One-time SNL writer Adam McKay’s directorial debut about a chauvinistic 1970s San Diego news anchor forced to deal with changing times is regarded as one of the greatest comedies ever made. In celebration of star Will Ferrell's 50th birthday (he was born in California on July 16, 1967), here are some facts about Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy to pair with a tall carton of milk on a hot summer day.
1. WILL FERRELL WAS INSPIRED BY A DOCUMENTARY ON JESSICA SAVITCH.
Savitch was one of the first women to ever anchor a newscast. Her former co-anchor, Mort Crim, admitted in the documentary to being cruel to her because he was a pig. Crim was invited to the movie premiere. Savitch passed away in 1983.
2. THE PHYSICAL INSPIRATION FOR RON BURGUNDY WAS HAROLD GREENE. (MAYBE.)
Greene worked at KCST-TV and KGTV in San Diego during the mid-1970s. When producers conducted research for Anchorman they looked at one of Greene’s colleagues' scrapbooks. Years later though, Ferrell ran into Greene, and Greene asked him if Burgundy was based on him. After Ferrell said no, Greene said he didn’t believe him and walked away.
3. PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON OFFERED TO PRODUCE.
After reading and enjoying Ferrell and McKay’s script for August Blowout (McKay once described the never-produced screenplay as Glengarry Glen Ross at a car dealership), Anderson told the two that if they wrote something else he would help get that movie made. His enthusiasm motivated the two to write Anchorman on spec.
4. DREAMWORKS DIDN’T BELIEVE THAT WILL FERRELL WAS A MOVIE STAR.
Specifically, those were Walter F. Parkes’s words, after turning down Ferrell’s initial pitch for Anchorman. After Old School became a hit, DreamWorks bought Anchorman for $4 million more than they would have paid if they had said yes to the pitch in the first place.
5. THE FIRST DRAFT INCLUDED SUGGESTED ACTORS.
McKay and Ferrell envisioned John C. Reilly as Champ (David Koechner), Chris Parnell as Brick (Steve Carell), Ben Stiller for Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Ed Harris as Ed Harken (Fred Willard won the part), Dan Aykroyd as Garth Holiday (Parnell ended up playing this role), Alec Baldwin as Frank Vitchard (Luke Wilson), and William H. Macy for a character that didn’t make the screen, Marshall Connors.
6. CHRISTINA APPLEGATE BEAT OUT AMY ADAMS, MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL, AND LESLIE MANN TO PLAY VERONICA.
McKay said that Adams looked too young for the role, Mann didn’t have “that '50s wholesome thing,” and in regards to Gyllenhaal, “you don’t put Meryl Streep in a comedy.”
7. BOB ODENKIRK WAS ALMOST BRIAN FANTANA.
8. JAMES SPADER REALLY WANTED TO PLAY BRICK.
He was “obsessed” with the mentally challenged character, and told McKay he would do anything to get the part. Steve Carell got the part after it was determined that Spader was “too good” an actor to be in the movie.
9. AN ENTIRE STORYLINE FEATURING AMY POEHLER, MAYA RUDOLPH, AND JUSTIN LONG WAS CUT AND PUT INTO A STRAIGHT-TO-DVD MOVIE.
Instead of the panda birth story in the third act, a subplot about a group of bank robbers known as “The Alarm Clock” kidnapping Veronica and putting Ron in their live broadcast was written and shot. All of those scenes were deleted in the theatrical cut and put in Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie along with alternate takes. Poehler had a feeling back then that her role as a bank teller wouldn’t make the final cut because the movie was already running long.
10. THE NARRATOR REFUSED TO SAY "PENIS."
Veteran Chicago news anchor Bill Kurtis had never done voice narration for a movie before Adam McKay asked him to do the honors. Harold Ramis convinced a reluctant Kurtis to take the part. Kurtis refused producer Judd Apatow’s request to say "penis," later admitting that he didn’t want to say it in a movie that might be an “embarrassment.” Once it proved to be popular, he said he was open to saying it in the sequel.
11. THEY HAD TO MONITOR HOW LONG BAXTER’S PENIS WAS IN THE MOVIE.
McKay trimmed several shots of Ron’s dog’s member to keep their PG-13 rating.
12. THE NEWS TEAM FIGHT SCENE WAS FILMED ON A VERY HOT DAY.
"I swear it was like 103 degrees," McKay told Vulture.
13. ONE MEMBER OF THE SPANISH-LANGUAGE NEWS TEAM WIMPED OUT.
During the battle, the Spanish-language news team featured seven guys on the stairs, but only six entered the circle to have the sewers run red with Ron Burgundy’s blood.
14. YOU SHOULDN’T EAT AT THAT MEXICAN RESTAURANT.
When Veronica and her friend hatch their plan to mess with the teleprompter, they’re at a restaurant called "Escupimos en su alimento." That’s Spanish for “We spit in your food.”
15. JON HAMM AND ADAM SCOTT ARE LISTED AS WRITERS OF THE NEWSCAST.
Hamm and Scott weren’t famous actors at the time of filming, but they were already long-time friends of Paul Rudd.
16. YOU MIGHT HAVE HEARD AND SEEN THE GHOST FLUTIST.
Katisse Buckingham was responsible for Ron Burgundy’s jazz flute solo. Buckingham played Todd, the young man who gave Alyssa Milano a hickey in the Who’s the Boss? episode “The Hickey.” He also played the flute and the saxophone in Dr. Dre’s The Chronic.