The Lost Projects of Adam McKay
Ranking alongside Judd Apatow and Todd Phillips as one of the biggest modern comedy filmmakers, Adam McKay has built two empires with writing/producing partner Will Ferrell – Gary Sanchez Productions and Funny Or Die – that have grown to dominate the movie, TV, and web comedy landscape. With Anchorman 2 now filming in Atlanta for a December release, 2013 could be McKay’s biggest year yet. Here’s a look back at all of Adam McKay’s projects that never got made – including the crazy car salesman movie he and Will Ferrell wrote during their SNL days, his Brazil-esque sci-fi movie, and a Broadway musical starring Ron Burgundy:
August Blowout (in development 1999)
Prior to Anchorman, the first movie Will Ferrell and Adam McKay ever wrote together was August Blowout, a film that would have starred Ferrell as Jeff Tanner, a car salesman in Orange County who’s desperate to meet his sales quota during his dealership’s big late summer sale. Ferrell described it as “Glengarry Glen Ross meets a car dealership.” The script impressed Ben Stiller and Paul Thomas Anderson. McKay and Ferrell sold the script to Paramount but when the script stalled at the studio, Anderson encouraged them to write another movie, which wound up being Anchorman (originally titled Action News). McKay and Ferrell would go on to produce another movie about a used car salesman, the Jeremy Piven vehicle The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, which tells a pretty different story despite covering similar subject matter.
Ain’t It Cool News posted a detailed review of the script back in 2003 and it seems pretty delightful and Anchorman-esque. Here’s an excerpt from Will Ferrell’s character’s opening speech:
Hi, I’m Jeff Tanner and I sell cars. The only thing I love more than a finely crafted American automobile is the hot rush of adrenaline I get from selling one… Meet my car: the Ford Explorer. It’s rugged, sexy and American… like me… And just like this bad boy, Jeff Tanner is fully tricked out with all the features… I come with a confident handshake, an outstanding ass, a saddle in my bedroom, and except for some screw up by JC Penny’s, a near spotless credit report. And guess what? That’s all standard… For Jeff Tanner life is all about three things; speed, steel and gas. You think cheetahs are fast? Fuck cheetahs. My speed is American made. I’ll be honest. I’m hard right now.
Utopia Street (in development 2001)
Director Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents) hired Adam McKay to write the screenplay to Utopia Street, based on an idea, of his in 2001. The movie followed a clash between an aggressively social guy and his new neighbor, who values his privacy. Etan Cohen was hired to rewrite the script in 2003, but there’s been no movement on the project since then.
Land of the Lost (in development 2005)
Will Ferrell and Adam McKay originally set up Land of the Lost to be their first collaboration following Talladega Nights. When Will Ferrell signed on to star in the big-screen remake of the ’70s kids show, McKay was attached to direct and produce the movie and he mentioned in an interview that Jack Black was also onboard to co-star. McKay opted out of directing before production began and handed the job off to Lemony Snicket director Brad Silberling. McKay still received an executive producer credit on the movie, which wound up being a giant bomb.
CEO (in development 2005)
Adam McKay signed on to direct this comedy based on a pitch by UCB co-founder Ian Roberts and his writing partner Jay Martel, who are now the showrunners on Comedy Central’s Key & Peele. The plot to CEO followed a spoiled corporate exec who is demoted to the mailroom and has to work his way back up to his old job. McKay said in an interview that he had Will Ferrell in mind to star, but the project never got off the ground and Ferrell and McKay made Step Brothers together instead.
Channel Three Billion (2008)
Before he started work on The Other Guys, Adam McKay was preparing to direct a sci-fi comedy called Channel Three Billion that’s set 100 years in the future and sounds like a pretty big departure from his previous projects.
“It’s a script my friend Dennis McNichols and I wrote. We did a page one rewrite on a script, and it’s called Channel Three Billion, and it’s kind of a Brazil-type science fiction. Slight comedy, but not heavy comedy and I’m really excited about it … you know, it’s a common theme you hear, the dystopic future world where people are kind of removed from reality, and it’s like, no one leaves their apartments. It’s that world. It’s all – everything outside the world is scary, so no one ever leaves their apartment, is the idea of it. And it’s about a guy who falls in love with a woman through this kind of Internet TV sort of experience. And then there’s also a killer going on around. But I’m excited about it. I want to do it like Sin City, with the painted backgrounds, and really do a strong visual movie on this … this is not in the vein at all of these three comedies I’ve done. This is definitely a little darker, yeah.”
McKay made The Other Guys in the window he’d set aside to direct Channel Three Billion, but hopefully, he’ll go back to it at some point as it sounds pretty cool and different.
Daddy’s Home (in development 2010)
Three years ago, writer Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder, Idiocracy) was set to make his directorial debut with Daddy’s Home, a comedy written by Brian Burns and rewritten by Adam McKay and Chris Henchy. The story followed a woman who marries and has kids with a “wild guy” (Will Ferrell) but then divorces him and settles down with a boring normal guy (Ed Helms). Ferrell’s character then returns to her life to get to know his kids and ends up causing a lot of mischief. McKay, Henchy, and Ferrell were producing the project via their company Gary Sanchez Productions, but the project is assumed dead because there hasn’t been an update in over three years.
Three Mississippi (in development 2011)
Adam McKay was in talks to direct a comedy called Three Mississippi back in 2011 that would have reunited him with The Other Guys stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. The script, written by ex-30 Rock showrunner Robert Carlock and Go On creator Scott Silveri, followed “two Philadelphia neighbors whose annual Thanksgiving game of tackle football has become extraordinarily heated.” Alec Baldwin was onboard to play Wahlberg’s father and Rob Riggle and Jeremy Renner were also eyed for roles. Here’s McKay describing the movie to Entertainment Weekly:
“It’s about these two rival families from — we’re thinking Philadelphia but we need to check in with Wahlberg and Ferrell and see what kind of accents they want to do. [Laughs] Alec Baldwin is the patriarch of one of the families, and Wahlberg is his son. He saw the Kennedys playing football on their front lawn at Thanksgiving, and boom, that’s it: “Anything the Kennedys do, we’re doing.” His family starts playing the other family that lives across the park from them. Over the years, Baldwin’s family hasn’t done too well — they own a crappy little bar in town — while the other family, which Will’s character eventually becomes the patriarch of, becomes really successful. The game gets nastier and nastier as the years go on, and Ferrell’s family starts just destroying the other family. After a massive heart attack, Baldwin’s character’s dying wish is that his estranged son, Mark, take over the game and finally win one. So Wahlberg has to put this ramshackle, convict, gambling-addict family back together again and beat the richies. The whole spirit of it is that it’s just a giant, fun ensemble comedy. We want to populate it with people we love. There’s a funny subplot with Rob Riggle where he’s a gay cousin that Wahlberg’s family sort of turned their backs on but he played football at Fresno State and they need him. We’re going to try to get Jeremy Renner to play an ex-con. The idea is to bring in, like, 15 people that we love in and just do a big, funny holiday movie.”
McKay had to back out of the film to make Anchorman 2, and Sean Anders and John Morris (That’s My Boy, Sex Drive) are now attached to direct with Adam Sandler taking Mark Wahlberg’s role.
Anchorman 2: The Broadway Musical
Adam McKay and Will Ferrell are no stranger to Broadway, having successfully mounted the George W. Bush-skewering production You’re Welcome, America in 2009. McKay revealed last year that they even wanted to do the Anchorman sequel as a big Broadway play before turning it into a movie, telling the press, “We were going to do Anchorman 2 as a Broadway musical first, for like six months and then go shoot the movie. That was our initial idea.”