The announcement from a burgundy-suited, white-shoed Will Ferrell on “Conan” last night that an “Anchorman” sequel was on its way prompted cheers from fans who have followed the project’s ups-and-downs for years.
What exactly changed at studio Paramount, which had long flouted the flutist and balked at a Ron Burgundy follow-up (and, more to the point, the price thereof) remains a discussed question in Hollywood.
Certainly the cast had become pricier as the stock of Ferrell and Steve Carell rose after the 2004 film. Studios will resist paying a lot for a sequel of anything that isn’t a blockbuster. “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” took in $85 million, which isn’t bad for a comedy with emerging stars but well behind of a lot of other comedies that never got a second go-round.
But the principals may have softened as they took a look at their positions. Outside of “The Other Guys,” Ferrell is coming off a string of disappointments in recent years, including the current "Casa de Mi Padre,” which makes him and his agents a lot less likely to stand on ceremony.
And Paramount had reason to warm up to the idea: It currently has only four movies scheduled for all of 2013, and no comedy franchises scheduled at any point.
One question now is how director Adam McKay and Ferrell (who will likely write together) will take aim at the new story. Will it be set in the present (and would that require changing the 70's hallmarks of the Burgundy character)? And if it remains set in a previous decade, how will the new movie figure in the "Ridgemont High"-ish postscript that had Burgundy landing at a national cable-news channel, Carell’s mentally challenged Brick Tamland becoming a presidential adviser and Paul Rudd’s Brian Fantana finding a gig as host of a libidinous reality show called “Intercourse Island”?
But the biggest question may be Ferrell himself. His deluded blowhard seemed reasonably fresh when we saw it eight years ago. Will it seem that way now? The actor has trotted it out a number of times since (“Semi-Pro,” “Talladega Nights,” “Blades of Glory"), retaining the character and simply changing the costume.
At least a lot of anchormen still seem clueless.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Will Ferrell in "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy." Credit: Paramount Pictures