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Columbia College Chicago

Adam McKay: The Legend Continues

By Bethany Hexom

December 17, 2013

Writer, producer and director, Adam McKay, visited Columbia College for a sold-out advance screening of his latest film Anchorman 2:  The Legend Continues followed by a Q&A. Film Row Cinema was packed with excited students and fans, including hundreds of hopeful standbys wrapped around the building an hour before the event began.

McKay has a hefty list of credits under his belt from five years as a writer and two years as head writer on Saturday Night Live (SNL). He then moved on to movies as writer, director and producer of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Step Brothers, The Other Guys, and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

Fans pled for a sequel to Anchorman for nearly a decade before McKay decided to give in. He told the crowd he had to be very careful in approaching this sequel to make sure it continued the story and still kept that same “charisma.” McKay said they didn’t want to “just re-hash the same story, but when we discovered that 24-hour news was 1979-1980, when ESPN and MTV came about, that’s when we knew we had a sequel.”

Associate Cinema Art + Science Professor Ron Falzone, who hosted the post-film Q&A, asked McKay if it was hard for the actors to get back into character. McKay replied that they shot a “kind-of teaser trailer” at the beginning of shooting the film, and he said he “was amazed because like twenty seconds into it they were all immediately back into character.” McKay said, “Brick [Steve Carell] was the funniest one to see because he’s a very articulated, smart guy…and the second I put him on set it was like he became Brick instantly. I could feel his IQ drop 70 points.”

Falzone suggested Anchorman was somewhat the precursor to the television show Mad Men because they both took a specific time period when women were entering the workplace. McKay replied that “there was just this whole time before people cared about how they treated other genders, before anyone cared about how much they drank, or you could still punch a guy in the mouth and they wouldn’t call the cops…We just thought about how strange this period was. So it’s probably a little bit from the same point of inspiration, but we took an entirely different direction than the creator of Mad Men.”

Highlights from the Q&A with students and Adam McKay:

Q: Can you talk about your experience writing for SNL?
A: Yeah, I worked for SNL for about 6 years. First I was a staff writer. Then I was head writer for three years. And then I thought it was time to move on. When I told my manager about this, he said, “Well, if you’re gonna leave, make a crazy demand. You might as well.” So, I told Lorne, “I want a pay raise. I want to name my own credit. I want to make short films. I don’t want to ever have to go to a production meeting.” And he said yes! For two years I was Coordinator of Falconry on the show. It was great. I had the most fun those last two years. The only problem was that the whole writing staff hated me because I had the greatest deal ever. Eventually it was time to go.

Q: Was there anyone you approached for cameos [in Anchorman 2] who rejected you?
A: We actually tried Barack Obama, and we had a connection to the White House that didn’t say no initially. He was like “You know, he might do this.” And we were like “This is nuts!” And sure enough someone finally said to someone “Are you crazy? No, he’s the President.” And another one we tried was Oprah Winfrey. And we had a similar experience. For one minute her agent was like “You never know!” And then they called back immediately: “No. It’s a no.’”

Q: Was there anyone [in the film] who just didn’t really want to do this at all?
A: Harrison Ford was the one person I had to talk into it.  Before we were about to shoot, someone said to get on the phone with him because they didn’t think he was going to show up. Then, I learned he had never seen the original movie. So, I got on the phone and I said, “Look.  It’s going to be really easy. You’re going to be in for a day and a half. We’re gonna make you look really good. And you’ll do some really funny stuff.” And he said, “Alright, I’ll be there.”

A Q&A with a rock star writer wouldn’t be complete without at least one audience member asking for a favor. A student said, “I’m a big fan, and I can die happy if I can ask this. Will you sign my chest?” McKay immediately replied, “Yes, of course I will,” and the student proceeded up to the front, laid on the ground and McKay signed his chest. Just like a rock star.

Anchorman 2:  The Legend Continues opens Dec. 18, 2013.

(above: Ron Falzone and Adam McKay; right: McKay signing student’s chest, photos by Bethany Hexom)