The original draft of the 2004 comedy Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was a bizarre wilderness survival tale filled with orangutans and throwing stars, and it would have all started with a crashed flight on the way to Philadelphia, star and co-writer Will Ferrell says.
As Ferrell said during a recent appearance on the Bill Simmons Podcast, the initial plot of Anchorman involved having San Diego’s Channel 4 news team fly to Philadelphia for the United States Bicentennial in 1976, only to be sidetracked due to a plane crash. Ferrell’s Anchorman co-writer and director Adam McKay is a Philadelphia-area native; he grew up in Malvern and attended Temple University before getting involved in the film industry.
“The first version of Anchorman was basically the movie Alive [in which a Uruguayan rugby teamed is forced to resort to cannibalism to survive after a plane crash], where the year is 1976, and we are flying to Philadelphia to celebrate the Bicentennial, and also, all the newsmen from around the country are flying in from their affiliates to have some big convention,” Ferrell said.
Ferrell’s Burgundy, of course, ruins everything after convincing the plane’s pilots that he can fly the jet.
“He immediately crash-lands it in the mountains. And it’s just the story of them surviving and trying to get off the mountainside,” Ferrell added. “They clipped a cargo plane, and the cargo plane crashed as well, close to then, and it was carrying only boxes of orangutans and Chinese throwing stars.”
So, rather than covering the news, the film first had the Channel 4 news team “being stalked by orangutans who are killing” them off, “one by one,” Ferrell said. The actor added that that draft of the script was so bizarre that it got “10 rejections in one day.”
Ultimately, McKay and Ferrell changed the script to revolve around Channel 4 newscasters Burgundy, Champ Kind (David Koechner), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) adapting to the station adding female anchor Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) to its lineup. DreamWorks released that version in 2004, and Paramount Pictures followed up with a sequel, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, in 2013.
Despite the changes to the film’s initial script, Ferrell said that Anchorman remains as his favorite of all the films he has made.
“The one that stands out as the favorite, and it’s a hard choice, is Anchorman,” Ferrell said. “And it’s kind of the Cinderella story of the movie no one wanted to make.”
And while Philadelphia missed out on a direct connection in the revised Anchorman script, the area did have some influence over Ferrell’s Burgundy. Back in 2013, the Anchorman star told Rolling Stone that his character in the flick is based partially off of famed Philadelphia news anchor Mort Crim.