Steve Carell empties out his head to return to his “Anchorman” days


ORLANDO, Fla. — Steve Carell is determined to lower expectations for “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.”

“It’s SO stupid. I couldn’t believe how stupid it is.”

And in a world of stupid and a cast of 1970s-era TV news buffoons, Steve’s character, the ditzy, naive TV weatherman Brick Tamland, stands out. “Unrelentingly dumb,” Carell said

“It was the easiest movie ever, because I got to just stand there and look dumb. For two months. I rarely had to say anything. Empty every thought out of my head, and just blurt out words.”

The script doesn’t give Brick, a nitwit’s nitwit, much to say. But director and longtime Will Ferrell writing partner Adam McKay would stand off camera, and at the end of a take would say “Give me something extra. Just say something, anything,” McKay recalls.

Lines like, “Would you like to see the smile I use when I pose for photographs?” come out.

McKay made his directing debut with 2004’s “Anchorman.” He’s had time to figure out why the film, not a blockbuster hit in theaters, became a cultural phenomenon. The “news team” in the movie — the foursome of blow-dried anchor Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), weather dunce Brick (Carell), investigative reporter / ladykiller Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and racist, alcoholic loose cannon sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner) — are, to McKay, the new Marx Brothers.

“You’ve got the blowhard, misguided leader, Burgundy, who is Groucho. Then there’s the slick womanizer, Fantana.” He could be Chico Marx. “The out-of-control, high energy nut, Champ.”

That sounds a little more like the Three Stooges.

“And the naive, irrepressibly goofball? Brick Tamland is Harpo Marx. That’s obvious.”

“The Legend Continues” is set in 1980, as the unemployed news team is rounded up for a new venture — 24-hour news. And that presented co-writers Ferrell and McKay with a chance for satire, a more pointed commentary on the state of TV news.

“It was right in front of us,” McKay said. “News got dumber with 24-hours news. Babies in the wells, car chases, Pee Wee Herman in the porno theater. We decided to make all that Ron Burgundy’s fault.”

And another thing right in front of them? The birth of the green-screen weather segment, when weather-casters learned to stand in front of a blank, green wall and point to a map that was super-imposed behind them. Brick, of course, was going to have trouble with that.

“I first did green-screen stuff back when I was on ‘The Daily Show,’” Carell recalls. “And it was … awkward. So I pitched that idea to Adam. Brick’s a weather guy, it’s 1980. Put him in this new situation with this new technology. Weathermen had to deal with this. I’m sure some of them reacted the same way. Well, maybe not the SAME way.”

In the movie, Brick’s exposure to the technology comes on the most inopportune date: “Happy St. Patricks’ Day, for all our Native American viewers.”

And now, the “Anchorman” team is turning up on all manner of news and sports programs, with Ferrell, in character, even traveling to Bismarck, N.D., to co-anchor a weekend newscast.

“These TV news guys, now they can’t get enough of us,” Carell jokes.

Or, McKay adds, “of us making fun of them.”

 

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