Here’s where having a cast full of people on the verge of stardom gets tricky: gathering them back up for a sequel six years later is a markedly more expensive proposition. According to Deadline, Paramount was willing to green-light the movie for $40 million, but McKay was asking for something closer to $70 million (right in the neighborhood of what the studio had just approved for Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator). That $30 million delta was the sticking point; Paramount didn’t think it would prove profitable enough, though its projections seemed to be based mostly on the original film’s grosses, which the sequel would certainly top (a la the Austin Powers series).
“So bummed,” McKay tweeted on April 29th. “Paramount basically passed on Anchorman 2. Even after we cut our budget down. We tried.” Ferrell was similarly discouraged, telling Entertainment Weekly, “Well, you know, yeah, it’s a little peculiar. On the one hand, [we were] being begged to do a sequel for such a long time, and then we finally came up with a concept that we liked, we talked to all the guys, and everyone was up for it. And then to get the reaction we got, yeah, it’s slightly puzzling to us.” Fans attempted a Twitter campaign to keep the movie alive, but it was no use; a year later, Ferrell told journalists that the final word from Paramount was “We’ve run the numbers and it’s not a good fit.”
Burgundy followers would get even more upset as details of the aborted project leaked out. Most intriguing among them: that McKay and Ferrell, who had mounted the actor’s one-man George W. Bush show on Broadway back in 2009, were planning Anchorman 2 as a musical — complete with a run on the Great White Way. “We were going to do four months on Broadway and then jump right into filming,” McKay told CHUD’s Devin Faraci. The idea of an all-singing, all-dancing Channel 4 Evening News team is tantalizing on a conceptual level, but this was also a logistical masterstroke: the Broadway run would allow the filmmakers to test out the material in front of a live audience, working out bits, trying out jokes, and basically getting the script into fighting shape before putting in front of the cameras (just as the Marx Brothers used to do).
So Anchorman 2 seemed permanently stalled, owned outright by a studio uninterested in making it; Ferrell was confirming its death just a couple of weeks ago, saying the he and McKay were turning their attention to a follow-up to Step Brothers. Now comes this surprise announcement on Conan, though details are still sketchy — no word yet, for example, on if the plan for the Broadway run is still in place, or exactly who will be returning. Deadline’s Nikki Finke reports that McKay (obviously) and producer Apatow are in, and that Carell, Rudd, and Koechner will return; Carell tweeted yesterday, “Watch Conan tonight. You will be glad that you did,” while Christina Applegate (who we really hope is involved — she doesn’t get enough credit for the success of the first film) went even more enigmatic, tweeting a link to the Conan video without comment.
Point is, details will presumably creep out over the next couple of weeks; what we know is that the film is a go, with a projected release late next year.