The wild story line was 'a little too weird' for Paul Thomas Anderson, who was trying to help get the film made

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Brick may have killed a guy with a trident, but he and the rest of the Channel News 4 Team were almost the victims of orangutans and Chinese throwing stars.

Speaking on Friday’s The Bill Simmons Podcast, Will Ferrell deemed 2004’s Anchorman his favorite of the movies he’s done, specifically because of the trouble he had getting it to the big screen — it was rejected 10 times in one day, he reveals. Part of the difficulty may have been tied to the outrageous original plot of the film about the San Diego-based news team.

“The first version of Anchorman is basically the movie Alive, where the year is 1976, and we are flying to Philadelphia to celebrate the Bicentennial, and also, all the newsmen from around the country are flying in from their affiliates to have some big convention,” Ferrell revealed. “Ron convinces the pilot that he knows how to fly the charter jet, and he immediately crash-lands it in the mountains. And it’s just the story of them surviving and trying to get off the mountainside. They clipped a cargo plane, and the cargo plane crashed as well, close to them, and it was carrying only boxes of orangutans and Chinese throwing stars.”

He continued, “So throughout the movie we’re being stalked by orangutans who are killing, one by one, the team off with throwing stars. And Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) keeps saying things like, ‘Guys, I know if we just head down we’ll hit civilization.’ And we keep telling her, ‘Wrong.’ She doesn’t know what we’re talking about. So that was the first version of the movie.”

ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY, Paul Rudd, Will Ferrell, David Koechner, Steve Carell, 2004,
Credit: Everett Collection

That’s quite a difference from the final version, which centered on the all-male local news team of Ron Burgundy (Ferrell), Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), Champ Kind (David Koechner), and Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) dealing with the addition of a female anchor in Corningstone.

The initial plot was so strange, it was even too much for Boogie Nights director Paul Thomas Anderson, who had been a fan of Ferrell and Adam McKay’s unproduced debut script August Blowout.

“Paul Thomas Anderson came and guest-wrote for a week on SNL,” recalled Ferrell. “And he sat down with us and he was like, ‘I read that August Blowout.’ He’s like, ‘What if you guys wrote whatever you wanted to write, and I would shepherd it for you and kind of find out how to make it?’ We were like, ‘We’d do it. We’d do it in a heartbeat.’ So that’s when we wrote Anchorman. So he was one of the guardian angels, even though I think the first incarnation of that was maybe a little too weird for Paul.”

Anderson ended up not being a part of Anchorman, but it worked out for both sides. Anchorman became a cult classic and spawned a 2013 sequel. Meanwhile, Anderson scored three Academy Award nominations for his next film, 2007’s There Will Be Blood.

Listen to the full interview above.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 91 minutes
  • Adam McKay