The making of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (in theaters Dec. 18) was no laughing matter. The film may be a comedy but the set was a no-joke workplace, says David Koechner, who reprises his role as Champ in the sequel to the 2004 hit.
“We’re not a group of people that like practical jokes,” he says. “I think people have this idea of “What must it be like?!” — but we’re a group of professionals hired to do a job.”
Then he pauses. “But,” he continues, “that job is to play.”
Koechner filled TIME in on some of his favorite moments from the making of Anchorman 2, and one thing is clear: the cast was serious about having fun. Like:
The time Will Ferrell had to cavort with jellyfish
One beach scene, shot on St. Simons island in Georgia, drew some uninvited on-set visitors. “We started noticing in the shallows that there are huge jellyfish in the water,” Koechner says. “They’re the size of your head. [First assistant director Matt] Rebenkoff took a shovel and got one of the jellyfish and Will marveled at its size. About a half-hour later, he’s got to get in that water. Here’s who Will Ferrell is: he doesn’t even bat an eye. He just dives into the water and does the scene three or four times, where he has to swim out probably 50 yards. In one of the scenes, they had just removed a jellyfish and it was on shore. He had to lay down in the ocean in the shallow area, and the look on his face was just as if to say, Isn’t this ridiculous? He’s such a joyful person, but he’s thinking: I have to lay down with the jellyfish!”
The time the first assistant director got his very own quiz show
One day, during a pause between takes, Koechner noticed that the first assistant director Matt Rebenkoff happened to be wearing all white, and began to rib him about his second job as an ice-cream man. That led to the rest of the crew asking Rebenkoff, who’s basically their boss on set, various questions. In the course of the Q&A, the phrase “Thursdays with Matt Rebenkoff” was used, as if it were a regular thing. “I thought that was that,” says Koechner, “but the next Thursday people started to ask about it.”
It became a weekly on-set event, with even extras getting to ask questions — but the most “incredibly inappropriate” question of all ended up coming from director Adam McKay: “How much did you make last year, after taxes?”
The time the movie almost became two movies
About halfway through filming, Koechner says the cast and crew realized they loved everything they’d shot and that there would be way too much material for a movie of ordinary length. Thus was born a campaign among the actors: “Let’s Kill Bill this thing!”
Koechner says he thinks the idea of splitting the movie into two was actually toyed with by producers, but that there was no good place to stop in the middle. “That’s very rare,” he says. “Usually you hope you’ve got enough good pieces for a film. On this one you’re like, everything’s so good, pleeeeease!” (The finished product runs just under two hours, so fans can already start getting excited for the DVD extras having lots to work with.)
The time the stars all showed up at the airport at the same time
Much of Anchorman 2 was shot in Atlanta, but the stars would often fly home on weekends. That set-up led, one week, to the coincidence of Koechner, Ferrell, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell all needing to be at the airport at the same time — which presented a memorable celebrity sighting.
“Will Ferrell’s 6-foot-4. He’s hard to miss. I’m 6-2. People go, oh, there’s that one guy from that one thing,” Koechner says. “But all four of us together in the airport seemed to blow people’s minds, like, is this a stunt? They were checking, like they’d lost their wallet, like am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?” So, for the record, anyone who happened to be there that Friday night: no, it was not a stunt.
The time Kanye West did a private set for the film’s editor
The full cast list for Anchorman 2 is chock full of stars in cameos (and Koechner hints that there might be more who aren’t listed, in order to preserve the surprise). One of those stars is Kanye West and, as might have been predicted, his presence on set led to an extraordinary moment.
The day his cameo was shot was pre-Yeezus, and the rapper was discussing his upcoming album with director Adam McKay when the film’s editor, Brent White, showed up on set. “Kanye was in the tent with Adam talking about his new album and he rapped the entire cut “New Slaves” to Brent, who was sitting in a chair,” recalls Koechner. “None of us [cast members] were in the tent; we’re just hearing Kanye rap to Brent White. It was pretty awesome. That’s not going to happen every day. It was a private performance from Kanye West! People would pay a lot of money for that!”