Adam McKay interview

Has that ever happened before?

Many times. One of my favorites was in Zoolander. This is going back years. I think I wrote this second look that he does. I can’t even remember what it was, but I actually ended up writing the ending. Who knows? I convinced Ben Stiller that he should be working on his second look, Magnum, throughout the whole movie. My pitch was he’s always working on this second look, and then when he finally does it, it’s identical to Blue Steel. At the end, there should be a train coming at him and there should be a buildup of music and he should unveil Magnum and the train should just hit him. He should die [Laughs], and the movie should end. Why did you think that a look would stop the train? “But, it’s such a great look.” That was going to be the end of the movie. I convinced Stiller. Stiller is like, “God that’s fucking funny.” [Producer] Scott Rudin went, “You’re not fucking killing the character. Hopefully we make three of these.” I got in trouble for it. That was a good one.

So don’t kill your character at the end of comedy is the lesson here.

Don’t kill your character at the end of a comedy, although God it’s fun to play around with that idea. I’m sure we’ve done that other times, too. Oh, here’s another really good one. After Baxter got punted off the bridge [in Anchorman], Baxter never came back. Later, there was a Doberman Pinscher and Ron was like, “Baxter!” and Fred Willard was like, “Let him have it.” We shot that and screened it, and the audience fucking hated it because we killed the dog. The marketing lady came up to me and couldn’t figure out why our scores were low because the movie had gotten all these huge laughs. It was like, “You idiots, you killed the dog.” We were like, “Oh, all right.” Goddamn, that original ending was funny with the Doberman. People track dogs. Do you remember Independence Day?

I do.

I saw that in a packed theater in New York City. That thing was such an event. I felt like I was an ape or something. I was in this group of people, they were like, “Ahhhh!” when the dog leapt away from the flames. I think every comedy we’ve done we’ve fucked around with some ending, and then people yell at us and say you can’t do that. One of these days we have to do it.

Obviously a lot of people had their lives ruined in 2008, so this is a delicate subject. Were there any great jokes you had to take out because they’d undermine the drama?

No, I don’t think so. It was all just a matter just if it worked or not. It’s funny we started talking about Step Brothers and Anchorman, such a different tone. But with this there is just this tone of, when is it energetic? When is it exciting? When can it be a little funny? When is it tragic? It’s not really a comedy or a drama, in my opinion. That became the game of just when is it appropriate to do what.

What I loved about it was just constantly driving a stick shift. You were just changing tones all the time, which is what I found exciting about it. For me, it was just a blast. It was challenging, but I don’t think we ever… You know, there was one case.

[SPOILERS AHEAD]

In the end, when Jim [Ryan Gosling] stops the movie and says, “But Mark [Steve Carell] was wrong. They prosecuted all the bankers…” and they did this, this, and this, someone said we should do a version where it’s bigger, where he says, “All the banks apologized to the American people.” Then he said, “I’m just fucking with you.” It got a huge laugh. We were like, I don’t think we want that. I’ve never done that in the history of me making movies. I took out a giant laugh, and I went with the drier version that is in there. I don’t know if we want to be that silly at that point.

[END SPOILERS]

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