Will Ferrell returns as the dimwitted San Diego television news star Ron Burgundy in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” directed and co-written by Adam McKay.
The “A2” red carpet premiere Sunday night at the Beacon Theater was as loopy as the film.
Cast members Steve Carell, David Koechner, Paul Rudd, Kristen Wiig and Christina Applegate all turned up, along with producer Judd Apatow. I also spotted Fred Willard, Meagan Good, Judah Nelson, Dylan Baker, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Other big names included Edward Norton, Haley Joel Osment, James Marsden, Lewis Black, Nasim Pedrad and Hoda Kotb.
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The affable director told me he met Ferrell on the set of “Saturday Night Live” where they were both hired on the same day. “We started writing sketches and one day he said, ‘You want to write a movie?’ And we had such a great time doing it we just kept doing it.” “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” was released in 2004.
“A2” takes place in the early 80’s, and Burgundy’s career has tanked. His wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) is promoted to news anchor, and he tells her to choose between him or the job. She chooses the job, and their marriage is on the skids.
With these hard knocks, I wanted to know if Ron had gained any depth as a human being.
“Oh god no!” said the director. “It’s pretty well known, I mean you read the trades? Everyone knows Ron’s a dick. He’s not the greatest guy. He’s a train wreck of the human ego. He always thinks he’s the greatest in the world or he’s the worst in the world, and every movie he gains about 1/4 inch of maturity and by the end of this it’s all you see him get.”
I asked McKay if Will Ferrell had now acquired any Ron Burgundy-like characteristics.
“It was the weirdest thing,” McKay said. “He did a crazy amount of cooking. He had a hot plate in there. It was constant smoke and smells coming out of his trailer.”
“He was really almost spiteful on a certain level the way he wouldn’t share. The amount of food he was cooking in his trailer. He offered no one any of the food, and I know for a fact there was five to 10 pounds of beef, chicken, scallops going into his trailer every day. He ate it all,” McKay said.
“He put on 35 pounds. It was a major, major problem. We had to have him taken to ICU at some point.”
Photos from the “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” NYC premiere on Dec. 15, 2013. Click the photos for larger views and sharing options.
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On another track, I asked McKay about A-listers Liam Neeson, Jim Carrey, Harrison Ford, Sacha Baron Cohen and Kanye West, who lined up for bit parts. What was Kanye like?
“He was awesome,” McKay said. “He showed up on set and he was on time. He’s a comedy geek. He loves the first ‘Anchorman,’ so he was improvising. He came up with some lines that are in the movie. He was working on his new album and he was talking about all kinds of ideas. It was like the funnest set hangs I’ve ever had.”
Ferrell, who’s been relentless in promoting the film, talked to everyone on the block-long red carpet.
I asked if Ron Burgundy evolves as a human being in “A2.”
“Ron never evolves. These guys just refuse to grow emotionally at all. He kind of has a little professional and personal growth at the end of the movie finally, but I think that’s what makes these guys funny is their unabashed refusal to change.”
To unwind on set, Ferrell told everyone on the red carpet he cooked. “You know how those trailers have full kitchens and like little ovens and stuff like that? I’m the only one who uses my oven. I cook fantastic lunches for the cast in my trailer, a lot of chicken potpies and lasagna, so that’s how I relax.”
Ferrell and McKay couldn’t keep their stories straight. Not that it mattered.
Judd Apatow confided that a major problem was that Ferrell couldn’t disconnect from his alter ego.
“He just likes talking like Ron Burgundy. We’ll show up at his hotel and he’ll be dressed like Ron Burgundy. His hair is like Burgundy’s. He doesn’t stop.”
Then there are Ferrell’s visits to news stations as Burgundy. “He just likes going on the news in character and giving people a hard time. It’s really fun for him,” Apatow explained.
The only thing that’s changed is that Burgundy is a father now, Apatow told me. “He’s a terrible father, but he’s a father.”
I asked Apatow if he was surprised at how successful the movie has been at marketing products, like the Dodge Durango, which has sold a ton of trucks. And then Ron also touts his own brand of Scotch and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
“It just made me laugh. I was surprised that major corporations thought it would help their products,” Apatow said.