At Home With Ron Burgandy
Given the public appetite for more, it seems odd that we’ve had to wait a decade for Anchorman 2. No one can really explain why it has taken so long, but at one point the prospect of a sequel looked so unlikely (bizarrely due mostly to studio concerns about profitability) that the franchise almost went in a musical direction instead. “It was around 2010, and it just wasn’t happening, so we decided — and this is not a joke — that we were going to do a Broadway musical version of the first Anchorman,” says Koechner. Thankfully, the film did come together. And so we find ourselves here, in Casa De Ron, chatting to Will as he mutates into the misguided, politically incorrect, straight-up offensive character we can’t help but love. Despite his flaws (of which there are many), Ron is and always will be a character audiences sympathise with, often in spite of themselves. “I think it’s because despite his pomposity, he’s still got a heart,” says Ferrell. “Even when he’s at his most chauvinistic, there’s still a likeability to him.” As with his creation, Ferrell emits an aura of likeability. But unlike Ron, he carries no ego whatsoever. He is, in a town full of
narcissists, the anti-narcissist. A more down-to-earth man you would not meet if you spent a night in The Dog and Duck. Whereas the majority of Hollywood A-list actors are content to spend entire interviews talking about themselves in a faux self-effacing manner, Ferrell is genuinely uncomfortable blowing his own trumpet. And it’s a personality trait that has made him one of the most respected — and liked — men in the industry.
“He’s truly an incredible guy, he really is,” says Koechner, without a trace of sarcasm. “I mean he’s as good a person as anyone else I know, in show business or not. He’s consistently kind and charming and caring. He’s the kind of guy who looks you in the eye while talking to you. And that’s it. He might be in a room full of people who are super-important, but if you’re in front of him he looks right at you. He gives you all his attention.” Adam McKay paints a similar picture: “He really is not in any way, shape or form full of himself, and it’s amazing. However big he gets, he makes fun of it. He doesn’t take anything too seriously.”
Perhaps it has something to do with Will coming to fame, fortune and success relatively late in life (at least in Hollywood years). After starting out on Saturday Night Live, he was in his thirties before he truly announced himself in cinema, stealing the scene as hapless assassin Mustafa in the first Austin Powers movie. From there, the rest is history: the roles got bigger and bigger, his bankability just for being associated with a project more and more certain. Even before Anchorman 2, his films have grossed an astonishing $3 billion. That’s $3,000,000,000. But despite being the biggest comedy actor on the planet, he remains a reluctant celebrity. He doesn’t go to the glitzy parties or awards ceremonies, he doesn’t read his own press, he doesn’t even tweet. “I think I tweeted for four days and then I just got off it. It would just feel like another thing that you have to deal with. Also, it feels like an invasion of privacy. Even though nobody is seeing you do it, it’s just another thing.” Instead, Will’s at his most comfortable away from the limelight. “I’m happiest when I’m taking my kids to school, or to soccer practice. Or cleaning up dog poop in the back yard. That’s my speciality.”
In another life, one in which he was blessed with greater athletic prowess, the Will Ferrell story could have turned out very differently. “When I was younger I always wanted to be a professional sportsman. I loved soccer. I wrote an essay in the fourth grade about how I was going to be a professional soccer player and a comedian in the off-season. So I got one out of two.”
The Premier League’s loss is cinema’s gain. Without Will, not only would there have been no Anchorman, the entire shape of comedy would be very different. Thanks to Ferrell and his so-called Hollywood “frat pack” (Rudd, Carell, Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson), predictable, gross-out comedies have been replaced by smart, sharp, dialogue-driven movies. If there had been no Ferrell there’d be no Judd Apatow — it was only after producing Anchorman that Judd went on to write and direct The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. For that, and for bringing Ron Burgundy into our lives, we salute you, Will Ferrell. You stay classy. We know you will. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues released last month and everyone is raving about Ron Burgundy.