Will Ferrell does not get embarrassed.
He’s not embarrassed when he’s dancing in tight, white pants on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” or when he’s ice skating in a rhinestone-spangled bodysuit, or when he’s cross-dressing as Attorney General Janet Reno. He’s not even embarrassed to be completely naked, although he’s planning to cut back on the streaking scenes.
“It did get mentioned a lot,” Ferrell said. “‘Do you take your shirt off in every movie? You like to get naked all the time.’ So that is now viewed with a little more diligence. If I don’t have to do it for a scene, there’s no need to. Because,” he deadpans, “I want to save those moments.”
Ferrell is heavily promoting “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” (opening in Charlotte Dec. 18.) He’s read the real nightly news on North Dakota’s KX News, interviewed Peyton Manning for SportsCenter, shot 70 commercials for Dodge Durango, and announced the Olympic curling trials for the Sports Network in Canada.
Neither Ferrell nor Burgundy knows a whole lot about curling, to be honest. But ignorance has never stopped Burgundy before.
“They gave me a glossary of facts and terms, and I kind of just threw it away,” Ferrell said. “I dove into it as if I was Ron. Because if Ron Burgundy got a call to come announce the National Canadian Finals of Curling, he would say” – Ferrell steps into his Burgundy voice – “Of course! Thank you so much! This is an honor. I’ll see you Tuesday.’ Click. ‘What is curling?’”
Ferrell is amused by all the positive feedback the media tour has been getting. AdWeek gushed that the push is “unlike anything done before” and is “changing the way movies are marketed.”
“I keep laughing at it because this really is an aberration,” he said. “You’re not going to see Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow going on ‘The Tonight Show.’ It’s a character that lends itself perfectly to this, but I don’t think I can think of any other characters from past movies I’ve done who could do this.”
If you didn’t already know Ferrell was capable of great acts of ridiculousness, you’d never guess it from his demeanor. It’s the end of a long day of press, and Ferrell’s still got that for-camera makeup on, his blue eyes glow-in-the-dark bright against a face caked with peachy powder. He speaks in the soft, gentle voice of someone trying not to wake the kids. His outfit – a polka-dot necktie knotted over a checked shirt, tucked into a tweed vest, topped off with a brown jacket – is about as far as one could get from Burgundy’s loud, polyester wardrobe, much of which is on display at the Newseum.
The most surreal part of the whole exhibit, said Ferrell, is to see “that we were so accurate.” Ferrell remembers the first film initially “kind of got pooh-poohed by the news world,” which dismissed the comedy as goofy fiction.
Ferrell reports that a friend of his dad’s who worked in news vouched for the essential truth in “Anchorman”: “She’s said, ‘I’m telling you, I know it’s a crazy movie. But it’s the most accurate thing I’ve ever seen. That’s exactly the way news stations were.’ “
The idea for “Anchorman,” the 2004 comedy that has become arguably the most-quoted movie of the past decade, came from a documentary Ferrell saw about Jessica Savitch, a broadcast journalist. Mort Crim, Savitch’s co-anchor, “was being open and honest about the fact that he was a real chauvinist,” said Ferrell, switching to Burgundy’s tone again – “but he still kept his effective newscaster voice.”
“I just started imitating him,” said Ferrell. “And I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to see a character . . . to see this newsperson who never let that down?”
In “Anchorman 2,” Ron is confronted with even more opportunities to be blissfully ignorant: One scene takes him to dinner with the family of his black female boss (who he happens to be sleeping with), where his racist behavior gets him punched in the face but somehow doesn’t alienate him from the audience. “Ron’s not doing it maliciously,” said Ferrell. “He’s showing, ‘Oh, I thought this was the way you were supposed to communicate with black people.’
“He can kind of get away with a lot because you can tell there’s a sweetness to the character,” he said. “He’s not a malicious person. And he ultimately will admit when he’s wrong. It may take a while. He just wants to be liked. That’s all.”