Anchorman was a very different movie until Paul Thomas Anderson stepped in

Ron Burgundy versus orangutans armed to the teeth with Chinese throwing stars?

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The Independent Culture

Anchorman had a rather strange journey to screen - fitting, perhaps, for one of comedy's most beloved weirdos. 

Appearing on The Bill Simmons Podcast, Will Ferrell detailed the film's epic three-year development process, calling it "kind of the Cinderella story of the movie no one wanted to make". 

The film was first conceived when Ferrell and director Adam McKay were working alongside each other on Saturday Night Live; their first attempt at a screenplay, the "Glengarry Glen Ross meets a car dealership" project August Blowout, stalled with Paramount. 

However, the script did receive a lot of attention, particularly from acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson. "[He] came and guest-wrote for a week on SNL," Ferrell said. "And he sat down with us and he was like, 'I read that August Blowout.'"

"He’s like, 'What if you guys wrote whatever you wanted to write, and I would shepherd it for you and kind of find out how to make it?' We were like, 'We’d do it. We’d do it in a heartbeat.' So that’s when we wrote Anchorman. So he was one of the guardian angels even though I think the first incarnation of that was maybe a little too weird for Paul."

That first incarnation? As Ferrell explained, "The first version of Anchorman is basically the movie Alive, where the year is 1976, and we are flying to Philadelphia, and all the newsmen from around the country are flying in to have some big convention."

"Ron convinces the pilot that he knows how to fly the charter jet, and he immediately crash-lands it in the mountains. And it’s just the story of them surviving and trying to get off the mountainside. They clipped a cargo plane, and the cargo plane crashed as well, close to them, and it was carrying only boxes of orangutans and Chinese throwing stars."

"So throughout the movie we’re being stalked by orangutans who are killing, one by one, the team off with throwing stars. And Veronica Corningstone keeps saying things like, 'Guys, I know if we just head down we’ll hit civilization.' And we keep telling her, 'Wrong.' She doesn’t know what we’re talking about. So that was the first version of the movie. In Paul's defense, that was a little too kooky."

Even as the script transformed closer to its final form, Ferrell and McKay were still faced with a string rejections, finally getting the attention of Dreamworks after help from the likes of David O. Russell.