Will Ferrell Says First ‘Anchorman’ Test Screening Tanked as Film Scored a 50/100: We ‘Lost the Audience’ With the Original Kidnapping Ending

DreamWorks/courtesy Everett Collection

Will Ferrell reunited with his “Anchorman” co-star Christina Applegate on an episode of the latter’s “Messy” podcast, where the duo reflected on the 20th anniversary of their comedy classic. Ferrell remembered the first test screening for “Anchorman” and how it did not go according to plan.

“It was such a hard movie to get made in the first place and when it finally came around to when, ‘Oh wait, now Dreamworks wants to make it,’ it just felt like we were playing with the house’s money,” Ferrell said (via IndieWire). “So we were like, ‘OK, gosh, they’re letting us make this crazy movie. Let’s just do all the comedy things we’ve wanted to try that other people have said, “No, you can’t do that in a comedy,”‘” Ferrell said. “We were just breaking the rules and having so much fun.”

Ferrell and director Adam McKay shot an original ending to “Anchorman” that riffed on Patty Hearst’s kidnapping, which didn’t sit well with the audience at the test screening.

“We put the movie together, we do our first test screening. You test screen your movie and it’s a score from zero to 100,” Ferrell said. “We were like, ‘That seemed to play pretty great.’ We get the score back; it’s a 50. Not good. It’s not good.”

“That can either go one way or the other,” he continued. “There’s a panic button that’s hit, or, luckily, the studio was like, ‘Let’s figure it out.’ They gave us a budget for reshoots. Judd [Apatow] really helped to be a steady hand in that regard. And so all of that, the whole pandas and the bears and all that, that’s five days of a reshoot. An entirely new ending was shot.”

In the original ending, Applegate’s Veronica Corningstone gets “abducted by a vigilante group. They were kind of like a comedic version of Patty Hearst,” Ferrell explained. “They’re making a political statement and she’s taken up to the conservatory and we have to go rescue her. [Audiences at the test screening] just didn’t like that storyline at all. We just lost the audience. When it was the news team and all of us interacting, we would get them back. We had to basically reshoot the ending.”

“Anchorman” was released in theaters on July 9, 2004, and earned $90 million at the worldwide box office. Ferrell and Applegate starred in the movie opposite Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, and Fred Willard. A sequel, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” was released in 2013.

In a previous interview with The Ringer, Ferrell revealed that the pitch for an “Anchorman” movie actually started with the idea to do a comedic version of the movie “Alive,” which chronicled the Uruguayan rugby team’s crash into the Andes mountains in 1972. The true story was recently the subject of the Netflix movie “Society of the Snow.”

“[My character] Ron convinces the pilot that he knows how to fly the charter jet, and he immediately crash-lands it in the mountains,” Ferrell said. “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,” he continued. “So throughout the movie, we’re being stalked by orangutans who are killing off the team, one by one, 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.”

Listen to Ferrell and Applegate’s full appearance on the “Messy” podcast here.

From Variety US