Seeing Ron Burgundy berate a dolphin is kind of a big deal. Seeing Will Ferrell dressed as Ron Burgundy getting an earful from his former pint-size "Landlord" Pearl McKay is a colossally huge deal.
Lucky for you, we were on hand to witness such an event this past May at San Diego's Sea World, where, along with a group of select journalists, we witnessed the last day of filming "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues," Ferrell's long-clamored-for follow-up to the 2004 comedy classic "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy."
If we had only gotten to see 1979 revived in Sea World's Blue Horizons Stadium, chock-full of hundreds of extras decked out in porn-staches and OP shirts, it would have been enough. If we were only able to see Ferrell in character as Burgundy, drunkenly MCing the show, slandering dolphins and guests alike, it would have been enough. But seeing Burgundy being ripped to shreds by Pearl, Ferrell's former nemesis, who, at the ripe old age of 2, so famously floored him in the 2007 groundbreaking "Funny or Die" short "The Landlord"… well, that was one of those days that makes us believe in comedy heaven.
Honestly though, after spending the day on set, and interviewing Ferrell and Pearl's dad, writer-director Adam McKay, Pearl's inclusion is just one of many set-visit revelations that get us even more excited about "Anchorman 2." In no particular order, here are the seven most stoke-inducing revelations from the set visit.
(Though the scene we witnessed is at the very beginning of the movie, we should probably go ahead and warn you that some minor spoilers are forthcoming, but we can guarantee they'll be even funnier when you see 'em play out on the big screen.)
"The Landlord" is back, and she's meaner than ever…
1. Here's the setup: Burgundy's at an obvious low point, as he's no longer doing the news and has to take on work as an MC at a dolphin show. In order to cope, Burgundy drinks— a lot —which causes the crowd to turn on him. As the crowd unrest swells, individuals begin to personally take stabs at Burgundy, including Pearl, who gets in plenty of zingers, like our personal favorite: "You are a drunken, washed-up hack, Ron Burgundy!"
To make matters worse, Ferrell's own kids get in on the action too, yelling with as much fake vitriol as they can muster: "You're a punk, Ron Burgundy!" and "We paid hard-earned money to see this show! Boo!"
On a break from shooting, McKay sat down for an interview. Eventually, Pearl came over and shyly clung to her father's side, a loving antithesis to her frightening onscreen presence. We asked McKay how it felt to reunite Ferrell with his daughter, both of whom he previously directed in "The Landlord."
"She works with him all the time. It's old hat," said McKay. "[Pearl] wanted to be in it, though. She likes it. She likes screaming at Uncle Will."
Pearl didn't come up with those zingers on her own…
2. As has become the norm with Ferrell and McKay ("Step Brothers," "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby"), not all of those hilarious lines were planned; in fact, many of the best zingers came straight from the director's amplified stream of consciousness — literally. McKay was miked up for the entire shoot, off-camera but in the ear of everyone, feeding comedy gold to his actors.
Watching McKay and Ferrell work together in this way was a thing of beauty, as Ferrell tangled each of McKay's offerings into something even stranger, even more boundary pushing.
"I keep trying to tell him, 'Adam, you're like, literally, one in a generation of someone who can just sit on a microphone and write in your head,'" said Ferrell during a break from shooting. "It's unlike any experience, when we get together and get to do a movie. Subsequently, the entire cast felt that way, too, especially for Paul [Rudd] and Steve [Carell] and David [Koechner] and I. Everyone was like, 'God, this is the best!' It kind of creates this healthy little competition, where you know Adam is going to come up with the line, so then you're trying to think of a line. It's like this taut string that’s all between the four of us in a scene, and it makes for some great comedy."
If they gave out Oscars to extras, this crowd would be in the running…
3. McKay's line-feeding doesn’t stop at individual actors. In this case, he had the entire arena speaking as one, spitting put-downs at Ron Burgundy with increasing levels of intricacy. And while most of the lines will be lucky to end up as Blu-ray extras, one can only hope that everyone gets a chance to see hundreds of extras passionately yelling in unison, "You have taken an Icarus-like fall, Ron Burgundy," or "You need to seek counsel for your serious drinking problem, Ron Burgundy!"
"It was amazing. Can you believe they actually did that? I couldn’t believe it," said McKay. "The crowd chanting — I could have done that for hours."
Harrison Ford can be prickly at first…
4. The script was written to include plenty of room for cameos, and as we've seen from the set pics, there's a ton of big names involved, including Kanye West, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Sacha Baron Cohen, Liam Neeson, John C. Reilly, and Harrison Ford.
Alas, not everyone immediately took to McKay's whacky shooting style, particularly Ford. "Harrison Ford was a little confused by it initially. He was like, 'What?' when I was yelling out," said McKay. "And then he kind of dug it, I think. Then he was like, 'This is crazy,' and he kind of had fun with it. He started liking it, and he started adding his own. So in the beginning, he was like, 'What the hell are you guys doing?' But by the end, he kind of loved it. Sam Jackson was like that on 'The Other Guys,' too. Initially, he was like, 'What are you saying?' Then by the end he’s like, 'I got another line!' I think all actors end up loving it. It’s just such an unrestricted kind of freedom you have that you can't not love it. Harrison Ford was the diciest for about 10 minutes, though."
Playing Brick isn't exactly like riding a bike…
5. With such a long layoff, not everyone on the Channel 4 News Team was able to step into character as easily as Ferrell, who has donned the Burgundy 'stache and salon-quality hair on various occasions.
"The guys really haven’t done it that much, so their first couple of days of filming, they felt like they were walking on the moon and they’re like, 'I don’t remember what I'm supposed to do and say. This feels off,'" said Ferrell. "We kept saying, 'Trust me. It's great. It looks good to us.' So once everyone crossed that threshold, we were right back into that same rhythm that we were in the first one."
Added McKay: "The first day or two was kind of weird. It was like, 'Oh my God! We’re all getting used to it.' And then, as soon as they slipped into character, it was immediate. [Carell] kept saying, 'I don’t feel like I’m getting into Brick.' I was like, 'You seem instantly like Brick!' After a couple of days, I kept showing him the playbacks, and he was like, 'Oh my God, all right, it’s Brick.'
It could have been "Anchorman 2: The Musical"…
6. As you'd expect with such fruitful minds, McKay and Ferrell had a number of ideas about where they wanted the sequel to go.
"We talked about the idea of a musical, we talked about the idea of just going to a different genre altogether, all these things. But the one that kind of made sense to us and just felt like a fun thing to explore was inserting these guys into 1979, 1980, into something that’s so commonplace to us now, but at that time it was, obviously, this revolutionary thing: the idea that news was going to be 24 hours," said Ferrell.
They had always been anti-sequel, but then George Clooney and Brad Pitt paved the way…
7. It's been nine years since McKay's feature debut "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" propelled him and Ferrell to the top of the comedy ranks. Though fans have been clamoring for another one, the duo had always been anti-sequel.
"We just thought, 'Why not explore brand-new ideas, as opposed to revisiting something you already made?" said Ferrell. "I don’t know what chipped away at it, but I think we started saying casually, 'Well, if there’s one we could make into a sequel, it would probably be 'Anchorman,' but we’re still never going to make a sequel.' I think just something clicked, where we were like, 'Why not? Why not do it? Those guys get to make six 'Ocean’s Eleven' and no one seems to beat them up or for it, so come on! We can make a sequel.'"
Of course, if you're going to do it, you have to do it right. So this time around, McKay and company are aiming even higher.
"This one is definitely more ambitious. There’s more production value to it. I think we got greedy on this one. We had a certain amount of days where it’s just like, 'Let’s shoot everything,' said McKay. "This one is just everyday a big, greedy gulp of comedy and production."
"Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" hits theaters Dec. 22.
See Adam McKay tell Jimmy Fallon about making 'The Landlord':