In a new interview, the cast and crew of the original Anchorman go behind the scenes of the first film’s memorable, massive reporter beatdown scene.
In the five-minute scene, Will Ferrell’s character Ron Burgundy and his news team face off with other news groups led by Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson, Tim Robbins and Ben Stiller (Stiller as the leader of a Spanish-language news team). It’s one of the most over-the-top and hilarious parts of the movie, and it even gets a nod in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, which came out today.
In a new, roundtable interview with Vulture, writer-director Adam McKay recalls the original script contained scenes “in the vein of The Blackboard Jungle and The Warriors.” He credits producer Judd Apatow with encouraging him to “go further.” “Then we were like, ‘Wait a minute — are we going to do this? Are we going to have a gang fight? I think we are.'”
Over the course of the day, carrying out 110 setups, the crew filmed the scene on a 103-degree day in a Los Angeles parking lot. “It was somewhere near an overpass,” actor David Koechner, who plays sportscaster Champ Kind, recalled, “and there were no lookie-loos whatsoever.” For the fight, McKay asked for what he called a “highlight reel of the most horrible weapons you could have, a mixture of Middle Age weapons with modern-day weapons.”
“They handed me a crowbar at first, and I took it, because I figured I was going to need it at some point,” Paul Rudd, who plays wannabe lothario Brian Fantana, added. “There’s something classic and clean about just a tire iron. But I also took a gun. I think Brian Fantana has carried a gun on occasion, on probably more than one occasion.”
“I remember wondering what the hell was going on!” Stiller said. “Not knowing anything about it, and being handed a whip.”
“They gave me the trident right about three seconds before I threw it,” Steve Carell, who plays the happily dense Brick Tamland, said. “‘He’s a natural with a trident. He doesn’t need to practice.'”
Actor Jay Johnston, who played a news member on Vaughn’s crew, recalled just how hot the day was. “Everyone across the board smelled like we were homeless or home-free by the end of the day,” he said. Stiller rejoined, “Luckily, my fake hair and fake mustache stayed on.”
In the rest of the interview, the cast and crew recalled how they managed to capture all of the scenes, including the shot of a man on fire. They also talk about the day after the shoot and how McKay and Ferrell pranked the crew, pulling them all together and telling them, “We’ve got to work harder. That wasn’t good enough.” “We thought it would be really funny to chastise them for how lazy they were,” Ferrell said. “And everyone was so tired, no one laughed.”
“To this day, that’s still the craziest day I’ve ever had,” McKay said. “And that scene, more than any scene in the movie, became the signature thing, in the sense that you had the feeling that the movie could do anything.”
Ferrell’s character Ron Burgundy is currently on the cover of Rolling Stone. “Anyone in comedy who says they knew something was gonna work is full of shit,” Ferrell said of Anchorman’s acclaim. “I want to keep making things where, potentially, I do turn off part of the audience. Because the percentage that’s going, ‘I can’t believe this is happening, and I love it’ – that’s what I gravitate toward.”