As played by Will Ferrell, moustachioed lothario Ron Burgundy is one of the most beloved comedy creations of recent years. Ron is set to return in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. But what inspired the creation of the jazz flute-playing, Scotch drinking news anchor?
Like many of the funniest ideas, Anchorman actually began with a serious story. One night Will Ferrell was watching a documentary about 1970s NBC journalist Jessica Savitch – famous as the woman who broke the “glass ceiling” in US news reporting – when his attention was caught by the unintentionally funny remarks of several ageing anchormen from this bygone era.
“I called Adam with an idea to do a script,” Ferrell said in 2003, “about the petulant male-dominated world of the newsroom and how these men dealt with a woman for the first time.”
McKay also found great comic potential in the documentary: “There were all these interviews with anchormen of the day,” he recalled. “We were laughing so hard at these guys with perfect ties admitting that they were completely freaked out by a woman coming into the news office.”
The old-school news guys had proudly proclaimed themselves “male chauvinist pigs” – a boneheaded attitude that was pure comedy gold. Seizing on the theme, Ferrell and McKay came up with the character of Ron Burgundy and the screenplay about a San Diego news team who believe that the word is anchorMAN for a reason. “Once we had the character down and got the name, we were really excited,” McKay says. “That’s all we needed and we were off.”
The next step for Ferrell and McKay was to team up with producer Judd Apatow. This was before Apatow’s own breakthrough as a director with 2005’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin – starring Anchorman supporting player Steve Carell.
At the time, Apatow praised McKay as “truly one of the funniest guys I had ever come across”, while describing working with Ferrell as a dream come true. “Will and Adam are two of the nicest guys you could collaborate with,” he said. “They are extremely talented and have a great time working together, and that becomes infectious and raises the level of everyone’s work.”
A decade later, McKay acknowledged that Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy persona had taken on a life of its own. “It’s his best, most iconic character,” he told 'The Hollywood Reporter'.
Or, as Ron Burgundy would say: “Don’t act like you’re not impressed.”
Anchorman: The Legend Continues is released on 18 December.