When Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy hit theaters in 2004, it wasn’t an immediate success. The film eventually found a large audience on home video, which is what spurred Paramount to greenlight the sequel years later, but the directorial debut of Adam McKay was a long-in-the-works idea he had been concocting with star Will Ferrell. The two became close when Ferrell was on SNL and McKay was serving as head writer, and Anchorman was planned as their big feature film team-up.
Of course they’ve since gone on to craft brilliant films like Step Brothers and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and we’ve learned from their various collaborations that the two can come up with some really insane ideas. As it turns out, while Anchorman itself is pretty nutty (reminder: there’s a massive, cameo-filled news-anchor battle in the middle of the movie), the original idea for the film was even more crazy.
Ferrell recently appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers, where he was asked about his and McKay’s original plan for Anchorman. It goes something like this:
“The first version really is more like the movie Alive. It took place in 1976, the year of our bicentennial—they’re having a convention of all the news anchors from across the country. So we’re flying on a chartered plane, Ron Burgundy of course convinces the pilot that he can fly too and immediately crash-lands the plane into the side of a mountain. Part of [the reason] the accident happened was because he clipped another plane, which also crash-landed, and the rest of the movie is them just surviving and trying to get down off the side of a mountain while being hunted by orangutans, because the cargo on the other plane was just orangutans and boxes of Chinese throwing stars. So all throughout the movie, we’re trying to figure out how to get off the mountain…but meanwhile other people are dying from their wounds of Chinese throwing stars and we can’t figure out that orangutans are hunting us. So that movie wasn’t made (laughs).”
Ferrell goes on to half-jokingly suggest that this could be the plot of the third Anchorman, which is a movie I would definitely see. If you own the DVD of Anchorman then you know there’s an entirely different cut of the film available with almost an entirely different story, so while McKay and Ferrell moved away from this survival idea, the story was definitely still in flux during filming.
Watch the interview and see him tell it himself below.