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Director Adam McKay Talks Budget, Casting, Plot and the Long Road to ‘Anchorman 2′

Will Ferrell in 'Anchorman'

For a long time, seeing ‘Anchorman 2‘ on the big screen seemed like an impossible dream. But now the project is actually moving into production, and director Adam McKay has spilled the details of how it got there.

In a lengthy interview with the Hollywood Reporter, McKay outlines the history of the original ‘Anchorman’ — which itself was not an easy film to get greenlit. That film was a modest hit in the U.S. but did virtually no business overseas, which is part of the reason why Paramount (which took over the property from Dreamworks) has dragged its feet for so long on making a sequel. According to McKay:

“It went in the numbers machine over there. And their numbers machine purely looked at the box office. It didn’t project off of DVD sales and TV and cultural influence.”

A long period of haggling over the budget began, with Paramount willing to cough up $35 million and the filmmakers first asking for $80 million and then lowering it to $60 million (many of the film’s stars, such as Will Ferrell, Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, command much higher paychecks these days then when they did ‘Anchorman’). Although the project was “really 100 percent dead” as little as three months ago, according to McKay, somehow the two sides met at $50 million. McKay:

“We tried to set this other movie up for Will and Vince [Vaughn] that ended up being, once again, a crazy low offer, no back end, at Paramount, and that didn’t happen. And then the other thing that happened was I did some work on ‘The Dictator’ for Sacha [Baron Cohen], kind of helping out. And I think the combination of those two things with a movie falling through, I think they saw the numbers on the other one and were like, ‘Wait a minute, if we’re looking at these numbers for an original Will/Vince one, and we have this other franchise that’s guaranteed to at least get you to here, why wouldn’t we do this for just a little bit more?’”

With the production at last greenlit, McKay says that Carell, Rudd, Vince Vaughn and David Koechner (and, of course, Ferrell) are all returning, with Christina Applegate a possibility too:

“Yeah, kind of in the Austin Powers tradition, they always flip out the lead lady. No, we haven’t written it yet, but we have an idea for her that we think is pretty cool. So tentatively right now she’s in. But obviously we kind of have to let it be what it’s gonna be, we don’t want to handcuff ourselves, but we love Applegate, so any chance to work with her is always fun.”

As for the story, McKay is naturally interested in keeping details close to the vest, but does say:

“We’re staying roughly period, and I would just say it’s the next stage in the development of American media and news. The fun of these characters is they confront change very poorly. [laughs] So they’ve got some more change coming their way. I can say that pretty safely.”

The director is looking at a January or February 2013 start for shooting, with a release date possible somewhere between Christmas of that year and May 2014.

Sweet Lincoln’s mullet, can you believe that ‘Anchorman 2′ is happening at last? Do you think McKay, Ferrell and the gang can recapture the magic?

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