For a long time, Adam McKay and Will Ferrell had a comedy partnership of envy. After having first met at Saturday Night Live, they worked together on films such as Anchorman, Step Brothers, Talladega Nights, and The Other Guys. So it was quite a shock when McKay and Ferrell announced their mutual split as partners in crime in 2019. We figured there must be some sort of story behind it. And now, we have a glimpse into what happened.
Ferrell’s explanation for the split seems very pragmatic. “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. “To me, the potential of seeing a billboard, and being like: ‘Oh, we’re producing that?’ I don’t know. … At the end of the day, we just have different amounts of bandwidth.”
According to McKay in a new Vanity Fair profile, however, things stem far deeper than that.
There is some truth to McKay’s increased interest in producing driving the split. However, what seemed to be the final nail in the coffin is a forthcoming series about the Lakers. Ferrell was slated to play former Lakers owner Jerry Buss in the series [no relation to yours truly, might I add]. But McKay felt, at the end of the day, there was someone better fit for the role. John C. Reilly.
“The truth is, the way the show was always going to be done, it’s hyperrealistic,” he says. “And Ferrell just doesn’t look like Jerry Buss, and he’s not that vibe of a Jerry Buss. And there were some people involved who were like, ‘We love Ferrell, he’s a genius, but we can’t see him doing it.’ It was a bit of a hard discussion.”
McKay declined to tell Ferrell first before casting Reilly, who also happens to be Ferrell’s best friend. This infuriated Ferrell. Reilly, on the other hand, did call Ferrell to get his blessing before taking the part.
“I f*cked up on how I handled that,” McKay recounted. “It’s the old thing of keep your side of the street clean. I should have just done everything by the book.”
The last time the pair spoke was on the phone to confirm the company’s breakup. “I said, ‘Well, I mean, we’re splitting up the company,’” the director said. “And he basically was like, ‘Yeah, we are,’ and basically was like, ‘Have a good life.’ And I’m like, ‘F*ck, Ferrell’s never going to talk to me again.’ So it ended not well.”
McKay has since tried to email Ferrell, but to no avail. Hopefully one day, the two can patch things up and we can finally get a third Anchorman or a second Step Brothers. But for now, we guess we’re going to have to just keep waiting.