"Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" is in theaters now, and for the sake of spoilers, we'll just say this: it gets a little crazy, often leading to the sequel's best moments. But in the nearly decade-long road to bring the movie to the big screen, Adam McKay and Will Ferrell had a lot time to think about how they were going to approach the followup. And while the final result expands the canvas but still keeps Ron Burgundy as the central focus, an earlier concept was much more epic (and somewhat outlandish) in scope.
"One idea was kind of an Irwin Allen idea," McKay told Paste about developing the sequel, referring to the director of '70s disaster classic "The Poseidon Adventure." "I think it was still 24-hour news, but the guy who owned the 24-hour news built an underwater hotel. The story was the glass they were using was faulty, but Burgundy covered up the story because he didn’t want to lose his job. So the end of the thing was this crazy 1970s Irwin Allen underwater thing with the glass cracking and water flooding. We were going to shoot it like those bad 'Towering Inferno' shots. So we actually wrote that, and we wrote an ending with that and we’re just like, 'Um … I don’t know. I could see this getting a little boring.' Although yeah, it still was pretty funny. Then the other one was just as dumb as this. It was just they go to space somehow."
While McKay dismisses the concept as unworkable, "Anchorman 2" does sort of use the same basic concept. The owner of the 24-hour news channel is still mega rich, only he owns an airline and not an underwater hotel. And Ron Burgundy still has to face the prospect of covering up a story. But we'd wager part of the reason the Irwin Allen-esque idea didn't fly was that it would be presumably pretty expensive, and as he tells AV Club, there was a constant battle over the budget.
"I think they wanted to do it for $35 [million]. I said 80, which really should be the budget if everyone’s getting paid their full freight and you’re making the movie correctly—80 is actually the number. Then we said, 'All right, maybe we can do 65.' They’re like, 'No, it’s 35.' Thirty-five is crazy. That’s basically like no money. There’s no way we could do it for 35. What happened when we went back the last time was they said, “All right, what about 50?” We’re like, we still getting some money. In case the movie eats it, you’re not walking away at a loss," McKay told AV Club.
"There’s a little bit of money being paid, especially if you have to leave town [for production]. Fifty was the number that got it done, and as it turned out, a pretty good number because when movies get too expensive, you can kind of smell that money on-screen. It can kind of feel a little gross sometimes. Fifty still kept it scrappy. After actors were paid and everyone was paid, it was probably, adjusted dollars, a similar number to the first one in some ways.
Indeed, "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" does retain the feisty spirit of its predecessor, even if it's a bit more polished (though the digital effects are still awesomely lo-fi). And if those two interviews aren't enough (they go pretty deep) here's one more with McKay talking with Vibe below. After that, some more promos for "Anchorman 2."