The writer and director of Anchorman 2 talks about the R-rated version, ensemble comedies and the possibility of another sequel to the popular franchise starring Will Ferrell as super-suave San Diego institution Ron Burgundy
Though yesterday’s conveniently timed announcement of a “No Jokes” cut of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues was just a prank, the release of the Anchorman 2 DVD and Blu-Ray on April 1 was no hoax. The main attraction of the release is an alternate, R-rated version of the film — filled to the brim with 20 extra minutes of footage and 763 new jokes — which was released in theaters for one week on February 28.
On the occasion of the DVD release, TIME spoke with Adam McKay, who wrote and directed both Anchorman films, as well as Talladega Nights, Step Brothers and The Other Guys.
TIME: Did you know right from the get-go whether you were planning on doing a second version as you’d done with the first Anchorman?
Adam McKay: People joked about it when we were shooting the movie, but making a feature is such a titanic task that you can’t let any of your focus go in that direction. So the answer would be no: you just make the movie. And then about a month into editing, my editor Brent White says to me, “I think you’ve got enough to replace every single joke.” And I go, “You’re crazy.” And he goes, “Look at it.” And we look at it for five minutes and I go, “You’re right, oh my God.” So that was probably the moment where we knew there could be an alt version. And then we had another one of our editors, Jay Deuby, cut that version and took a look at it one day during a lunch break and go, “Oh my God, this isn’t bad,” and then gave a bunch of notes. We always thought it was just go on a Blu-Ray. I never imagined they would release it in theaters. I mean we kind of joked about it, but I never thought it would happen, so when they called me and told me, I was astounded.
TIME: Was that the way it happened with the alt version of the original Anchorman?
McKay: That was a little bit different. In that case, we had cut a storyline — this political terrorist group that we had completely cut out, that the movie didn’t need. So once again, my editor Brent White said, “Hey I think you’ve got a second other movie here with the whole other storyline you cut and the improvs and the scenes we cut.” And I said once again, “You’re crazy, but feel free to goof around with it.” And he showed me kind of a rough cut and we did notes. In that case though, we told the studio and they really didn’t believe us. We kept saying, “We’ve really got a second movie here.” And they would laugh and go, “Ha, it must feel like that.” And we would go, “No, we really do.” So they didn’t know what to do with it. They were confused by it. This was different in the sense that when we told Paramount, because it was Adam Goodman — who was at Dreamworks when we did Anchorman — he instantly believed us and they were all very excited by the possibility of it.
TIME: With all the recent news about a third Ghostbusters film so long after the first two, have you given any thought to the possibility of doing a third Anchorman film somewhere 20 or 30 years down the line?
McKay: It’s funny, Anchorman sort of lends itself to it because they are newscasters. You have no problem seeing Ron Burgundy when he’s 60 — it actually feels very natural to the idea. I said about a month ago that we’d never do a third one, and I realized that was a little too harsh because the truth is, I really don’t know. With these movies, you really don’t know how they’ve played until about two years after they come out, when people see them on repeat viewing. That tends to be how our movies work. Step Brothers was one that when it came out did pretty good, but then two years later I kept hearing it quoted and then suddenly it was selling like crazy on iTunes and the studio was saying it was doing so well. Same thing with Anchorman, same thing with Talledega Nights. The Other Guys is starting to get that kind of kick to it and I’m starting to hear it quoted more. If Anchorman 2 gets that sort of second life, if three, four years from now people start asking us that question a lot and there’s an idea, we would be open to that.
TIME: Having watched all those films, I enjoy it and laugh the first time, but then after seeing it three or four times, that’s when it really starts to take hold. It seems to be something fairly unique to your films. Any thoughts as to why that might be?0
McKay: It’s a great question. Will and I are always curious about that. We’re not doing it on purpose, obviously, but boy, it keeps happening. The only I can think of is that we do layer in a lot of stuff in the movies — because we improvise so much and we’ve usually got some sort of satirical point of view in there, and because we do ensemble — maybe that’s the key is the ensemble nature of it. Our movies are probably closer to Caddyshack/Stripes-type movies than a lot of the comedies that get made made now. I’ll be curious to see if This Is The End gets that sort of second life to it because that to me was a big ensemble comedy, but I don’t know. It’s certainly great —that’s how I judge movies, because there’s that initial haze of fog of marketing around these movies, and thank god for it, it’s what gets people into theaters and gets people excited but I think once that mist goes away, then you kind of really see what you have and get to watch it for what it is. And I’m glad these movies hold up well on that second viewing.