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Adam McKay Talks Anchorman 2's Longer Cut
Exclusive: The director on new scenes, depressing intermissions and the end of Ron Burgundy

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Something pretty special happens in UK cinemas tomorrow: the release of a brand-new version of Adam McKay and Will Ferrell's Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, just two months after the original version opened. There have, of course, been special editions and directors' cuts galore over the years - the first Anchorman begat its own spin-off companion piece, Wake Up, Ron Burgundy! - but there's been nothing like this - virtually an entirely new version of a movie, with approximately 763 new jokes and the odd new scene, released theatrically (Wake Up, Ron Burgundy! went straight to DVD) while the original version is still strong in the memory.

The new version - The Legend Continues Continued - is the brainchild of McKay, who had talked, while promoting the first stab at the sequel, about his hope that Paramount would do something like this, and we hopped on the phone with the writer-director ahead of the new release. Be warned: like the new version, this interview is very, very long and probably only for diehard Anchorman fans.

Adam McKay Talks Anchorman 2's Longer Cut

When did you finish this version?
We finished that a little while ago. I finished that before we left for all the press for Anchorman 2. I never thought they were going to put it out. We'd talked about it, but we finished it up, put in all the jokes, it's a big, monstrous cut, it'll look great on Blu-ray and DVD. But they called me up about a month ago and said we're going to put this out in theatres. My first response was, 'are you sure?' My second response was, 'fucking A! Let's put it out!' It was truly shocking that they said they were going to put it out.

It's not Wake Up Ron Burgundy 2, it's not a brand-new movie. But how different is it?
If you're not a hardcore Anchorman fan or you think it's too absurd, do not go see this movie.
It's the same movie, only with almost all new different jokes, and new runs and new scenes. It's kinda the unfurled version of the movie. Every time we're in a scene and we get stuck in the scene, we take a left turn instead of a right turn. There's a lot of improv, a lot of jokes that are even more absurd than the theatrical, raunchier jokes… they're funny, though. These are all the jokes that were really funny, that almost made the movie, or were competing to make the movie, or we loved them but the audience didn't go for them at all, so this is definitely the version of the movie that's more for hardcore fans. If you're not a hardcore Anchorman fan or you think it's too absurd, do not go see this movie. It's long, too. It's very long. It's Mad Mad Mad Mad World long. It's about 2:20. Take bathroom breaks. Go out and have a cigarette. Kick off your shoes. This is a big, long, indulgent, fun, crazy cut of the movie, and anyone going in should go in with that spirit.

That is long, and a long time for people to laugh, which can get exhausting after a while. Have you thought about splitting it into two parts, and having a really depressing intermission? Then, after you've bummed people out, you can start the comedy again.
Oh my God, that's a funny idea. We should have done that. We should have had an intermission and showed scenes from Rod Steiger's The Pawnbroker, or Dogtooth. The last act of Dogtooth, or the last scene of Breaking The Waves. We did actually kick around an idea of doing an intermission, but this was so rushed and thrown together that we ended up not doing it. Marketing suggested it, but I love your idea even better. Just show really depressing stuff, like reports from manufacturers in the United States, or worldwide wealth disparity numbers. I think it's legitimately a genius idea, I honestly wish we had done that.

Adam McKay Talks Anchorman 2's Longer Cut

Did you find that the sequel polarized people? More so than the first?
Oh God, yeah. Here's what happened. It was very interesting. We've never done a sequel before and especially to do a sequel to one of our more idiosyncratic movies, which Anchorman definitely is. The first one in a way was perfect. It came out, people went and saw it, laughed, thought it was a stupid Will Ferrell movie. In this case, the movie was released to such hype that everyone came into the theatre thinking 'here we go, it's Hangover or Meet The Parents!' And Anchorman is not those, it's a strange, absurd, cartoonish satire that is without a doubt not for everyone. The nice thing was I noticed that critics were afraid to give us bad reviews. There were a lot of positive but hedged reviews, because a lot of them were dismissive of the first one, and clearly they didn't like it but they couldn't dismiss this one. It cracks me up - when people don't like a certain sense of humour, they get really angry too. It really is fascinating - it all boils down to the fact that this is a very specific type of comedy and when you're with it, you love it. But most people aren't into this type of comedy, it's not a mainstream type of comedy. And to have Anchorman 2 presented as a mainstream movie, it's really not when you get right down to it. In the long run, everything comes out in the wash. When the movie starts playing on TV and DVD, that's when you really see what the movie is. In my mind it's not done with yet. We'll know how the movie played in about two years. I'll be curious to see what happens.

So you don't want to see it for a while?
The movie was released to such hype that everyone came into the theatre thinking 'here we go, it's Hangover or Meet The Parents!' And Anchorman is not those.
Now I got to get really far away from it. Now I don't want to see it for the next year and a half and just completely forget about it. But I am going to take my family to see this re-release because it's so crazy and it's a once-in-a-career type thing. I don't think that's ever going to happen again. We'll actually go out and watch this.

I can't think of anything that has done this.
We were racking our brains on it. I don't think there's anything even close.

You wanted to do this pretty much from the off. You've talked about this for a while, even before the movie came out.
Yeah, I had no idea it would be to this degree, though. I knew we would have some alternate scenes and that some jokes would be cut. But to essentially be able to flip out every joke - it's about 90% of the jokes that are flipped out, that's what surprised me about it. For a while there, we played with the idea of doing two movies, a Kill Bill 1 and 2, we had so much footage. We test screened it and it just felt vaguely unsatisfying. You didn't have the gang fight in the first version, so we thought, to hell with it, let's throw everything on the wall for the one movie, as opposed to putting out two halfway movies. We bailed on that, but the alt cut, we had no idea there would be this much stuff.

Would there have been enough plot to have two movies?
We would have had to do a little bit of reshoots. We had enough for the first version and we did test screen it. The movie would have ended with him falling on the ice. It didn't test poorly. They use the 1-100 scale and it got an 84, and got laughs, but there was this sense that it was unsatisfying, that it ended on a cliffhanger. We would have had to do five or six days of reshoots to build out the first act of the next chunk. He would have been blind a lot longer, and you would have seen him travelling and doing a bunch of other stuff, Applegate would have probably hooked up with Jack Lime. My guess is the first movie would have been 1:45 and the second movie would have been pretty short, an 80-minute movie or a 75-minute movie. In the end it felt like, to hell with it, let's go for the big epic one.

Lots of movies end in cliffhangers these days. It might have been nice to exist as a comedic parody of that.
Yeah. I was shocked when The Hobbit ended where it ended. I wasn't paying attention to what they were doing, I didn't know they had another movie and I couldn't believe it was when the dragon came out. But I think if we had gone into it, we could have shot two movies. It was just an idea that came to us after we were done shooting. If we had approached it knowing we were going to shoot two movies, I think we could easily have done it, and structured the story and made sure the cliffhanger was bigger. We could have gotten away with it. It wouldn't have been bad, it would have been thinner and lighter. We wanted to go bigger and more aggressive.

Adam McKay Talks Anchorman 2's Longer Cut

What can people expect from the new version?
Well, I think the fun of it is the game - if you've seen Anchorman 2, it's now got all-new jokes. With the exception of one or two that we had to keep in. So you're going to see line for line, as the movie goes on, all the jokes flip out. What's the first joke of the movie? It's Drake complimenting Christina Applegate's ass. So that line is a different line. Then Burgundy's response is a different line. Then you're going to go on and the vocal warm-ups are different, and they're in the elevator going up to see Harrison Ford and there are new jokes there. Then the conversation with Harrison Ford is different, except for the plotlines. You're going to be following the story, and then occasionally you go into a whole different scene like the musical number that's in the first 20 minutes. In the first movie, they see the broadcast but now they're going to go into the musical number. You're going to see whole cul de sacs of improv runs throughout the whole movie. It's fun as hell. We watched it on the mixing stage and had the greatest time, but once again the warning is, it's very long. At one point, I got up, went to the bathroom, checked my phone and went back in. I strongly encourage people to take a break. You can talk in the theatre. It should be that vibe, a fun, loose vibe.

You should probably refrain from using the word 'warning' when promoting your movie.
(Laughs) Only with Anchorman can you say that.

The musical number is in there. But what about the Doby song? Is that still in there?
The first time they meet Linda Jackson, there's a whole bunch of new jokes in there, jokes that maybe have a toe over the line. But screw it.
Good question. I'm trying to remember what we did. Did we cut the Doby song? I think we did. The idea was to get as much new stuff in there as we could. I know Doby is in there, as we have other jokes with Doby, but I can't remember if we cut the song or not. Maybe we shortened it. I think that's what we did and then we put in a bunch of new bits in around it. Doby's not gone. The only one I think that 's a little redundant is the gang fight. You can't flip out those cameos, so I think we went with different jokes for each person as they enter, and that was the one tricky area. We ended up cutting it down, but Doby is in there.

Does anyone stand out a little more in this one?
Let me think. There's definitely a little more Koechner and Rudd, especially in the second half of the movie. But not a ton more. What you saw was written as far as the structure and proportions. I think we put the scene in with Rudd and Champ where they try to bring up ladies and fail and bump into Jack Lime, that's a new scene. There's a little more with Marsden in there. I'm trying to remember.

Sorry to put you on the spot!
(Laughs) No, it's quite reasonable to ask a filmmaker what he put in his film!

Was there anything from this cut that, on reflection, you would have liked to have included in the first cut?
There's one run. I like when they're talking about how to make the news more exciting. I wish we'd put a few more of those runs in because we had room to do it. There's another chunk where the team is talking about what they're going to do now that they've been fired, they're in the apartment talking and I probably could have put a couple more runs in there. There's a good Champ Kind one and a good Brick one. There are some cuts I wish I'd done, too. There are some areas where I could have trimmed it a little more. I loved the musical number but it just didn't work for what it was, so I don't regret that.

What was wrong with it?
It was the narrative. It got laughs, everyone loved it. It's fun and surprising and comes out of leftfield, and it ends on a big laugh. But every time we screened it, the next 25 minutes would lag. We're hardly sticklers for story, but you want something that will at least loosely propel you forward. That scene had nothing to do with anything. It just pounded a hole in the movie, but we still kept it in and then when we cut it, the movie worked better.

Adam McKay Talks Anchorman 2's Longer Cut

Is this even more politically incorrect?
It's worse. It's pretty extreme. The first time they meet Linda Jackson, there's a whole bunch of new jokes in there, jokes that maybe have a toe over the line. But screw it. None of it's offensive, it's all under the umbrella of Ron Burgundy's a moron. I think nobody will be offended, but whatever.

So what's next for you? Uptown Saturday Night with Will Smith?
Now they're releasing this alt version, we're totally satisfied. No Anchorman 3.
You never fully know, but that's the one I'm putting my chips on for now. We're working on the rewrite with Nick Stoller and it's getting really good. This draft that came in, I'm getting really excited about it. We already did The Other Guys, I didn't want to go into the traditional buddy film genre. I want this to be something different and I think we found it in the last week. I have another couple of things going on - I'm going to rewrite an adaptation of Michael Lewis' book, The Big Short, and I'm very excited about that. I've been kicking around with Sacha Baron Cohen, about doing this movie called The Lesbian with him, which is based on that Hong Kong billionaire who wants to pay men to make his daughter not gay. We've been kicking that around but it looks like he's going to do this other idea first. So it looks like the two I have in front of me are Uptown Saturday Night and The Big Short.

What can you tell us about The Big Short?
Oh my God. You gotta read it. It's the best book ever written about finance, banking, the stock market. It's all about five guys who knew that the 2008 collapse was coming before it happened. Some of them try to warn people, and some go, screw it, I'm going to short the market, and it's about this exciting, terrifying, perilous journey they have when all of America and part of England and Europe went nuts and went blind to what was clearly going to happen. These were the few sane people who knew what was happening and it's about what it's like to be the one person in the room who actually knows that the building is about to collapse and no-one will believe you. It's a page-turner. You read it and by the end you completely understand the '08 collapse. All the language they use makes it sound so complex, but it's not, it's really simple. It's one of my favourite books of the last ten years and I heard it had stalled out over at Paramount, and I had a take on it for how it could work.

And I have to ask the inevitable Anchorman 3 question...
It's done. I think that's it. That's the last sequel we're gonna do. I loved doing it, it's fun, but there's nothing more fun to me than new characters and a new world. It was great to do it and to work with those guys again, and it was great to do Ron Burgundy again and take him into cable news and the modern news era, but I think that's it for him. I feel satisfied. Now they're releasing this alt version, we're totally satisfied. No Anchorman 3.

You never know. In ten years' time...
I'm going to say definitely no. I'll actually say it in this case. (laughs)

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues - Continued is out on February 28, for one week only.

Interview by Chris Hewitt

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