Paul Rudd and Steve Carell Talk ANCHORMAN 2, Getting Back into Character, Keeping a Straight Face, a Deleted Musical Sequence, and More

     December 20, 2013


The News Team has re-assembled!  Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is finally here, 9 years after the 4 buffoons of Channel 4 news first won us over.  The whole gang is back- Ron, Champ, Brian and Brick are causing the usual ruckus, but this time in New York City.  The film focuses on the start of the 24 hour news channel and the tabloidization of news, while tackling tough issues of racism, marital trouble and health.

At the press day for the film in NYC, I participated in a roundtable interview with Steve Carrell and Paul Rudd.  They talked about getting the old band back together, the nostalgic feeling of seeing themselves in costume, their admiration for Adam McKay and Will Ferrell [who co-wrote the script], how hard it was to keep a straight face on set, and a lot more.  Hit the jump for more. 

anchorman-2-the-legend-continues-steve-carellQuestion: What was it about this script that made you want to do this movie?

STEVE CARELL: We signed on before there was a script. And just wanted to be a part of it. For me, I think we all sort of felt the same way.

PAUL RUDD: Yeah, there was no question.  Oh my god, they said yes, we’re gonna do it, this is gonna happen ? I think we had all kind of put it out of our minds because over the years, there had been several false starts.  And we got together, then we shot that teaser trailer, there wasn’t a script.   We knew that it was a go before we’d ever read anything.   And then finally when Will and Adam finished the script and sent it to us, I saw what it was going to be.   And that was a really exciting day, that was so cool.   I remember, I knew it would be funny, because they’re just the funniest writers and the funniest guys, I just loved it.   Loved what it had to say, thought it was so funny.   And it took really big swings.   I just knew that those two guys are risk takers and the only way they would want to do a sequel would be to try and embrace the spirit of what made the first one work, go further with it, and not do just a carbon copy of the first one.  

What do you mean take really big swings?

RUDD: Meaning, go in directions that are so strange that …you know…

CARELL: That either they will work extremely well, or not at all.   And I think it’s taking big risks-

RUDD: Bold, specific choices. 

CARELL: Exactly, bold specific choices, and I think they do all the way through.   And there are references back to the first one, but the film doesn’t rely on being a copy of the first one.   They really tried to elevate it, and it’s a much more complicated story than the first one was. 

Did it all just come back immediately, they characters and who you wanted them to be?

anchorman-2-the-legend-continues-paul-ruddRUDD: It varied but it didn’t take too much time.   We know who the characters are, and there was that nostalgic feeling when we got dressed as them again.   Moustache and hair and then address these guys [gestures to Carell] by their characters.   All of that was very, very familiar and didn’t take long.   It was strange to do it again, and there were moments when I know that I thought, ‘am I doing this the right way? Am I commenting on the character because I now am familiar with the actual movie of Anchorman?’ And the first time around there was no movie we were just making it up.   So those kinds of thoughts were there but it never felt like I was questioning who he was and if I was really off the mark. 

CARELL: Yeah I think we all went into it not wanting to be precious about it, and not wanting to too reverential to the first one.   At the same time, I looked at everyone else and they seemed to be locked into their character, whether there were any sort of internal apprehensions about what they were doing or not.   Because I know I had some, for the same reason, I didn’t want to be doing an impression of what I had been doing before…and sometime between takes we’d check in with each other.  

RUDD: ‘Does that seem like Brian? Does that seem like Brick?”

CARELL: ‘Yeah, that’s Brick.  ’ So there was no question in anyone’s mind that we were where it sort of needed to be.  

Well your character in particular, he’s so odd.

CARELL: You just passed over that word so quickly. 

He’s almost surreally dumb.

CARELL: [Nodding] exactly…it’s worked perfectly!

How do you get into that headspace of Brick? What’s going on in there?

CARELL: It’s funny because we’ve been doing this press now, and people ask you to talk about character development, this movie in particular, it seems so pretentious and ridiculous to talk about character development for Anchorman.   I can imagine reading an article where we’re talking about—

anchorman-2-the-legend-continues-steve-carell-kristen-wiigRUDD: Like we’re playing Lincoln or something.   This is a cartoon.  

CARELL: Right, the first movie I say like, 5 lines.   I was very much a spectator in the first movie, which I loved.   I think Brick just wants to be a part of the team.   He has his place, Brick is an extremely happy, positive person.   And these are his best friends in the world.   And one of the things I liked about the first and second one is these 4 guys take care of each other, and they don’t judge one another.   There’s a real affection, and I think you go along with it.   And they’re all idiots and they’re all buffoons, and they’re all essentially terrible at what they do.   But you forgive it, because you care about them and their relationships. 

RUDD: You feel like they need each other. 

CARELL: They do. 

Isn’t that the reason that people care about these characters?

RUDD: Everybody needs somebody.   Again it’s that thing of trying to deconstruct it or understand it.   We don’t understand why the movie has grown in popularity over the years, we don’t understand why people might relate to these guys and we don’t even question it really, we’re thrilled that it’s happened and we’re happy that people do.   But I do think people maybe respond or accept these characters more because for all the horrible things that they do and say you sense that they love each other.   And you can laugh at them as an audience member.   Everybody says and does ridiculous stuff and you can just kind of laugh at them a little bit. 

What parts of the script when you first read it stuck out to you as ‘oh my god are we actually gonna do that’?

CARELL: There were a lot of parts.  

anchorman-2-the-legend-continues-meagan-good-paul-rudd-david-koechner-will-ferrell-steve-carellRUDD: Some things didn’t even make the film, like we did a musical number, a whole huge thing that’s not in it.   Which was really funny, but the movie, certain things you lose just because of running time, and if it isn’t absolutely essential to the story, it’ll sometimes get cut out.   I remember thinking that just the theme was really clever.   Like oh my god this is a really interesting way to get into what’s going on now, to tell this story, to make an interesting point and not be preachy or anything it’s actually just very, very funny.   And it falls in chronologically where we might find these guys now.  

How’d you feel when you found out that Brick was getting a love interest, what was it like to play Brick in love?

CARELL: I was especially excited when I found out it was Kristen [Wiig].   She’s always great, and seemed like a perfect counterpoint for Brick.   And she is, there’s something kind of sweet about it because it says that there’s someone for everybody, and Brick is not excluded from that.   It’s nice to find people who live on the fringe, finding one another and she’s just unrelentingly funny.   And she also has a tendency to play, or she has a proclivity at playing off-kilter characters but they always have a really good heart.   There’s always a sweetness to the characters that she plays and she makes them very human and kind, no matter how strange they are.  

How much of that interaction was improv, because you’re both big improve people and she always matches the energy of the character, and she did have a very ‘Brick-like’ energy?

CARELL: It’s hard to tell, so much of the script as written was great, and Adam and Will are fantastic writers so…it’s always very strange to talk about improv because you don’t want to seem disrespectful to anything that had been written, like ‘well we had that written but we improvised and that’s what’s in the movie.  ’ It’s hard to determine what was scripted and what was improvised, but yeah, we did our fair share of fooling around.   And Adam McKay creates this environment where you can do that, you can play around and anything is fair game. 

anchorman-2-poster-paul-rudd-brian-fantanaRUDD: He also does stuff where, if you start to improvise and you get onto some tangent that isn’t necessarily where the scene is, he just yells stuff out, he’ll rewrite jokes as it goes along.   And he’ll yell them out.   And those are often, I mean he’s the funniest…I would say, in most cases Adam McKay is the funniest guy in the room.   Adam’s worst joke is so much better than the best joke I would ever think of in my life, I know that.   [Gestures to Carell] you guys are another story, because I think you guys are super funny, but McKay is really, comes up with really the most obtuse, specific jokes.   I can always pick out a McKay joke because it’s always so weird.   And great.  

How hard was it to have a straight face?

CARELL: Well it’s always a challenge surrounded by these type of people.   I always try to think, especially if it’s a two-shot or a three-shot, we’re all on camera at the same time, how I attempt to keep from laughing is that if I laugh I’m going to ruin what they’re doing, and it won’t be in the movie.   So I don’t want to take that away from them.   That said, I still do it.   There was a scene in the lighthouse, that was by far the hardest scene.   For some reason, well not some reason, he’s hysterically funny, but for some reason Will was especially funny that particular day.   And we went over in time, and the crew was hating us because we just couldn’t get through it.   We just couldn’t keep ourselves together.  

RUDD: I love that when it happens.   Especially when it happens and it’s not just me, because then I feel bad.   But I don’t know if it’s, not that you want to try and do that, but sometimes when you go through that punchiness, laughing, jagged, it injects some energy into a scene sometimes, so I never think it’s a bad thing.   It also makes work, and the environment, a really fun place to be.   Then again, I’m not the director, or the line producer, or the first A.D.   worrying about making the day.   But I’m a big believer in you can have a good time and still make a good finished product.   Like you can think something is funny and it still will be funny.   I really do think that it’s a fun job, it should be.   So when that kind of stuff happens I embrace it.   But I feel horrible if it’s just me.  

Is there collaboration with you and Kanye?

RUDD: For the record? Mmmmm…um….  we’re talking about it.   But I have no idea…where it will go?

Is there interest still for Ant-Man?

RUDD: That I have no idea.   I’m clearer on the Kanye record than I am on Ant-Man

Were you particularly excited for the battle [and the cameos]?

RUDD: That was one of the last things we did.   There was the feeling of oh, that day was coming.   We were shooting and it took about a week.   So different people on different days and it was so fun, and crazy and we would just look around- ‘look who’s standing over there, dressed as so and so.  ” The best thing was there were actors you would never expect to be in this.  It was very exciting to get to work with them, especially in this setting.   And everybody was very game, and made it fun for, certainly for us.   

For more on Anchorman 2, here’s all our previous coverage.

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