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“F***, Ferrell’s never going to talk to me again.”
That’s prolific director, screenwriter, and producer Adam McKay on his defunct comedy and producing partnership with Will Ferrell, a creative marriage that birthed Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talledega Nights, Step Brothers, The Other Guys, Eastbound and Down, Funny or Die, and Succession. Whew.
What happened? Actually, there are two Ferrell/McKay breakup stories.
The first is less dramatic -- just a dissolving of a business partnership that had lost steam over the years. The two funny guys who met at Saturday Night Live had formed Gary Sanchez Productions, a producing partnership that created most of the projects listed above as well as McKay’s more dramatic works like Vice.
(“Gary Sanchez” is supposedly a Paraguayan entrepreneur and financier, but McKay admitted on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast that it was a rando name they found in Ferrell’s Blackberry.)
As the production company grew over the years, rifts developed between Ferrell’s folks and McKay’s minions, creating two competing factions. Plus, the guys just had different priorities.
"Adam was like, ‘I want to do this, and this, and this'; he wanted growth and a sphere of influence, and I was just like, ‘I don't know, that sounds like a lot that I have to keep track of,' " Ferrell told The Hollywood Reporter. "At the end of the day, we just have different amounts of bandwidth."
So Ferrell actually suggested the split, and the two finally made the business break-up official in 2019.
But the real punch to Ferrell’s oft-exposed belly came more recently. McKay had purchased the rights to Showtime, a book about the high-flying Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s, with the intention of turning it into a high-profile HBO series. (Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty premieres this week.)
It was no secret -- huge Lakers fan Ferrell coveted the role of eccentric owner Jerry Buss. McKay instead gave the role to Michael Shannon “and Will was good with it,” the director told The Hollywood Reporter.
But once filming began, Shannon left the production over creative differences -- once again opening the door for Ferrell. Only problem is McKay offered the role instead to John C. Reilly. Will Ferrell’s best pal John C. Reilly. And McKay didn’t mention it to Will before the offer was accepted.
“It was at this weird moment where Will and I weren’t exactly hugging each other, even though there was nothing that terrible,” says McKay. “And (Reilly) called Will and said, ‘Hey, McKay just came to me with this.’ And Will was very hurt that I wasn’t the one to call him, and I should have. I f***ed up.”
“I love Ferrell. Always will,” McKay says. “I had the best, most fun run of my life with him. Yes, I wish I had talked to him about it out of respect.”
Well, if we learned anything from Step Brothers, it’s that friendship is always possible. Can we get these guys together at the next Catalina Wine Mixer?
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Top image: Columbia Pictures/Relativity Media