12 Fun Facts From A Visit To The 'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues' Edit Bay

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.

7. Race is an issue in the movie, but is handled carefully.

We saw two full scenes while in the edit bay. One featured the news team going to their new job for the first time and meeting Linda Jackson, played by Meagan Good. The laughs are played because the news team can't believe not only are they working for a woman, they're working for an African-American woman. Since the film's first trailer showed other scenes where race plays an issue, McKay discussed that:

McKay: We were aware there's a fine line. I mean, these guys are so dopey that it's not, the subject of race is not like we experience it in the news now. It's — they're so innocent and so stupid about it that it's never really mean or pointed. I mean, you'll see in the whole movie that they really just don't get it. They never fully get anything, but they a-little-bit get it by the end of the movie, And they deal in this movie with like about five or six different issues. In the first movie it was just the idea of a woman in power. In this movie now, it's race, there's another woman in power, there's scientology, there's issues with a child...there's like all this different kind of stuff they have to deal with. And obviously fame and money that they've never seen before.

8. A Winnebago stunt scene took three days to shoot.

The other scene we saw was classic, hilarious, can't-believe-it's happening Anchorman. The news team has finally reassembled and are in a Winnebago on the way to New York. Ron decides it can get there on autopilot though and, well, that doesn't go well resulting in an epic slow motion crash. McKay talked about some of the issues filming this scene:

McKay: Yeah it turned out to be a giant pain in the ass.  We wrote it at two in the morning laughing like idiots and then suddenly the reality of it was like, "Oh god, we've got to do all this." So it was a huge gimbal with the Winnebago. It was them hanging from a green screen, it was stunt doubles inside the Winnebago, it was then the plates you had to get from the inside. Then it was all the objects you had to get, then you had to have fake bowling balls, and real bowling balls. It was probably a total of three days of shooting to get that silly little sequence. Don't tell anyone that.

9. The test screening process was incredibly extensive.

McKay: On this movie, which we've never done before, we did A and B screenings. We were doing two screenings every night. So you had one whole rack of jokes in the A screening, and you had a different rack of jokes in the B screening, and we were constantly... the B screening was like the minor leagues. So if a joke got a big laugh at the B screening, we would then bring it up. If a moment worked or if there was a cool shot, we would then move it into the A cut.

10. Anchorman 2 almost ended underwater.

McKay: We had some crazy idea for an ending where it was going to be an Irwin Allen thing. The Underwater Hotel was being announced. It was the most obvious setup for a disaster ever. There was this glass dome over it, and Burgundy has ignored the story about how the glass manufacturers skimped on prices because [the network] advertises undersea dome glass. Ferrell and I wrote this crazy ending, and... there were like gushes of water coming through and shooting sharks at people. It was absolute madness. But we wrote the whole thing, and it wasn't bad. It almost worked. Then we took a beat, and were like, "That's not the end of the movie." It was going to be crazy expensive. I'm not sure it would've worked. But, yeah, we got those advantages of being able to work on the story and see how it felt as time went by.

11. The movie was originally conceived as a musical and there are still musical scenes.

McKay: It was going to basically be the same storyline and the same kind of CNN twenty-four-hour news/Fox News kind of thing, but just a musical. We had four or five numbers written, and we did shoot them, so there are a couple of musical numbers in here. But we had one big giant one that didn't quite play the way we wanted it. It always worked. It wasn't like it was bad. It just didn't quite play storywise, so we took that out. But that having been said, there are still a couple of songs in there. There's one big love song at the end of the movie that... I'll wait. I don't want to give it away.

12. Seth Rogen's laugh ruined an early test screening.

McKay: At a friends and family screening Seth Rogen was there and he sat dead center. We had 100 people there, it was a 2.5 hour cut and the entire laugh track we recorded was completely wrecked because of Seth Rogen sitting in the middle going "Hauh Hauh Huah." One of the great laughs of all time and also his comedy sense of humor is so good that you're like "I don't know if other people will laugh at that, I know Seth Rogen finds that crazy joke funny."So we were like okay, friends and family screening useless because of Seth Rogen. I wish it would just play for 300 million Seth Rogens. I don't know what that would do to the world, but yeah

A journalist then suggested they release that track as an extra on the DVD:

McKay: Just release the Seth Rogen laugh track? That's really funny. There should be a law for one whole year all laugh tracks are Seth Rogen for all TV shows. The world would get ever so slightly better.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues open December 20. Read about our visit to the set here.