Last week, the nice people over at Dreamworks invited JoBlo.com down to the St. Regis Hotel in Century City for a press conference with the very funny cast of ANCHORMAN. Stars Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner all turned out, with writer/director Adam McKay serving as a moderator of sorts for the festivities. It was more like an improv comedy show than a press conference, with the participants riffing off each other and having fun with the questions. Though nary a serious answer was offered during the entire conference, it was still a blast watching comedic genius at work. Heres a truncated version of the press conference for Anchorman, opening everywhere July 9th.
McKay: So, once again, I'm Adam McKay, the director.
Rudd: Well. I'm Paul Rudd. I'm also the director.
Ferrell: I'm Jan-Michael Vincent. I'm also the director.
Applegate: Christina Applegate; craft services.
Koechner: Uh, Dave Koechner; staff medic.
Carell: And Steve Carell.
McKay: Who are you?
Ferrell: He did not serve a function on the film. He's just a good buddy of ours who wanted to be around. He's a great guy.
Carell: [Surveying the various tape recorders that litter the table] Thank you so much for the gifts. It was really nice.
McKay: So, um, yeah. Who's got some questions for us? Anyone want to start off?
This is for Will and Christina. Did you base your characters on any specific Anchors from the 70s, or was it an amalgamation of a lot of people?
Ferrell: I know Christina based her character on you. So, it's a complement. 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.
Then where did this character come from?
Ferrell: Just from Adam and I, we'd get together, we'd get a case of Gin. And, uh. We'd sit down, we'd go to our mountain retreat.
McKay: We'd go into a haze not unlike Martin Sheen in the beginning of Apocalypse Now. In the hotel room.
Ferrell: And it gets ugly.
McKay: For a while it gets ugly. We'd punch mirrors, and we'd 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 guys were gods.
Was there a lot of improv going on during the production of the movie?
Koechner: We were fined if we didn't follow the script. There was a five-dollar fine meaded out if you did not pronounce every word of the script and take notes on punctuation. Even now I'm not supposed to speak.
McKay: We are 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.
Ferrell: Ad-libs. We call them make-em ups sometimes. I don't know if you want to use that. It's a technical term.
Applegate: Throw-ins. Make-em ups.
Ferrell: Quipsters. Sure. Silly beans.
Applegate: Oh, God. 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.
McKay: Eight hours? That would be amazing. We did have a four-hour cut of the movie.
(Will Ferrell breathes heavily into the microphone.)
McKay: Will, you're breathing too close to the mic.
Ferrell: Oh! Sorry.
McKay: When you're not talking, just stay awake. Pretend to breath very softly. Yeah, we did. At one point, we had a four-hour cut of the movie. It was all-
(Will continues moaning very loudly into the microphone.)
McKay: (to Will) You're still too close. We can hear you. Just when you're not talking, back off completely.
Ferrell: I'll totally back off. That's fine. (Will pulls away from the Microphone. He stares at McKay with disdain.)
McKay: We did. We had a four-hour version of the movie that was just littered with cold runs, and stuff like that. (Adam catches Will staring at him.) Now you're just mocking me. That's not even-
Ferrell: No, I was just exhaling.
Do you think we'll ever see that version of the movie?
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 that we made another, second movie called Wake Up, Ron Burgundy. That's right. I'm 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.
So you're committed to putting that out?
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.
Are they going to do more than one DVD release?
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 release with a 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.
Ferrell: We'd rather you didn't. Let's move on.
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.
Ferrell: An Adult film?
Koechner: Yes. And we all participated. Just because you see a blacked out line across certain people's eyes, you'll know who's in the orgy.
McKay: So, did you guys actually have a question?
Yes, the fight scene.
Ferrell: Yeah. The fight scene. It happened. You know what. It was an amazing feat 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. And tridents.
McKay: There are rumors that we used a lot of actual dead bodies for the background. Which of course is not true.
Ferrell: It's so not true.
McKay: We did what we needed to do to get it done. If people got hurt, then so be it. You know? That's what...Never mind.
Ferrell: Oh, and then our fight scene together.
Applegate: Oh, yeah.
Ferrell: It was.
Applegate: Very violent.
Ferrell: That actually took three camera crews.
Applegate: That did take two or three days.
Ferrell: That took two or three weeks. That took most of the shooting schedule.
Applegate: God, we were there for seventeen or eighteen hours. Right? Remember?
Ferrell: At the least.
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.
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 all went to Madagascar, and they all became Balinese Mask Makers. That had nothing to do with the movie. I just wanted them all to have that experience. And, then, Steve and Dave actually went to the Brewer's Fantasy camp. And got to play with the players. Again, nothing to do with the movie. It's just a neat little side story.
Carell: It was really fun.
McKay: There was a lot of effort. We started shooting this in 89. With an entirely different cast. It was originally Harvey Keitel who was playing Will's role. It just didn't work out. We had to re-shoot the whole beginning. At one point, the Philippino government had an insurgency, and they had to take 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?
Ferrell: I saw that coming.
McKay: That happens to me sometimes.
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?
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?
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.
How hard was it to get all the cameos together, and did you have to pay them a lot of money? What was involved in that?
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 part of the film that you are in. So I managed to track down all of the stars, and I got them in there.
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.
Ferrell: Pat Harrington.
McKay: He got us the original girl from Happy Days with the slicked-back hair. What was her name?
Koechner: Again, I didn't know her name. I just saw her on the street and said, "Hey!"
Ferrell: Pinky Tuscadero, I guess.
McKay: 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." We didn't recognize these people. It made no sense.
Ferrell: We had to do lower thirds, "Here comes Steve Garvey."
McKay: Then Dave says, "I got a surprise for you!" He'd gotten the mechanical owl from Clash of the Titans. I was just like, "That's fucking crazy." We 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. They showed up and saved our biscuits.
Koechner: I think the cast I put together actually worked.
McKay: We'll never really know.
Ferrell: Yeah. We'll know. It definitely did not work.
McKay: But we don't want it to get ugly in front of all these people.
McKay: But, how did we get the cameos? They just came.
Will, how do you feel about you and your pals being referred to as the Frat Pack?
Ferrell: Well, I love the name. It's fantastic. It's catchy. We've made over twenty-five thousand T-shirts that say, "Get on board, the Frat Pack train is leaving the station." We're going to work on the slogan. But it's catchy. It's fun. It's now.
How did Judd Apatow get attached to the project?
McKay: Judd was a political concession that we made to certain powers involved with the release. We did not want him involved with the movie, but the only way we could get financing. It's a long story. Judd's uncle owns a German insurance bond. Because of that, he gets attached to a lot of.
Ferrell: It's the Schlesinger fund.
McKay: It's the Schlesinger fund. And because of that he gets attached to a lot of TV shows and a lot of movies. But, he's harmless enough. Actually; Judd had a lot of input. Judd was great. Judd would, when Will and I would get kind of lazy on the rewrites, come and kick us, and make us do stuff. He had great notes on editing, and gave us ideas. He would be on set, behind the monitor. Occasionally, he would give great directions to throw out. He was, kind of like, unbelievable, actually.
Christina, what was it like working with all these madmen?
Applegate: Well, as you can see, I just kind of kept myself quiet. And I laughed a lot. that's it. That's what I did everyday. I didn't say a word. In fact, I don't think we ever spoke (points to Carell) through the whole shoot.
Carell: Off camera? No.
Applegate: But, it's great to meet you today.
(Steve stands up and shakes her hand)
Carell: I'm Steve.
Applegate: You are very funny in the movie, by the way.
Carell: Thank you.
Applegate: 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. People actually had accidents; that's how hard they laughed. But I won't mention who.
McKay: We did. We had some accidents. I'm not going to back off it. Three people were set on fire 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?
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, as far as the anchormen go, are more bent on presentation. And that surprised us. We didn't expect that.
Ferrell: Wow. That was a serious answer. That was really good.
Will, will you be starting on Bewitched next?
Ferrell: We won't be starting until September 21st. And we're kind of working with Nora Ephron on the script a little bit.
It's a very different interpretation, isn't it?
Ferrell: Yes. It will be done in a Kabuki theater style. We're very excited. We're going to have to learn Japanese. Which, I don't think. People say it sounds like a huge leap we're making.
Rudd: It's not. I'll help you.
Ferrell: I'm going to work with Paul.
What do you think you can teach Nicole Kidman about comedy?
Ferrell: Uh. 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 hear that she's got a cute little rear end on her. But, aside from that, I'm not really familiar with her.
Steve, you've done a lot of newsman roles.
Carell: Yes, I have.
Is there any talk about you heading up your own project?
Carell: Weatherman! Weatherman is in post-production right now. It's the continuing saga of Brick Tamland. Um. Yeah, there are a few things. And they're all going to be fantastic. Probably better than everything I've done, combined. But I'd like to write some of my own stuff. Because some of the stuff I'm given now is pretty lame. I'd like to put my own vent on something. And watch out.
What is this next project?
Carell: I have to figure that out. I know it will be hysterical. I really want to direct. And do drama. That's right. I don't want to do comedy anymore. I just want to do really straight roles. And do choreography. I'd like a cooking show.
Steve, are you going to play anything other than newscaster?
Carell: Nope. This is it. It's newscasters for the rest of my life. That's all I'm going to do. That's all I understand. I think that's pretty much it for me. That's my range.
Do you like it?
Carell: No. And you can see that in my performance. I have contempt for all the other actors, except for myself. I deserve a lead role. But I have a three year old and a new born. 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.
McKay: It's a real problem in our nation right now.
Carell: "Aagghhh! He's chewing on them!" It's like, "Well, you know what? You wanted to breast feed."
Ferrell: And it's common. I think a lot of families are experiencing that.
Carell: I've had it up to here. And the kid? With the crying? "I'm needy! I'm hungry! I've a poopy diaper!" So, pretty much, I'm going to be doing this. Just to get out of the house, essentially. I hope my wife never gets on the Internet.
Steve, you stole a lot of laughs in this film. Where did you find the inspiration to play Brick?
Carell: Do you watch Spongebob Squarepants? Well, the character of the starfish? We're essentially the same person. Patrick. Thank you. No. I think the inspiration was the script itself. It was such a funny character. And to joke about doing this character for an entire movie would be the worst idea ever. Because it's the kind of character where very small doses are very funny. But anymore than that would be pretty obnoxious. I was pretty lucky. This script was so funny.
This is for everybody. Did any of you keep your wardrobe?
Koechner: Those were my clothes to begin with.
Rudd: I don't think anybody did, really. We all kept our rings. Our Channel Four rings.
Ferrell: I kept a camera. Yeah, I kept one of the catering tents that you eat under.
McKay: Halfway through the shoot you took that. That was a real problem.
Ferrell: Was it?
McKay: Oh, you know what I kept as a souvenir? I kept a hundred and eighty thousand dollars out of the lock box. And they caught me, I was like, "It's just a keep sake!"
Ferrell: You wanted a souvenir from the movie.
McKay: I wanted a souvenir from the movie. Yeah. A keepsake.
Why did you choose San Diego as the location for your news station?
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. Because we wanted a mid-market; sort of big, but not too big. Plus Will is almost a disturbingly big Padres fan. 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 did you keep this character going through the end of the day?
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 this character was on the page. Just because Adam and I had lived with it for so long, writing it. But Adam's somewhat unconventional as a director. Because, 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?
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.
Applegate: They weren't that great.
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 do this."
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?
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 I'd done as a play, it was just so tired by the time we rolled tape.
Christina, what's your next project?
Applegate: Right now, I'm going to New York to star in Sweet Charity.
How are you preparing for that?
Ferrell: Be sure you stretch.
Applegate: Yeah. I am. This is really difficult, and absolutely insane to do. But I'm just training right now.
Do you think you'll work with your husband anytime in the future?
Applegate: Maybe. You know? I love my husband. I want to keep my relationship. I'm afraid if we did a movie together, that might not happen. As we've seen with other couples.
What's next for the rest of you?
Koechner: I'm going to do Sweet Charity on Broadway for about nine weeks.
(There is a long silence)
Ferrell: No one else has anything? God, what a sad answer that was.
McKay: The whole group is not doing well.
Applegate: What the hey? Summer Vaycay.
Ferrell: I'm working on Bewitched. What are you doing?
McKay: Bewitched. Will and I are actually working on our next project. Talladega Nights, about racecar drivers.
Rudd: I'm actually going to go see Christina in Sweet Charity somewhere in the course of nine months.
McKay: That's it. Good-bye.
Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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