
McKay: Oh, god, we’re still talking to you, aren’t we? I’m so sorry.
Moriarty: I didn’t realize you’d all started [SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE] the same year.
Moriarty: Now, that’s...
Ferrell: God, you guys might have even driven out there together.
McKay: We did. We got that U-Haul with Tom Gianas, who was also hired as a writer.
Koechner: Three men and their entire belongings in a U-Haul. A short U-Haul, too, I might add.
McKay: That says a lot about what we had done to that point in our lives.
Will couldn’t even speak up at this point, he was laughing so hard.
Koechner: I packed in one day, and packed both of these guys in the morning. One morning. That’s how much they had.
McKay: I had a dart board and a pair of underwear. That’s it. That’s all I had by that point. I had a Nerf football and a bullet casing.
Koechner: Did we drive in one day or two? I can’t remember. Might have been two, ‘cause that’s a fifteen or a seventeen hour drive...
McKay: Come on, David, don’t you remember? We were desperate to find a place to stop, and we literally just pulled over, stopped, and were like... [snoring]
Koechner: Wasn’t that some horrible place in Pennsylvania where we..?
McKay: Yep. Yep. We drove around looking for a joint there. Three sweaty losers.
Koechner: Yep. Big guys, all sitting in that fucking truck, and I’m pretty sure there was no tape player.
McKay: And not one of us in a healthy, active relationship, either. We all left these withered, miserable two-month relationships behind us.
Koechner: Tons of them!
The phone in the suite rang, interrupting Adam.
McKay: Now that’s really bullshit.
As the phone continued to ring, making Koechner and McKay laugh even harder, Ferrell turned to me.
Ferrell: You know what really makes me laugh? Every time we get a good review on Ain’t It Cool News, those posts underneath are so abusive. All the good feelings about the good review just go away.
McKay: It just happened again. I read one, and I was like, “Oh, that’s so cool,” and then I read the posts, and they’re just fucking vicious. “That moron Adam McKay directed those SNL shorts, and they sucked!”
Ferrell: “Will Ferrell’s just not funny!”
Koechner: You’re kidding.
Ferrell: Oh, it’s brutal.
Moriarty: Frank Darabont described talkback as “rabid ferrets fucking in a burlap sack.” Pretty much the best description of it I’ve ever heard. Believe me... nobody gets treated well in the talkbacks. Not us. Not anybody we talk about. Not anybody we interview. It’s kids with pens and a wall.
Ferrell: What’s awesome is when you give something a negative review and the talkbacks all say how great it is.
McKay: Yeah, I saw one for WITHOUT A PADDLE the other day where the guy didn’t like it, and the talkbacks were all like, “You’re crazy! It will be hilarious!”
Koechner: I understand it. A lot of the Internet is interactive, like the IMDb, where you can just push a button and comment on this person. I clicked on mine, and it’s basically just someone saying, “Why hasn’t anyone else commented on this guy? He’s awful! I haven’t seen him do one funny thing ever!”
Ferrell: I snooped around under Nora Ephron on BEWITCHED...
McKay: Mmm-hmm. Awful.
Ferrell: “Oh, god, please don’t cast Will Ferrell! Jim Carrey was a great choice, but Ferrell?!”
Ferrell: It was, like, four out of the six. “If they’re not doing the movie about the TV show, then why are they doing it?!”
Moriarty: That’s one of the things I really like about the concept for BEWITCHED. [to McKay] You’re working on the script, right?
McKay: Right. Yeah, yeah.
Moriarty: I like the fact that you guys aren’t just doing a straight version of it.
Ferrell: That’s the only way I was even remotely attracted to it.
Moriarty: It sounds like such a losing proposition, just doing a straight translation of a TV show on the bigscreen. If you can’t bring something to it...
Ferrell: Yeah, at that point you’re just counting on your audience being people who have great knowledge of BEWITCHED.
McKay: It was a very clever script she had. That’s why I liked it. That’s why he liked it. We were like, “This is actually interesting.”
Someone from the hotel walked into the suite at this point, carrying a gargantuan tray of vegetables which they set on the table between all the guys, distracting Will immediately.
Ferrell: Could there be more vegetables on that plate?
As all of us laughed, Will shook his head.
Ferrell: I’m sorry. I feel bad. The guy’s just trying to do his job.
McKay: You have the luxury of being able to make a joke right now, Will. He doesn’t.
At that point, the guy came back in with an even larger second plate of vegetables and chips, more than anyone was going to be able to eat.
Ferrell: Oh, my god!
McKay: Yes. Beautiful.
Ferrell: I hope this isn’t the only platter. We’ve got more, right?
The guy smiled, nodded, and started to leave again.
Ferrell: Okay, see? He made a joke. You don’t really have more food out there, do you? This is amazing. I guess we’re supposed to have dinner.
Moriarty: Okay, Will... Dave... at what point did you guys see the final cut of the picture?
Ferrell: A month ago. Was that the one?
Moriarty: Because you’ve played with it a lot in testing, haven’t you?
McKay: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And actually I think they one they saw was not finished yet.
Koechner: Yeah? Is there a lot more of me in it now? ‘Cause I’d love that.
Ferrell: I don’t even know if I’ve seen the “finished” finished one. I’ve seen the...
Will stopped, dumbstruck. As Adam and David laughed even harder, the guy returned one final time, this time with a tray laden with various dips and sauces, which he managed to also find space for on the now seriously overladen coffee table.
Ferrell: Good lord, man!
McKay: Oh, my god. Jackpot.
Ferrell: Look at all the gravy! Oh, my god!
McKay: That’s it. I’m getting involved in this.
Adam pulled his chair closer to the coffee table, and all three of them began to vigorously dig into the spread, making an already difficult transcription job even more insane for yours truly.
Ferrell: Have a straw!
At the sound of the door opening, Ferrell’s eyes grew wide and he shook his head.
Ferrell: There’s more?
This time, the guy wheeled in a beverage cart, stacked high with ice buckets and various drinks.
Ferrell: What happened?
Moriarty: Looks like they scheduled a food break right in the middle of my interview. Convenient.
Ferrell: This is your suite, right, Dave?
Koechner: How much you wanna bet this is going on in your suite right now, too?
Ferrell: You know how to do it right, mister. (to the guy from the hotel) Thank you, sir.
McKay: Thank you.
Koechner: Mmmph phhmmble.
Guy: You’re very welcome.
Ferrell: Overwhelming. Anyway, we’re having an interview.
As this sets Adam and David off laughing very hard, I just shake my head.
Moriarty: Yes, and it’s incredibly structured and rigid so far. Anyway... about the various edits of the film... as we were talking about this morning, there’s the notion of so much extra material that there’s a second movie that you can put on the eventual DVD...
Moriarty: There were entire subplots out of the script that I read that got cut, like when Ron gets his investigative journalism show...
Ferrell: Oh, yeah.
Moriarty: ... which was awesome. Actually, when I told the guy who gave me the script that subplot wasn’t in the movie, he was like, “WHAT?!” and kicked a table over. “That’s what I was waiting for!”
More laughter and general chip and veggie sounds from the guys.
McKay: There’s a lot of stuff we cut that hurt us to have to cut it.
Moriarty: I can imagine. Just watching you guys this morning, there’s such a sense of freedom. I imagine some of that comes from you three having worked together before, and with Steve [Carrel], there’s obviously a strong improve background, too...
McKay: Actually, we’d both worked with Steve.
Ferrell: Yep, at Second City.
Moriarty: It strikes me that making this kind of ensemble comedy is sort of egoless. It just feels like everyone came to play.
Koechner: Well, I can comment on this, and I’ll be the cornball one for a moment, but honestly, guys? That’s because of the way you set it up. It’s a feel you knew coming in. They made it safe to do that. This is all cornball sounding shit, but it’s the truth.
Koechner: Adam’s not a control freak. He’s inviting, and he’s been that way ever since I’ve known him.
Adam pointed at the carrot covered in dip that Dave was using to gesture while making his point and barked:
McKay: If you’re going to eat it, eat it. Now.
Dave laughed as he quickly ate the carrot.
Koechner: Yessir. Seriously, Will’s the same way, so... and we did a week of rehearsals before the movie started, and they’re like, “Oh, don’t even worry about the script. Just improvise.” And the rest of us were like, “Holy shit.” It was fucking amazing. And, Will, really... hats off because that’s the atmosphere you guys made on the set from day one, and it just happened. The casting was great, and you guys found all the right people.
Moriarty: There’s so much insecurity in this business that for a lot of people who were making their first starring vehicle... because certainly, Will, this is the biggest thing you’ve done personally...
Moriarty: ... it would have been all about them, and instead, you’ve got this great ensemble, and everyone ends up walking away with moments in the movie. That’s what is so fun about it. At no given point is it just one person’s story.
Ferrell: Yeah, that was...
McKay: I always say that about Will, because that’s Will. Any other big comic... well, not any of them, but a lot of them... you know who created that model? Jim Carrey. Jim Carrey came out and created this new comedy model where he could do these one-person Jim Carrey movies, and he was so frickin’ amazing and dynamic...
Ferrell: Right, right...
McKay: ... and he was capable of doing it, but he’s also this comedy monster. He’s incredible, but then everyone started imitating that...
McKay: ... and every movie is like, “Okay, there’s one character, and he’s the only funny one,” and so... y’know, we always loved those ‘80s films like STRIPES and CADDYSHACK, and those were all ensemble comedies. And we said to each other, “Why don’t people do ensemble comedies?” But that’s just because Will is cool enough to, like... we knew when we were writing Brick Tamland that he may be the thing that makes me laugh hardest in the script, but...
Ferrell: I love Brick.
McKay: ... but it’s not Will, and I think some people would have been like, “Can you tone him down a little bit? We have to keep the focus on...”
Moriarty: God, there are times in the film where it’s like looking into the eyes of a dog...
This elicited a pretty hearty round of laughter from all three of them.
Moriarty: ... and that’s what is so beautiful about it. Steve’s a really smart performer, and that character... oh, my god.
Ferrell: (crunching carrots as he talks) It was actually Lorne Michaels, when we were doing A NIGHT AT THE ROXBURY, who kept telling us that you want to have the characters make an exit so that you can have them make an entrance later, and so you don’t get sick of them.
Ferrell: So when we started writing this, we were like, “God, let’s take the weight off of Ron and make everyone else just as funny.” It just helps everything, and it’s more fun to write for, and it’s...
McKay: You don’t know where the jokes are coming from then.
McKay: So many comedies are predictable based on rhythm. “We know the main character has to have a set piece here.” This way, you don’t really know. Rudd can be talking about his cologne and going off, or Koechner’s professing his love to him out of nowhere, and it suddenly becomes this long awkward monologue, and usually, supporting characters don’t get those moments. That was always a big goal for us, to make it as unpredictable as possible. We didn’t know what was going to happen next, and we didn’t rely as much on formula. Obviously there’s a light plot that goes through it, but I just love the fact that you really don’t know what’s going to happen next along the way.
Koechner: Isn’t it more fun to get broadsided?
McKay: “Wait a minute... they’re having a giant BRAVEHEART gang fight?”
Moriarty: I think it’s apt that you compared the film to CADDYSHACK or ANIMAL HOUSE, because I think your visual style is a nice throwback to what Reitman and Ramis and Landis did early on, which is basically you have to have a really limber D.P. who manages to capture whatever’s going on. There’s a nice immediacy to it, and it’s not overly stylized, but at the same time, it’s not that Kevin Smith flat thing that drives me crazy.
McKay: You actually just expressed it exactly the way I said it when I first met with Tom Ackerman. I said, “I want you to be mobile. I want to be ready for coverage. I want to use two cameras.” I don’t think two cameras has to look shitty. “I want a style.” And a lot of that style that sort of ekes in there is Clayton Hartley, our production designer, who did ALMOST FAMOUS. Incredible guy. We got a steal on him. Scenes that would ordinarily look okay, because he’s so frickin’ good, always had a little extra depth, a little extra color. We didn’t want it to overpower the comedy. It doesn’t look fantastic, but it always looks good enough. Like Ron’s apartment... that set looks incredible, and that was all Clayton Hartley. You’re absolutely right, though. Sometimes comedies can look too good, and they get too shadowy and layered and distracting. You want comedies to not look bad, but just look solid. STRIPES is a great example. STRIPES looks nice and good. It’s perfect.
Koechner: You’re not aware of the rest. It just allows the thing to happen, right?
McKay: You’re not showing off with your camera. You want it to be about the performers and about the moments. You want to draw the crowd in. If you’re showing off the camera, you’re already fucking with it.
Moriarty: I also thought you struck a nice balance with the ‘70’s detail, because you didn’t go crazy with it, and it’s not the main joke of the film. Admittedly, a few of Ron’s suits are spectacular, but...
McKay: We always sort of hated that it was a ‘70’s movie, because there have been so many of them. We just wanted it to take place pre-political correctness.
Moriarty: That definitely works for it... that idea of Christina being the first woman to do something...
Ferrell: About scaling back the ‘70’s thing... I think we started giving the note a little bit too much. At one point we were like, “Oh, we’re losing out on some of the fun here.” Our costume designer, Debra McGuire, really rode that line between bad in a good way outfits, and never too much. Lots of wide collars...
McKay: And there were some things we just couldn’t resist, like we just started laughing because people used to just fucking litter a lot. You forget about that... people just throwing shit on the ground. We had to do that.
Ferrell: And there are a lot of details that make me laugh, like the fact that Champ wears a cowboy hat, and never mentions... never... I mean, consciously, we never say that he’s into Westerns or anything. He doesn’t talk about, “We should go to the rodeo” or anything. We don’t ever pay off the cowboy hat. Ever.
McKay: It’s such a strange affectation.
Koechner: “This is what I am. It doesn’t define me, but it defines my head.”
Moriarty: Okay... for all three of you... what’s the one moment in the movie that you’re sorry didn’t make it into the final cut?