Unless you’ve spent the last couple of days living as a smelly pirate hooker on Whore Island, you’ll know that the BIG trailer of the week was the long-awaited teaser proper for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, which gave us our first glimpse at actual footage from the long-awaited return of Ron Burgundy and the Channel 4 news team.
Normally, we’d attempt a trailer breakdown on our lonesome, but for something this monumental we needed reinforcements. So we got out our conch and bellowed for assistance from Adam McKay, the maverick genius who directed and co-wrote (with Will Ferrell) the movie. He was more than happy to give us some fresh and startling insights into the world of Ron, Brick, Brian and Champ. Warning: after you’ve read this, you may have to make a visit to the pants store.
The trailer starts with a reassuring voice; that of Bill Kurtis, a real-life news anchor who was recruited by Ferrell and McKay to narrate the first movie, the spin-off Wake Up, Ron Burgundy!, and the two previous teaser trailers as well. Kurtis is back on voiceover duties for the film itself.
“We all know about Bill Kurtis and what he’s done since the first Anchorman,” laughs McKay. “He lives up in the mountains, you gotta go track him down, he doesn’t have a phone. He knows his voice has a power and he wants to make sure that those who want it really want it. He’s the best guy. He is one of those anchormen who’s got the perfect hair and the voice, but he’s also self-aware. He gets the joke. He is the voice of Anchorman.”
The first shot of the trailer finds a beaten-up camper van heading in the direction of the Big Apple, the town so nice they named it twice, New York New York. The camper van appears to belong to Ron Burgundy - but is this Ron’s home now? Has he fallen on hard times since the first movie?
“You are crafty,” says McKay. “It’s getting the team back together, and part of the way he travels around to get the team back together is in that camper van. Let’s just say that they have some issues with the camper van. They’re difficult to drive, I’ll tell you that.”
So, why a camper van?
“I would say the opposite question is the only question, which is ‘why not a camper van?’. They’re stylish, it’s the ride of the future - even though it turned out not to be the ride of the future - and they’re beautiful looking. That’s Burgundy style, right there.”
The van pulls up outside a building marked with a name that’s set to change broadcasting forever: Global News Network. Or GNN. This is Ron Burgundy’s new domain, and he’s about to take it to Pleasuretown. “We’re clever, aren’t we?” chuckles McKay of the origins of the network’s name. “It had to be Global..., World..., American..., something that made sense. We kept trying different ones to see what was cleared, but they were all taken. GNN was the one that was available, and sounds semi-legit.”
Anchorman 2 takes place on the cusp of the Eighties (“starts around ’79, goes through ’81,” says McKay), and GNN is a 24-hour news network that, like a certain other network with similar-sounding initials, changes the face of news as we know it, with Ron and his team just one of the many mega-anchors brought on to provide round-the-clock coverage of squirrels on water skis and wars and stuff.
“That’s the whole entryway into this movie,” says McKay. “Our idea was to make GNN an amalgam of Fox and CNN - the owner of GNN is Australian [played by Josh Lawson] - and MSNBC. It’s all mixed in together. They all kind of operated on different timeframes, but ended up in the same place, which is ratings-driven. They’re businesses, and sensationalistic news is their lifeblood. That’s why we wanted it to be all of them - I don’t think any of them are off the hook.”
And here, at last, they are: the Channel 4 Action News team: Ron Burgundy (Ferrell), Brian Fantana, Brick Tamland and Champ Kind. Well, strictly speaking, they’re now the GNN news team, but it’s still good to see them back together, walking down the street with a certain triumphant joie de vivre and... what the HELL is going on with their hair?
“They all have perms in that shot,” explains McKay. “The whole news team got perms. When you’re four gentlemen doing well and you’re in the new 24-hour news station and you’re in Manhattan, you get perms. You just get it done.”
Does Champ Kind have a perm under his stetson? Pray we never find out.
This is Dylan Baker as Freddy Schap, a dogged news producer who recruits a down-on-his-luck Ron for GNN.
“Freddy Schap is the Pontius Pilate of the movie,” explains McKay. “He’s the guy who’s trying to do his job, and he knows that Burgundy and his news team, for some reason, have something that people like. Dylan Baker’s so good.”
‘I’m going to do the thing that God put Ron Burgundy on this Earth to do,” says Ron, getting his first person and third person all kinds of mixed up. “Have salon-quality hair and read the news.”
“That line wasn’t written,” reveals McKay. “When I heard that on set, I said to Will, ‘do that on every take’. That’s what I was looking for.”
Anchorman fans will be overjoyed to see that Baxter - Ron’s gentleman friend and miniature Buddha covered in hair - is back. Sadly, Baxter is no longer played by Peanut, who originated the role in the original Anchorman. Instead, this is Quince.
“Our dog trainer, Mathilde, found Quince online,” says McKay. “He was abandoned in a supermarket parking lot in West Virginia. Mathilde flew in, got Quince, trained him for four, five months straight, and turned him into a great working dog. He was amazing and cute as hell. Oddly, that’s how we found Dylan Baker as well. He was abandoned in a West Virginia supermarket parking lot.”
And what of Baxter in this movie? Does he play a major role? “Pretty big,” adds McKay. “He always ends up being the voice of reason. He’s quietly, maybe, the wisest, most powerful character in the movie. At all times you get this sense that Baxter is three, four steps ahead of everyone, and when the chips really get down, Baxter’s going to be the one to pull it all together.”
This is Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), a fellow anchor at GNN who, clearly, arouses Ron’s interest. “Meagan was awesome and stunning and cool,” says McKay. “And not only is Linda Jackson a lady, she’s a modern woman, too. She’s an ass-kicker. She’s kinda Veronica 2.0 in the sense that she’s a career woman, single, cool with it, she knows what she wants. She’s a whole different frightening animal for Ron Burgundy. He’s in way over his head with her.”
So, if Ron’s cavorting with Linda Jackson, what does that mean for…
Veronica Corningstone, Ron’s lady love? What happened to the passion that made Ron want to marry her on top of a mountain? There are several short glimpses of Christina Applegate as Veronica in the trailer, which might suggest that she doesn’t play a major part in the movie. Not so, according to McKay.
“She’s a major part,” he says. “It’s a trailer, so you’re seeing about one per cent of the movie.”
So, where are Ron and Veronica in the movie? Are they still together? “They’re a couple, but nothing is ever smooth with Burgundy and Veronica,” cautions McKay. “They have their ups and downs. There’s a lot of high-pitched melodrama between the two of them - it’s Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? with better hair. That’s basically their relationship.”
Speaking of dysfunctional relationships, the trailer gives us our first look at Kristen Wiig as the woman who will give Brick Tamland a melted heart to match his barbecued brain. Meet Chani.
“It’s pronounced 'Sch-ahnee',” laughs McKay. “It’s supposed to be really hard to pronounce. It’s supposed to sound like a name, but not really be a name. Her full name is Chani Lastnamé.”
The brief exchange with Brick (“Your hair looks like wet popcorn”/”I like the parts of your face that are covered with skin”) indicates that Chani is operating in the same postcode as Brick, although McKay says it wasn’t as simple as writing a female Brick. A Brickette, if you will. “It was actually pretty tricky,” he says. “We knew we wanted him to fall in love, and we knew it had to be someone who would fit him, but it had to be its own thing.”
This is Brick Tamland smiling with ill-disguised delight and desire. It is, simultaneously, the most beautiful and terrifying thing you will ever see.
“It’s like the Jack Nicholson smile at the end of The Shining,” says McKay. “It’s really horrifying. There’s no question that this is a new power couple for the new American age. There’s no doubt about it.” We’re all doomed.
This is Ron Burgundy, wearing a sombrero and eating an apple. Has Ron, at long last, finally learned how to speak Spanish?
“I am not going to tell you anything about how he’s wearing a sombrero and biting an apple,” teases McKay. “I’m going to let that be a complete surprise. I will tell you that the trailer gives you no context about what is going on, but what is going on is completely fantastic.”
Well, this is interesting. Ron, Veronica and Baxter, standing on a windswept beach… but who the hell is that young boy? Is this... could it be... Great Odin’s Raven, does Ron Burgundy have a son?
“That shot’s in there,” sighs McKay, who’d forgotten that it had made it in. “Oh, God. They’re with a small boy. Yes…. Yes... Does that shot give it away? You can draw your own conclusions from that.”
We do draw our own conclusions. And our conclusions are that this is Ron’s progeny. “I guess I’m not wrecking anything by saying that, and we did put it in the trailer, which is our own fault,” laughs McKay.
Empire has many questions. How? When? Why? Who? Where? What? And, for a second time, How? But the answers will have to wait. “All I can tell you is that they’re off the coast of New England, and there’s some serious emotional discovery going on.”
Speaking of serious emotional discovery going on, here is the single most .giffable shot in the history of motion pictures: swingin’ Brian Fantana, doubtless daubed in Sex Panther by Odeon, clad in tight red Y-fronts while an impassive black guy in tighty whities stands next to him. In fact, it may be the single greatest shot in the history of motion pictures, and we have no clue what the hell is going on.
“I’m not sure we entirely know!” responds McKay. “They’re in Manhattan, they’re getting successful, and Brian went and shot an underwear ad for Hanes. That’s basically what you’re seeing. There are some other success moments that the team have as well, but this is the one that made it into the trailer.”
This is Jack Lime (James Marsden), the hotshot anchor who is GNN’s shining star, and who appears to be the new nemesis for Ron, a fitter, happier, more productive version of Vince Vaughn’s Wes Mantooth. This scene is the first time the two meet, across a crowded GNN newsroom, and it doesn’t go well for Ron.
“We always imagined him as Terminator 2, the living mercury guy,” says McKay. “He’s the next generation of killer anchor, who’s more handsome, smarter, more confident, and just makes Burgundy feel like Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2.”
But Ferrell and McKay are keen not to simply repeat themselves with Anchorman 2, so don’t expect Lime to replay the Mantooth beats. “Jack comes in as a nemesis of sorts, but a bunch of different things happen with him. We tried not to make it predictable where it’s just nemesis, nemesis, nemesis, showdown! We tried to give it some left turns and right turns.”
This is Ron at Sea World in San Diego (the Whale’s Vagina had to make an appearance somewhere), and he doesn’t seem terribly impressed with the dolphins on display. “The whole thing of Ron Burgundy is he’s constantly rising and falling,” says McKay. “One of his falls, he’s working at Sea World, announcing dolphin shows, drunk off his ass.”
Just as McKay and Ferrell set out to tackle the issue of sexism in the workplace with the original Anchorman (trust us, it’s there among the giant battle scenes and jazz flute solos), and they wanted to hurl Ron and the news team into another giant societal battle with this movie. “The game with Ron Burgundy is he’s always dealing with change and never handling it well,” explains McKay. “In the '80s you started to see African-American culture become more mainstream. There are many changes he’s going to confront in this movie and one of them is African-American culture and old stereotypes."
And so the trailer ends with a scene that has raised a few eyebrows, as Ron tries desperately to ingratiate himself with Linda Jackson’s family by displaying his horrifically-stunted knowledge of black culture. Of course, what Ron thinks is ‘breaking down the barriers of race by assimilation’ is anything but. The exact opposite, in fact.
“I saw some people comment on that dinner table scene, going, ‘Oh, that’s a little offensive’. You have no idea what we shot. It’s so extreme!” laughs McKay. “That’s the most PG version of what we shot in that trailer. but we went really far with it, to the point where Ferrell sometimes went, ‘I don’t know how comfortable I am saying this stuff in front of these people!’ Fortunately we had great actors who were really cool and who got the joke and Will’s so likeable when he does it, and it’s really clear that he’s supposed to be an idiot.”
Like most of the elements in the trailer, the scene may not make it into the finished movie, so perhaps it’s best you don’t get too attached to the dialogue. “I don’t know yet what’s going to be in the final cut, but it’ll at least be on the DVD.”
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is out on December 20.