“Well, I could be wrong, but I believe diversity is an old, old wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era.”
“The arsonist has oddly shaped feet.”
“Milk was a bad choice.”
“I’m kind of a big deal. People know me.”
“I’m in a glass case of emotion.”
We could go on…
When it comes to “Frat Pack” comedies, few have aged better than Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004). The Will Ferrell movie remains the star of popular gifs from “Well, that escalated quickly” to “I’m not even mad!” and the classic “60% of the time, it works every time.” Beyond the memes, however, Anchorman holds up very well on its own. Impressively, the film remains an earnest take on modern social issues from sexism to media and politics. When getting pitched, very few believed that a story about a smarmy 70s news dude who overcomes his sexism could be so funny (or profitable).
In celebration of the film’s continued relevance, let’s brush that mustache to these 42 newsworthy facts about the making of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.
42. Pedal to the Medal
Anchorman was born while Will Ferrell and Adam McKay were both still working at Saturday Night Live. Ferrell described the earliest idea as “Glengarry Glen Ross meets a car dealership.” For the record, Glengarry Glen Ross is a 1984 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Mamet about the pressures of corporate America that was adapted into a dramatic 1992 movie. Good call; newsrooms are funnier for some reason.
41. There Will Be Pitches
Boogie Nights director Paul Thomas Anderson was one of the first people to read the original Anchorman script. He even offered to shop it around for Ferrell and McKay, but alas, this original draft never got made. I don’t know what a PTA based Anchorman would have looked like, but I’d like to find out.
40. Leave It to Christina
Ultimately, Christina Applegate was chosen to play Veronica out of more than 100 actresses because she embodied the “50s wholesome thing” that McKay and Ferrell were looking for.
39. Ron in the Jungle
One early version of the Anchorman script featured the characters defending themselves in the wilderness from orangutans armed with ninja stars (the primates were armed, not the News Team). In this draft, Ron Burgundy crashes an airplane filled with news people, who must now defend themselves from things like “a musical number with sharks.” Obviously, this was meant to parody the cannibal disaster movie, Alive. Can’t imagine why any of that would have gotten cut.
38. Stunt Double
For a movie so obsessed with San Diego, the real city only shows up briefly in aerial establishing shots. The rest was filmed across diverse sets in Los Angeles, Glendale, and Long Beach that were made up to look like the “classy” city, but in the 1970s.
37. Stop the Clock
Some of the more offbeat ideas for Anchorman were actually filmed, if not shown. The film once focused on the News Team facing off against a gang of hippie bandits called “The Alarm Clock.” Unfortunately, test audiences hated these scenes. Thus, this entire portion was replaced with the iconic Panda subplot that actually made the final film. However, the remains of the “Alarm Clock” plot were kept and recut to make the director-to-video short movie, Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie, which hilariously consists only of deleted scenes, so while it barely makes sense, it ends up a ridiculous, non-sensical companion to the final cut of the movie.
36. Mann Up
Actress Leslie Mann was one of the more than 100 actresses that Adam McKay had read for the role of Veronica. She didn’t get it, but at least her husband, the producer Judd Apatow, got a cameo.
35. John “See You Later” Reilly
John C. Reilly read for a part in the movie. Unfortunately, he had to turn it down to film The Aviator (2004). Will Ferrell still really liked him, so he developed a part for Reilly in his next film, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and an iconic comedy partnership was born. Then, not to miss out on a second chance, Reilly made room in his schedule for a small part in the 2013 Anchorman sequel.
34. Ron Burgundy vs. Peter Parker
Anchorman had the misfortune of debuting when Spider-Man 2 was still in theatres. As a result, the now-classic comedy only opened at #2 in its first week at the box office.
33. A True Historical Artifact
Props to props department: Ron Burgundy’s license plate is “IM #1,” which very in egotistical character for him. These days, you can find the plate in Washington, DC, where it remains on show at the national news and journalism museum, aka the “Newseum.” That’s exactly where it belongs.
32. Less is More
With such a comedic cast, some improvisation was to be expected in the creation of Anchorman—but they may have gone overboard. The producer Judd Apatow estimates that there are about six versions of every scene, and they had enough footage to make a three-hour-long director’s cut of the movie. We love the film, but who really wants that?
31. Eds Playing Eds
Could you imagine The Man in Black from Westworld as Rob Burgundy’s boss? It almost happened; the original script suggested that Ed Harris play Ed Harken, a role which eventually went to Frank Willard.
30. On the Cutting Room Floor
While Amy Poehler was featured in the sequel, the actress saw her scenes get cut from the final version of the original Anchorman. She played a bank teller getting robbed by Maya Rudolph and her gang in that infamously dropped subplot about “The Alarm Clock.” At the time, Poehler was still very young and, in her words, “hadn’t even got my teeth fixed.”
29. Better to Play One on TV
Will Ferrell graduated university with a Journalism degree (in sports information). He even worked in a local news station for a time, but graduated knowing he did not want to go into broadcasting. I wonder if that’s where he learned those phonetic exercises? The human torch was denied a bank loan.
28. Not Good Enough
Despite the film’s success (see: the $90.6 million worldwide box office from a budget of $26 million), the sequel was hard to market. Paramount executives shot down Anchorman 2 at least three times. Why? Anchorman didn’t do that great internationally, so they didn’t want to shell out more than $35 million on the budget. Up to you to decide whether it was well-spent.
27. Trilogy of Errors
Anchorman is considered the first installment in Ferrell and McKay’s “Mediocre American Man Trilogy,” a set of films of similar themes (hence the names) where McKay directs, Ferrell stars, and they both write. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is considered the second installment while Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues bookends the series. Though many would think that Ferrell’s movie Semi-Pro, about a fictitious ABA basketball team and it’s ridiculous owner/player Jackie Moon, would be a part of the Trilogy, McKay didn’t actually have anything to do with it, so it’s not included on the list.
26. Leave the Mothers Out of This
Champ’s iconic threat against Wes Mantooth is a reference to a British comic book series, Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future. In the comic, a villain has the similar line of “I will take your mother, Dorothy Dare, out for a nice seafood dinner and never call her again.” Chilling stuff.
25. Pitching Is Hard
Before it was made, Anchorman was pitched in reworked forms to DreamWorks almost 20 times. They faced this pushback even after Ferrell’s other films, Old School (2003) and Elf (2003), proved to be successful.
24. Why Waste the Space?
For realism, the zoo scenes were shot in the real-life Los Angeles Zoo. However, this zoo has been closed to the public since 1965, so maybe it’s more period-appropriate then we imagined.
23. First in Her Class
Shout out to SU! It’s obvious that Veronica Corningstone is well-educated, and that’s confirmed in a deleted scene where she reveals herself as a Syracuse University alumnus.
22. A Family Drag
The little girl on the street who calls Ron Burgundy “a disappointment to us all” is played by director Adam McKay’s own daughter, Lili Rose. The mother, who calls him “an awful man,” is Shira Piven, aka the girl’s real-life mother and McKay’s own wife (and Jeremy Piven’s sister). In other words, McKay brought his whole family into work just to verbally abuse Will Ferrell.
21. Gotta Toot
Like his character, Will Ferrell is a real-life flutist. The actor has been practicing the flute since his elementary school days.
20. No Damage to the Face or Hair
For the record, there are 23 people in total in that iconic newsman street fight. It did escalate quickly…
19. One Ron is Enough
Ron Livingston of Office Space fame originally auditioned for the role of Brian Fantana. He lost out to another late 90s movie darling, Paul Rudd.
18. From the Great Beyond
When Ron meets Veronica, he claims that he’s friends with Edward R. Murrow. In real life, Murrow died in 1965. Anchorman takes place in the 1970s. But maybe that’s the joke? Honestly, it’s hard to keep track.
17. Tonight, Tonight
The newsman brawl in the streets is obviously referencing the opening scene of West Side Story (1961). But they actually took the reference a bit further. Vince Vaughn is wearing a yellow jacket which deeply resembles the one that Tony and Riff wear in the musical dance sequence, the pivotal one where romantic leads Tony and Maria meet. What are they implying?
16. Directors Do the Dirty Work
The director Adam McKay cameos as a custodian in his own movie.
15. That’s What She Said
Anchorman includes multiple actors who would later appear in the American version of The Office. They include Steve Carrell, David Koechner, Will Ferrell, and Jack Black.
14. Before Fame, They Were Just Names
Look closely at the rolling credits when co-anchors Ron and Veronica insult each other at the desk. Two of the listed writers are Jon Hamm (of Mad Men) and Adam Scott (of Parks and Recreation). Both of these actors are friends of Paul Rudd, so maybe that explains how they made on the big screen before they got famous. Well, a screen credit is a screen credit.
13. Timeline Fun
Although the film’s exact year is never mentioned—outside of it being “the 70s,” of course—there are big little hints that fans have used to pin it down. For one, everybody knows the lyrics to “Afternoon Delight,” so it’s at least 1976. When paired with Champ’s reference to Gene Tenace, these clues put Anchorman in around the middle of 1977. Thanks, Internet.
12. Runs in the Family
Ron’s beloved pooch, Baxter, is named after the character Ted Baxter (played by Ted Knight) from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. The human Ted Baxter is also news anchor.
11. Way with Words
Producer Judd Apatow has a cameo as one of the workers who hoses Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) down of his rancid cologne. Apatow is the guy who says the iconic line about Fantana smelling like “a turd covered in burnt hair.”
10. Dubs Not Subs!
Unfortunately, that’s not actually Will Ferrell playing the jazz flute in the bar scene. Although Ferrell is an accomplished flutist in real life, the professional performance was dubbed over by a Los Angeles-based musician named Katisse Buckingham.
9. Destined for Better Things
Maggie Gyllenhaal was in the running to play Veronica Corningstone. Of course, she didn’t get it, but director Adam McKay offered flattering reasons why: she was simply too good for them. After Gyllenhaal’s audition, McKay was certain that she was going to win an Oscar someday and “you don’t put Meryl Streep in a comedy.”
8. Age Before Talent
Amy Adams also auditioned to play Veronica Corningstone. However, she was turned down for looking too young. According to Adam McKay, the future Oscar-nominee “looked like she was only 18.”
Award-winning journalist Harold Greene was the aesthetic model for the design of Ron Burgundy. Greene himself “stayed classy” for KCST-TV and KGTV in 1970s San Diego.
6. Health Code Violations in Translation
If you’re eating lunch right now, please skip this fact. The Mexican restaurant, “Escupimos en su Alimento,” where Veronica and her friends visit in the movie translates from Spanish to mean “We spit in your food.”
5. Another Me
In the script’s first draft, Ferrell and McKay included some actor suggestions for various roles. The result is an uncanny alternate News Team universe. Some choice picks include John C. Reilly as Champ King, Ben Stiller as Brian Fantana, and Chris Parnell as Brick Tamland. I can picture it, to be honest.
4. The 5th Musketeer
There was originally a fifth member of the News Team. In the early draft, he was named Marshall Connors and supposed to be played by Academy Award nominee William H. Macy.
Anchorman became specifically about journalism after Will Ferrell happened to see a 1970s documentary titled, Intimate Portrait: Jessica Savitch. The film detailed the struggles of early female news anchors, who faced sexism as they entered the industry. Ferrell was highly amused by the men’s obvious insecurity about women in the workplace and said, “We were laughing so hard at these guys with perfect ties admitting that they were completely freaked out by a woman coming into the news office.”
2. Role Model
Christina Applegate’s Veronica Corningstone is directly modeled after Jessica Savitch, the subject of the documentary that inspired Will Ferrell to make Anchorman about journalism. Tragically, Savitch drowned at age 36 when a car she was riding in careened into a canal during a downpour. Sadly, her death only fueled widespread rumors that she was a drug abuser and that was a major factor in her demise, but the coroner found no trace of drugs in her system when an autopsy was performed.
1. No Points for Honesty
Local news anchor Mort Crim is another direct inspiration for Ron…or at least, his chauvinism inspired him. Crim was interviewed in the documentary that inspired Anchorman. Ferrell recalls how Crim literally admitted, “’You have to remember, back then I was a real male chauvinist pig. I was not nice to [Jessica Savitch].’”
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