That's right — he's just as funny in person as he is onscreen, which is more than admirable after a long day of interviews. He filled us in on all the not-so-PG moments of filming, including a run-in with (fake) crack, his potty mouth, and putting his kids to work on set. Our conversation is not for the overly sensitive, but what else would you expect from Will Ferrell? MPAA, time to get out your earmuffs.
The first Anchorman set off all kinds of viral jokes and pop-culture memes. What do you think will be the biggest jokes or scenes that come out of the sequel?
"You know, everyone wants to know, and that's what makes me laugh so hard. Because, there's no way to purposefully create a viral video, and we have no idea. As we had no idea with the first one that 'I love lamp' would blow up. Considering that the studio wanted to cut out the entire Brick Tamland part from the first movie, you just have no way of knowing. It will be fun to see what — knock on wood — grabs people. We never could predict the first movie having that kind of following. I mean, apparently at Wimbledon, in the middle of a silent moment, someone just yelled 'loud noises!' During a tennis match."
We weren't sure, honestly, whether we were going to get you or Ron today.
"Well, Ron's stuck at LaGuardia..."
You've been Ron for a lot of appearances lately.
"Yah, it would be easier if I could be Ron all the time. Because, Ron doesn't really have to answer any question, ever. But, you know what's funny? There's really only been five or six things that we've done as Ron — outside of the Dodge campaign, which has gotten a lot of play. But, what's so funny is that the news media loves it so much that they just keep playing. I heard there was something tracking what Ron is gonna do next, which is hilarious.
Was it planned to do so much as Ron?
"In the early-stage marketing meetings with the studio, I put it out there that this is an instance where people love the character so much. He's so easy to do on the fly, and I said that I would be up for thinking of some creative ways to do it. So, I came up with the news station in Bismarck, my publicist came up with curling in Canada, and we tried to get a college to name their school after us. Emerson did it, which the most insane part of that was I did a 45-minute press conference in character, and there were 100 press requests, and I'm next to the president and the dean of journalism, and they didn't get asked one question. So, I've gotten to do all these crazy things, and I've even turned down a ton of stuff."
Do you ever worry about Ron Burgundy overkill?
"No, because I think that's more of a Twitter or hater thing. Anyone who's actually going to bring that up is just a small fraction of someone who has to say something contrary. And, it's not even about it being effective; it's just kind of fun to do. But, Leslie Mann, Judd's [Apatow] wife, was talking about how her aunt in St. George, UT, was like 'I'm going to see that movie.' And, it's literally because she's seen me do a weird thing on some show. So, it's worth it."
In this movie, there are a lot of over-the-top jokes and improvising — you even kiss a shark. At what point do you think you might be going a little off the reservation?
"Never a moment. Only because we won't use it if it doesn't work. But, there's never a moment on set where Adam [McKay] or one of us says 'Wait a minute, hold on.' And, kissing a shark was so not even close...that was like 'Oh, my gosh, this might be the single greatest thing we've ever done.' And, it's beautifully shot, and I was just thinking that I hope I can hold my breath long enough to get to the shark."
Your kids got a little part in the movie, yelling at you. Was that something they'd always wanted to do?
"They just wanted to yell at dad. We were feeding them the lines, but then the youngest boy, Axe — there's a reaction shot where it's just him falling asleep at the end of the day. He was so exhausted. But, they had begged if there was any way they could be in the movie. So, we figured that we could do it at SeaWorld."
You've had some trouble with the MPAA on this movie and having to cut out some things.
"Well, the crack scene was a battle. That's been ongoing, but I'm glad to hear it still works. There was more footage, the shots were wider, and Brian had actually given the recipe for crack on the air. They [the MPAA] thought we said the word 'vagina' too many times, with the bit about the 50 greatest vaginas in history. Which is sexist, if you ask me, because you can say every form of penis you can think of. But, we were literally saying the medical term too many times, so we had to change it to 'gina' and 'va-jay-jay,' which is almost worse. It's very interesting that comedies are scrutinized on a certain level, and Hunger Games can happen — and it's a PG-13 with no problem. It's essentially a movie of children murdering each other. So, that just seems strange to me."
What kind of reactions do you remember getting from the first movie?
"Well from local-news media, at first we were just patted on the head, saying 'That's a funny little movie, but it's not very accurate.' Now, every local-news station embraces that movie, and they'll even tell us who the Ron Burgundy is at the station."
Larry King was at the screening last night...
"Yah, I just sat with him actually, and he loved it."
Do you think you're gonna get that good of a reaction from all cable news?
"I think it's gonna run the gamut in the 24-hour news world from 'Hey come on, we're not that bad' to 'Man, that was good.' There was a focus group in one of the test screenings out in L.A. where the discussion became all about realizing that someone had to cover a car chase for the first time, or that there are a lot of graphics on the screen, which are all things in the movie. It's kind of great that the movie is actually reaching people that way."
To switch gears, we've been seeing you in Elf a lot lately because of the Christmas season. How does that feel when you watch it?
"Well, it's great. Once again it's another surreal thing. In making that movie, there were moments where I thought it would be the last movie I ever made. I didn't know if it was an idea that was good or horrible, and it ended up being good. So, it always makes me laugh."
You turned down Elf 2 but not Anchorman 2 — what was it about Anchorman that was different?
"It was just a slow drip, drip, drip, as the original movie kept growing in popularity without any of us doing anything. We all just kept checking in over the years talking about how everyone brings up the movie. We were reticent about making a sequel, but we just woke up one day wondering why we can't have fun, too. They got to make three Oceans Eleven, so why can't we do it?"