Posted on Monday, November 25th, 2013 by Germain Lussier
There’s one major downside to the way Adam McKay and Will Ferrell make movies. Eventually, they have to go through the footage and pick out one joke for any given moment. When making a film like Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, the director and star shoot so much footage that, once they finally made it into the editing room, the difficult work finally began.
Back in October, a group of journalists visited the Paramount Pictures lot in Hollywood and met with McKay and his editor Brent White while they were still working on the film. During our discussion we learned how long the initial cut was, about that rumored second version of movie, the test screening process, and how Seth Rogen almost ruined the film in post-production. We heard of an alternate ending and musical numbers, and saw two hilarious scenes from the December 20 release.
Below, read about all that and more as I present 12 fun facts from a visit to the edit bay of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
1. The first cut was four hours long.
Adam McKay: The first cut was four and a half hours. Then our first cut where it all kind of tracked was about three hours. It played. It played like a real movie with a beginning, middle and end, over three hours. I think we screened our first cut at two and a half hours. It was the best screening we’ve ever had at that fat length. Normally when it hits two and a half, three hours, the audience gets exhausted and start yawning. This time it actually played throughout the whole thing. We probably shot a million and a quarter feet of film. It’s hard to say now because everything is digital, but it’s probably that easily.
2. They’re hoping to do a second version of the movie.
McKay: Brent was editor on the first “Anchorman” with me. I went into the editing room and he said, “I think you’ve got a whole second movie here.” Brent actually cut the “Wake Up, Ron Burgundy” version [from the first film] where we then went back and put in voiceovers. This time I came to the editing room and I went, “Well, Brent, do we have a second movie?” Brent goes, “Actually, you don’t have a second movie, but you have a whole other movie with all-new jokes.” I go, “What do you mean?” He goes, “You can replace every single joke with a different one.” They’re all quality alts. That was crazy and, sure enough, we’re doing it right now, think we’re at [240 alt jokes]…The question is, does Paramount release that in the theaters? Is it midnight screenings or just VOD and DVD?….Even if they only did it on like 200 screens or something. Just to see it play. We’re going to actually test it. We’re talking about putting it in front of a crowd. The advantage you get in that these jokes don’t have to pass by an audience is that you get some stranger jokes.
3. There are up to five different versions of every single scene.
Brent White: I cut different versions of every scene. So some of these scenes there’s 3 or 4 or 5 different versions of every scene and they’re all completely different. They still do the same job in the movie, but they all have different joke runs in them. And then from there we can cherry-pick and find the ones that really make us laugh or put them up in front of people.
4. Every single different line delivery is organized in the Avid.
When you have so much footage, so many different takes from every single scene, there’s gotta be a good way to access it all. Editor Brent White uses the “scripting tool” in AVID to organize every single take, joke, line together. So in the system there’s a visual representation of the script and, to the right, a list of alternate takes for every single line or beat in the film. So with the click of a mouse, he can juxtapose all different line readings with other ones to see which combinations have the right level of humor or rhythm.
White: [I personally developed it] over time working with McKay and Judd. It’s just that this kind of improv-based comedy just needed a way that you could handle it so you could get around all of the material and just be able to find it on any given day. Because like Adam says, he would remember the day he shot it, he would remember something he did, and now he says, “I know it’s in there, but it’s in there somewhere. And I would have to like go in there and dig it out and in a fairly easy time, try to figure out what it could possibly be.
5. For the first time, McKay and White edited the movie during filming.
McKay: We did something on this movie that we’ve never done before too is we did pretty extensive notes while it was shooting on cuts he was sending me, and I would, in the past, just lazily give some notes and go hey take it more in this direction but we actually went back and forth like 3, 4 times on certain scenes so by the time we got into the edit room, some of these scenes were like 80-90 % there as far as a first pass.
6. The craziest tangent filmed won’t be in the movie.
McKay: There’s a run where Ron Burgundy and Brian Fantana talk about breast implants and all the alternatives they’re using to silcone now. Nickels, taco meat. It’s just this long, insane run that we tried at one point. Test audiences were like, “no thank you.” But it still makes us laugh. That’s part of the fun.